May 17, 2007

Better With You

Abigail Zsiga is not only cute as hell but she has some talent in her voice. I've only heard a handful of her tunes but it's enough for me to make a quick & dirty assessment that she has potential. Her biggest hit to date has been "Better With You" which is reminiscent (at least to me) of Missing from Everything But The Girl (vid of "Missing" here). One of the striking things about Abigail's tune is that it's a song about missing someone because you miss them as opposed to the typical co-dependent themes in most love songs. I couldn't find a vid for it on YouTube but here's Abigail Zsiga's MySpace page. There's a player that has "Better With You" in it if you haven't heard it before or you'd just like to hear it again.

My favorite line is in the first verse, "& the problem with trust is the problem with love & the problem is probably me" but that's probably too much projection on my part to really build a good essay off of. So we'll move to the chorus:

"I'm good on my own & I'm good all alone
I've got all that I need & it's nothing I own
I know what is right & I know what is true
I'm good that way - but I'm better with you"

As I said, it's not about a co-dependent relationship. Babygirl just misses someone cause she wants him, not because she needs him. It's rare & very refreshing in the music world (even more so if it ever happens in real life) & it got me to thinking about needs versus desires - in a more pragmatic sense though.

Kim du Toit has a recurring theme he'll pop out every so often. It's exemplified in his latest touching on the topic called Crossing The Wilderness III. It's a game most of us gun nuts have played before - pick a specified amount of gear (usually focusing on firearms) for an extended trip or ordeal. It can be fun & interesting to speculate on but it touches on wants, not needs.

Let me clarify something; I'm a bit too literal at times. I've gotten in more trying situations than I care to admit because I refused to take the implications of a word or phrase & instead relied on the definition of what someone said to base my actions on (this happened most with the lovers & g/f's, but occasionally it'd creep up in work). My definition of need is very simple: everyone has to die & everything else is optional. So a person needs to die at some point but any & everything else (including breathing) is optional.

However I realize that's not what most people mean by "need" so I make allowances for that. Still it's a "need' only when qualified by a specific goal. For example if you wish to live then you only need to eat, hydrate, breathe, expel wastes & sleep. It's slightly more complex than that but for simplicity's sake (& for the sake of not hashing out all the balanced diet theories) those 5 things will keep you alive. At least those things will enable your survival in a world where you're free from predators, but that's another topic that I'll try to touch on in a bit.

I posted a little while ago about the books I currently own. One of those books is The SAS Survival Handbook by John "Lofty" Wiseman. Aside from being an entertaining read (if you like subtle English humor) it's informative as hell. But when looking for a biography of some sort for Wiseman it struck me that all this guy is doing is teaching people to live without modern conveniences. He basically parlayed the ability to find indigenous reptiles & use them for food into a multi-book career!

Why was he able to do this? Because for the most part a lot of people think "roughing it" is not having cable TV or a nearby McDonalds. They need books by Wiseman in order to get through an extended camping trip. If you live in southern Florida & have a trip planned to Alaska then I could see some justification for reading about how to survive in very cold climates, but I'd submit that if you took every person in Denver (one at a time) & dropped them in the middle of the Rockies no more than 50 miles from the Mile High City a majority would be in pitiful shape by the time they were found (if they were found at all).

Colonel Townsend Whelen once said that "[n]o man is competent unless he can stalk alone and armed in the wilderness." By his standards I'd imagine most people are incompetent.

How did we get this way though, where specialists & experts are necessary to teach us to just survive without the trappings of city life? Well it's the price of civilization I'm afraid. We just get so used to relying on tools & machinery that we neglect to keep up & pass on the skills necessary to live without them, or at least survive with primitive forms of them.

Before I start getting odd glances I'll admit that I'm not Wiseman's equal. If you dropped me in the middle of the Rockies with nothing at all I'd live but it'd take me a while to establish an acceptable standard. I'd lose some weight (though not too much) & miss quite a few tricks that would make my survival easier. But I'd survive. Partly because I'm just stubborn as hell, & partly because I don't mind really roughing it.

When I was growing up my friends & I would go camping we'd take a tarp & maybe a sleeping bag if we thought it'd be too cold for a blanket. Usually a firearm or two of some sort was included as was a good knife. But that was it.

I haven't been camping in over ten years. Not so much by choice but by circumstance. The last time was with a then g/f of mine & it was in the Blue Ridge just outside of Boone, NC. She was from Illinois & had only been in the south for a few years. She told me up front that she liked camping as long as there was running water in an enclosed room no more than 100 yards away. So we car camped (i.e. park your car & drag the tent out about ten yards) at this camp site (first & only time in my life I paid someone to let me pitch a tent) & did some light day hikes but that was it. She was pretty tough when she needed to be but she simply did not have the knowledge to get by, let alone get by comfortably, without certain modern conveniences. Nor did she have the desire to learn. So for her goals those conveniences were actually necessities.

A few years back me & my then current g/f were supposed to go camping with her cousins & some of their friends. It was here in Colorado (down by Canon City actually) & we didn't make it. We were running real late so we opted to just hook up with them in the morning instead of traipsing all over the woods in the dark. Now her cousins & their friends were pretty close to the tree hugging liberal/leftist/socialist stereotype. I fully expected a nice little walk after we parked in order to find where they were communing with nature at. We parked & walked 50 yards down a slightly steep slope to find them hung over & firing up the gas grills they brought with them. I wouldn't call it car camping mainly because the things they set up really couldn't fit in a single car. Needless to say I didn't have too much respect for their opining about it being unnecessary for me to have a pistol on me.

That deserves a little more expanding - these folks were less than 10 yards off the road, but the road wasn't paved. They were pretty deep in some canyon just northeast of Canon City & well outside of the local police routes. This was bear country in mid-spring & they had little kids with them. It never dawned on them that having something more than peaceful wishes & happy thoughts might come in handy should Yogi decide one of their munchkins was what's for dinner. Food lying out all over the place, barely watching the kids, etc... & they were mightily offended that someone in their midst had the audacity to be armed.

Of course the kids all made it but I wouldn't be surprised if one of that crew was on the news at some point saying how the bear/mountain lion/ predator of choice came out of no where & there wasn't anything they could do before little Timmy was carried off.

But I digressed a bit. The point I'm getting to is that most folks simply don't know what they'd need to survive outside a city so they double up on equipment. & in a lot of cases I'd wager that they didn't know how to use said equipment properly to begin with.

I've been expanding my camping kit as of late & what I have now all fits into a 3900 cubic foot pack. That includes a tent & a choice of sleeping bags (one for 70 to 20 degrees & the other to 0 degrees). That also includes a propane burner, a few cans of propane, a slingshot, shot for the slingshot, a few compasses, a few knives, spare clothes, a few dehydrated dinners, a tarp & some other odds & ends (first aid kit, cooking ware, fishing hooks & line, etc..). It weighs in at around 30 pounds & I could get by for a week to 10 days without having to re-supply (& longer if I skipped the propane & built fires for myself).

& I feel like a wimp for having that much gear. In my teens I was fine with a day pack. It held a tarp, a blanket or sleeping bag & a few other odds & ends. I was fine for days. Granted it gets a little colder up here than it did in the Carolinas but that doesn't explain the tooling up for camping trips. The real reason is comfort. Not just mine but I assume that the next time I get off my ass & go camping I'll be taking someone with me so my idea of "roughing it" might make things less than enjoyable.

But what do I need? As long as I have a good knife I really don't need anything else. There are things that are nice to have but they're not necessities. They make surviving easier but it's not impossible to survive without them, or to improvise in their absence.

Now don't misunderstand - I'm not saying if you go into the woods with anything more than the clothes on your back & a fixed blade of at least 5 inches then you're some kind of citified dude. It's just that most folks don't realize that the tents & bags & stoves are conveniences, or at least should be.

Someone will eventually think of predators. Bears, alligators, mountain lions & such are a problem if they set their sights on you. But with a good knife & some planning you can fend them off - or at least stand a decent chance of doing so. It involves much more risk than using a firearm & requires more work on your part, but it's not impossible by my standards. Then again I won't impose my standards on anyone else & I don't care to go in the woods sans smokepole so I'll cede the point - for most folks a firearm is a necessity in predator country (which is most of the world actually).

So a good knife for everything else & a firearm for protection. Add the clothes on your back (provided their climate & season suitable) & that covers what you need if your goal is simply to survive.

But one of the good things about being human is recognizing that while not a strict necessity some things are real cool to have, like a tent & a sleeping bag & maybe even a map & compass & dehydrated Lasagna.

I never bore a grudge against anyone who packed what they thought they needed on a camping trip, though I felt bad for them trying to walk with 50+ pound packs at times. When you get into gas grills nicer than the one I have in my yard for a weekend trip then I won't call you for a cross mountain range trek, but I won't call you antiquated names like Greenhorn either.

Still, in our society many people don't understand the difference between need & want. I think it's like that across the board - from relationships to choice of car to education to cable TV packages - but where it gets me is in the area of simply staying alive outside of civilization. That should be one of the first things taught yet I doubt if 1 in 1,000 could build a fire without matches (I admit I'm a bit rusty on that myself).

In love songs & relationships often co-dependence is the reason for missing someone. I'm lucky in that I've usually recognized that I've never needed anyone - I just wanted people in my life very badly at times. It's much better to be able to live without your partner than to be chained to them out of actual necessity. So it is with everything else; it's really nice when you realize that you don't need a specific person or job or vehicle, but that they're in your world because you want them to be.

& I think that is the point Iím trying to make; that we sometimes get so caught up in the niceties that we tend to forget that their supplements, not necessities to our survival. Iím not going to throw away any of the things that make my life easier, but lately Iíve been dwelling on how much of it is just a plus. You could apply the same perspective to any area of your life Ė from your transportation to your job to most everything else. Theyíre not necessary for our basic survival; theyíre just very nice to achieve goals higher than that basic survival.

If youíre bringing home 250k a year you could probably get by on a 10th of that comfortably. Should you? Not unless you decide itís what you want, but it always helps to know that you could, rather than thinking youíre chained to the 250k a year job for your very existence. Could you live without you significant other? Well you did before you met them so I donít see why you couldnít, but itís real nice to know youíre with him/her because you want to be, not because you have to be.

& finally do you need 50+ pounds of gear to hang out in the woods for a few days? Nope, but if you can get it there & it makes your roughing it more comfy then by all means slip a herniated disk for me. Just try to reflect that despite all the ease with which we accomplish the most basic task (i.e. surviving) with the neatest portable tools that all you really need is a good knife, a good firearm & the knowledge of how to make everything else for yourself. The rest are just bonuses.

Thereís no inherent harm in wanting something (or someone) or having something (or someone), as long as you donít confuse it with needing it (or him/her). Odd that a musician (a singer none the less) would include that in one of her songs, but Iím glad she did.

Posted by Publicola at May 17, 2007 07:26 AM | TrackBack