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Survival School: Day 16
Jul 30, 2007, 11:07p - Life

Self-portrait on day 16, as we loaded up to leave the camp we stayed at for the past 5 nights


Woke up early, helped break down debris shelters & clean up camp. Continued my ritual of kissing Beccafly every morning & night, saying "good morning" & "good night". The day started off really lazy & slow. We had to relinquish our knives & Nalgenes, relying on stone tools & the gourds we made instead. I relinquished a bunch of other stuff too, to really lighten my pack. My contacts, sandals, & pretty much anything else that was superfluous. Really tired to start - legs don't really want to move after 4 days of meat & rest. Have some meager rations, but promised myself I wouldn't eat them until tomorrow night. Keep them in my pockets just as a temptation. Hannes & Ben leading today. Jeff in sweep. Went back up the mountain we came down, gaining ~1200'. Planned hike to King's Pasture should have been about 10 miles. Many trails not on the map, & some trails on the map no longer exist. Mostly tired & quiet, until we came to a spring w/ goose berries. Delicious! Even the ones that weren't ripe had a nice, sour taste. I must have eaten close to 70 berries, they were so good.

Bush (on the right) is a gooseberry bush. The lake was created by a small dam, presumably built by a beaver.

Fallen logs the beaver could use for his dam

Ben also caught a fish about 8 inches long w/ his hands in the river, but it squirmed away after he brought it out. We don't have fishing licenses in any case, though I'm planning to get one (though they are expensive @ ~$40/3 days for 3 fish). It'll be fun learning how to fish, & eating some fish too; hopefully I can make a fire, else sushi it is. Anyhow, the gooseberries gave me a bit of energy, though not too much. Then, it turned out that the trail from the spring that we took was the wrong trail, & we went a couple of miles out of the way. Now we had to bushwhack to Boulder River.

Along the way, I discussed my reasons for not eating mammals w/ Ben, Nic, Rob, & Cliff. Nic felt that killing animals for food was natural & therefore normal. Plus, he felt that since animals didn't know right from wrong, the moral question was somewhat irrelevant. I disagreed on both these points - what is natural is not always moral (e.g. war) & lack of knowledge of morality does not make an action amoral. Rob felt that animals were just different from humans (though he didn't articulate exactly why) & that each creature had a fate determined by God, & the fate for animals we raised was slaughter. I asked him why then it was wrong to murder a human, since that human's fate was to be murdered. He didn't have an answer for that. Later, he did bring up a good point that I still haven't fully considered. Many of the animals wouldn't even exist if there wasn't a demand for them, so even if their lives are short, if they're treated well during their short life there might actually be a net benefit due to meat consumption - e.g. 1M animals x 1 year of pleasurable consciousness = 1M years of net positive consciousness existing, that wouldn't have existed w/o this demand. This of course assumes humane treatment of animals during their lives, which isn't common now, but which could be the real cause worth fighting for. This is an excellent point. My best argument against it is that the ends do not justify the means. In other word, intent matters. If we were to raise human children for several years just to harvest their organs, that would be clearly immoral, even though the net years of consciousness on this planet would be increased. The human body is sacrosanct & not to be enslaved or sold as a commodity - so why not animal bodies, which are equally capable of suffering, as well? I'm not sure about this one, so I need to think about it some more. Cliff brought up a second good point, regarding animal testing. Can you really justify the torture of thousands of mice, rays, or monkeys, just to save a few human lives? I'm not sure, & we'll see how I feel during my PhD program. I really need to go home and read some of Peter Singer's work.

We eventually got back to Boulder River, & discovered a ton of wild raspberry plants. Hannes & I harvested about 3 cups worth, & shared some w/ the rest of the group. After the harvest & consumption, I felt great, energized w/ Raspberry Power. I kept pace w/ Hannes & Ben no problem. Before this, I had started to feel really happy too: Happy that I'm w/ the person I'm going to spend the rest of my life w/, happy I have an extraordinary family, happy I'm done w/ my stupid Google job, happy I'm actually doing one of the only things I've really wanted to do in the past 5 years, happy we're taking a road trip, happy we're moving to the east coast, happy we're both going to grad school, happy that I think I know what I want to do for the rest of my life (study the brain), happy that I'm financially independent, so I don't have to waste my life doing things I don't want to do. I feel truly happy & content - it's a weird feeling, one I don't think I've ever really experienced. Sure, I'm not experiencing the moment around me, but in a way, I am. It took my 5 years post-college, but I no longer feel lost. Sure, I might hate my PhD program, but I'm pretty sure that the greater goal of understanding the brain & consciousness will be worth it. Most people spend their entire lives not knowing what they really want to do, & I think I'm lucky enough to have found it w/ the opportunity of pursuing it. God damn, unbelievable. And all w/ the woman I love, & my family behind me. Unbelievable, astounding. Oh, to be so lucky... It's calming to the soul. There's so much time out here - Not really a life I would choose, but it has its benefits. We need oh so little to survive - maybe 1% of what we do is necessary for survival, the rest is just for comfort & drama. All you need is a tiny amount of food, a place that keeps you warm in bad weather, H2O, & that's it. Being social helps, but that seems like extra. The whole field is your bathroom. You do need a steady supply of H2O. But that's it - H2O, shelter, & food. That's it. It's unbelievable. We cause so much heart-ache, so much pain & suffering just to have a little more comfort. Don't get me wrong, comfort is great, & for the first time in my life I'm going to truly appreciate the comforts that I always take for granted. But the question is, comfort @ what cost? There it is.

Sky - you can see it's raining in some places

A mountain in the distance

I am the cloud...

The mountain again

Eventually we made it to our campsite on King's Pasture. Hannes found a Nikon SLR N55 on the way - no film, but turns on, though it gives an error. Can probably be repaired. Got to camp w/ maybe 1 hour of light - worst campsite so far, all damp and dreary & cold. Made burritos w/ Hannes, Leland, & Abe under a spruce tree. Really cold on the legs & feet @ night, because condensation on poncho turned cold real quick. Dream from a previous night: DC is a mess, collapsing left & right, Greek pillars in disarray everywhere. Building next to us is being demolished, but is breaking the building we're in. Get Tin, run down stairs, get out, almost killed by falling debris. Go w/ parents to have lunch, nice weather. Need to find a certain book in library/bookstore, try to find a clue, a location I need to be @. That's it. This night lots of patchwork dreams - it's Christmas time so chaos in the mall. Mom unhappy that Macy's is playing Xmas music & is frosted everywhere - not what they usually do. Something about a black man (me) waiting for a rubber ball to roll up outside. Bizarre. Slept OK, not so great, too cold. Tomorrow, if the weather is this bad, should do a double burrito. Overall hiked 13 miles today.

[Written on days 16 & 17]

Read comments (2) - Comment

george - Jun 10, 2008, 6:56p
I love watching as you are discovering the truths of life.

One thing that you will never get clarity on until you recognize a human is different than the animals is your struggle in understanding.

Humans and animals are not equals.

we have conciousness, love, a soul with God's spirit.

I am not trying to invalidate what you are saying on animals, its just a bit more to true understanding, animals are not human, and vice versa.

I think you could come to a clearer understanding of this by spending a significant amount of time with animals. They act out of instincts. Look at the African species, they coexist right next to one another and know many will be eaten.

Is it wrong for the lion to eat the Gazelle?

crocodile to eat the Duck?

shark to eat everything it wants?

just some thoughts for you.

We are above the animals.

Tom - Feb 7, 2015, 2:08a
The only way humans survived and evolved into what we are now is by eating meat. Killing animals may feel wrong, but it was necessary for survival.

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