Tag Archives: wild

Surviving and Thriving

I thought Vani’s post and the article on characteristics for survival was very interesting. I completely agree with the article on the physical and mental survival essentials. Fire is the ultimate tool to survive in the wild because its offers range from warmth to preventing disease (by cooking raw food). Being mindful of your surrounds is key to surviving, as in not dying. Living in the wild leaves a person very vulnerable, because many things can threaten his/her survival, and the first step to protecting oneself is to be aware of the threats.

Looking back at what we discussed in class, I’ve realized that we were actually talking about the ideal characteristics to thrive, not to survive. First of all, having knowledge or fame or power will definitely not guarantee survival if a person (or any kind of creature) was alone in the wild. However, once they learn to be mindful, and actually know how to live well, having the qualities we discussed in class will help in thriving. Because only after we learn to survive can we thrive, I think we had just assumed that the ideal creature was already capable of survival when we listed the characteristics.

The article acts as a guide of how to survive when lost or stuck in the wild. That’s why it focuses more on how to adapt to the change. Being mindful is like asking us to use an old instinct that’s been in storage for our whole lives, so we have to tell ourselves to be mindful in order to do so. Once we adapt to the situation, or the living style, we don’t need to actively think “mindful”. That is when we start to focus on what we can do to achieve a life even better, which requires the characteristics we discussed. So on different levels, the qualities for surviving and thriving work together, and both can be ideal.

The Dog Girl

After doing some research on feral children (many of which were hoaxes or sitings that were undocumented), I found a story of a girl who was raised by dogs. Her name is Oxana Malaya, otherwise known as Dog Girl, and as a three-year-old, she was left to live outside by her alcoholic parents. She found shelter with a pack of wild dogs and lived with them on a rundown farm in a village in Ukraine. And over the next 5 years Oxana developed mannerisms of a dog, and lost all human social interaction. When she was found at the age of 8 in 1992, she could hardly speak, and “humans were no longer her species: all meaningful life was contained in a kennel”.

This raises the question: What really makes us human? Some say it’s language and our social interactions. According to this video, Oxana was born healthy and without any abnormities. But the now adult Oxana rather take walks “by herself in the woods” when she’s upset. The lack of human interactions had wired the sense of independence into Oxana, but is that powerful enough to override the desire to interact with others, which is a quality that supposedly defines humans? There have been many accounts of people who can’t contain bottled up emotions, but is that still the case when a person is brought up with no one to turn to? It is really hard to clearly say which qualities we have are in our genes, and which are results of the society we created.

Oxana’s case also shows that humans are very flexible in adapting to their surroundings in order to survive. She had developed very acute senses of sight, taste, and smell, and can eat raw meat and food scraps lying around without getting sick. Another feral child named Memmie Le Blanc, found in France in the 1700’s, was able to outrun rabbits and skin them with her hands. This shows that humans are not helpless in the wild; it’s just that society has so much for us to depend on that nature seems harsh in contrast. Nature has everything we need to survive: food, water, shelter. But because we grow up in an environment filled with technology, we lose the ability to acquire those things ourselves. Although human babies need much more nurturing than any other kind of animal, once we get past that threshold, we are not innately different from wild animals on terms of survival skills.

We Can’t Control Everything

Travis the chimpAbout a week ago, Oprah featured a woman named Charla Nash (see part 1 of the video here). She came on the show behind a black veil, guided by Oprah into her chair. The story that brought her to national television happened in February, 2009. Nash received a call from her friend, Sandra Herold, asking help to get her 200-lb pet chimpanzee, Travis, back into his cage. Upon Nash’s arrival, the chimp suddenly attacked her and started to rip off her nose, eyes, and upper jaw. By the time the police arrived, Nash’s face and fingers was almost completely gone. Travis went for a police, and was subsequently shot and killed.

Humans have a desire to be in control. Our technology gives us the ability to manipulate our surroundings, which only adds fire to the appeal of conquering nature. The romanticized idea of being in control of a wild animals is present in stories throughout history, real and fictional. Being the proud owner of a vicious animal is looked upon with admiration. But bringing a wild animal to one’s home as a pet will only cause trouble on both sides, and Nash’s story is just another reminder of that fact.

As renowned primatologist Jane Goodall said in this opinion piece, “a chimpanzee can never be totally domesticated”. Wild animals are called wild for a reason: they have primal instincts that can’t be nurtured away. In Travis’ case, the chimp had done commercials as a baby, wore humans clothes, and entertained himself with TV. However, even living a life in captivity couldn’t erase the violent nature of the animal. Because of his captivity, the abilities Travis should have had, like knowing how to interact with other chimps and finding himself food, had been replaced by human traits such as being toilet trained and eating from a table. This results in the chimp losing the life it could’ve had in is natural habitat, and instead, received a life of confinement and forced adaption. No matter how good we are at using nature to our advantage, there are some things that we just can’t change.

Sometimes the wild should remain in the wild.