Man Vs. Mind 2: Surviving the Fib

25 07 2007

Seinfeld character George Costanza uttered one of the greatest lines of all time when he attempted to help Jerry pass a lie-detector test (episode 102, “The Beard,” season 6): “Just remember Jerry, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.” In a rare moment, the neurotic nonsense that Costanza was best known for was clouded by Zen-like wisdom.  The world is as we make it. (Just ask any “expert” from the movie The Secret.) Truth is relative. So are lies.

Isn’t what we get out of a situation more relevant than how we got there? The truth is where we’re at right this very moment; everything else is just speculative. But still, we measure and judge each other to infinite levels; we talk about people behind their backs instead of to their faces; we teach children the practices of manipulating and competing – ergo lying and cheating often pave the road to success and victory. Why are some lies generally considered ok? (My inner Dave Chappelle wonders why those ones happen to be called “white lies”?) Stupid things like super-secret surprise birthday parties feel more like weird grown-up versions of peek-a-boo than justifiable hoaxes. (Seriously, who really likes coming home to a dark house full of screaming, hyper-happy people?)

Granted, it’s helpful to have assurance in life, but isn’t that quite possibly the most ironic expectation any one of us can have – ever? The Ten Commandments may have espoused honesty, but then again, the accuracy of their origins has always been confounded. Yet millions of people believe there is a God, sitting in heaven, with a giant scorecard for each of us (though he probably uses a spreadsheet now). If you’re a Christian, you know, he’s taking note when you call in sick from work to go stand in line to buy your kid the new Harry Potter book. (By the way, do any Christian musicians cover that 1984 Orwellian Rockwell song “Somebody’s Watching Me”?)

We live in a world where unscrupulous propaganda is ubiquitously attacking us from all directions. Still, you Mr. & Mrs. Subservient American should never lie, no matter what. But if you have to, then just confess your sins as quickly as possible, give more money to churches, hope for forgiveness, and of course, promise never to do it again, until the next time.

Bear Grylles, host of the Discovery Channels Survival Show Man Vs. Wild is being investigated for allegedly sleeping indoors during the filming of several episodes that depicted him spending the entire night in the elements he was attempting to get out of unaided. Each show, he is stranded in areas like the Everglades, Australian Outback, African Savannah, etc and left to his own skills to make it back to civilization in under five days. He demonstrates remarkable agility and countless useful tips (which I referenced in last week’s blog as being innate in each of us, but nonetheless, a valuable reminder coming from Grylles is quite helpful).

Grylles prefaces each episode with the intention of “putting himself in a situation like someone stranded” (hiker, climber, etc.). Given those words as our bearings, a moment later, we accept that in order for us to be viewing Grylles, he is being video-taped by someone else, therefore, clearly not “alone.” Survival often comes down to will and morale. Being alone is much different than having your best mates behind a camera. (I’m a big fan of David Blaine, who often performs “magic tricks,” but it’s his endurance acts that earn him the most recognition. He has done some of the craziest stuff a human has ever attempted, like living in a Plexiglas box for 44 days, a tank of water for seven, and standing inside a block of ice for three. But if it weren’t for the constant support he gets from fans and friends, he has said that he probably would be less successful. Morale is incredibly powerful.)

Next, let’s look at the harsh wild areas themselves. Grylles and his team spend weeks researching the climate, flora and fauna of the forests, deserts and mountainous regions he travels to. He meets up with rangers and local experts before embarking. During each episode he tells stories of those who have had brushes with death or worse in the same areas he’s working to escape. The reality is, without research, he’d have little to talk about during the show. Regardless of his survival training, he’s got an unnatural advantage in his extensive research and preparation. Certainly many people who get lost in the wild have that type of knowledge as well. Many do not. It’s obvious that even though he may only have a knife with him, Grylles is more prepared than most anyone else facing a similar situation. Isn’t that the point of the show? He’s there to show us how to survive; therefore, his own is an obvious priority.

So, does whether he stayed in the environment or snuck out with the camera crew (who apparently get air-lifted each night to power up cameras, take showers, eat Cheetos, etc) negate the inherent benefits of the program? What’s this really all about? Are we still mad at Martha Stewart? I mean unless I just time-traveled to Terabithia, this is still 2007 and the United States of America, where our two-term incumbent president STOLE an election and refused to give it back. Our level of dishonesty is superfluous; it is as if it were the truth! Anyway, everyone wants Jedi-mind trick type of powers. (Go on, now you have another reason to ask the “experts” from The Secret). We want the truth to be convenient, not necessarily genuine. We believe in things we can’t prove and prove things everyone believes but no one’s willing to change. As it appears, lies, not building fires or finding water, have become our most necessary survival skill. So, thanks for the reminder Mr. Grylles! Looks like you’ve actually done an even better job than expected.

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