Survive Or Else…



“We don’t understand the power of nature and the world because we don’t live with it. Our Laurence Gonzalesenvironment is designed to sustain us. We are the domestic pets of a human zoo called civilization.”

“Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we’re going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don’t defeat death, they come to terms with it.” 

I developed the idea that to survive, you must be annealed in the fires of peril…

                    ― Laurence GonzalesDeep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Nature just IS. It’s neither against us nor it is with us. Our inner world, however, may be very decisively against us at a time when we need to gather everything we have — in, out and beside — to survive in dire circumstances.

That’s pretty much what I’ve got from paging through this book. Generally, I’m not a fan of “how-to” books, even it’s a book about survival.


The idea of a book is this: Since Nature IS, WAS and WILL BE, we are not in control of it. Not fully, at any rate. What we CAN TRY to control is our inner world, thus preparing us to meet adversity and confront our circumstances. Increase our chances of survival is what we can train ourselves to do. And hope, of course, we’ll never need those skills.

Interspersed among numerous true stories is the survivor’s mantra:

  • COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS (be grateful – you are alive)

Be humble. Observe and adapt your knowledge, Nature is not a textbook.

  • BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED (develop a deep conviction that you’ll live)
  • SURRENDER (let go of your fear of dying; “put away the pain”)

Enjoy nature with each small step.

  • SEE THE BEAUTY (remember: it’s a vision quest)
  • PLAY (sing, play mind games, recite poetry, count anything, do mathematical problems in your head)

Have a loose plan and be ready to change or lose the plan.

  • DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY (be determined; have the will and the skill)

Stay calm and don’t rush.

  • STAY CALM (use humor, use fear to focus)
  • THINK/ANALYZE/PLAN (get organized; set up small, manageable tasks)
  • TAKE CORRECT, DECISSIVE ACTION (be bold and cautious while carrying out tasks)

Survivors have meta-knowledge: They know their abilities and do not over- or underestimate them. They believe that anything is possible and act accordingly.


Do it for others

  • CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS (take joy in completing tasks)

Gonzales talks about the mental stages of being lost. Physically lost. In real peril. Interesting that young children, ages of 1-6, statistically have the highest survival rates. The author notes that this startling fact is fully consistent with survival psychology/neurology.

People who cared to review Deep Survival admit to applying this wisdom while traveling, embarking on adventures, outdoor activities or vacations involving more than lounging by the pool. Some say it’s the best how-to book they’ve ever

I‘d rather talk of some shotrcomings that I’ve noticed, and I wasn’t the only one.  I like pictures in how-to books. Pictures in this post, with exception of the image of the book and the visage of Mr. Gonzales, didn’t come from the book. Just like me, others complain:

I wish this book contained the pictures of the locale of disasters and potential disasters. The lesson that we consistently underestimate nature would be very effective to show an inviting picture of a Hawaiian beach and a caption stating that swimming on this beach will kill you.  (Godfrey T. Degamo) 

The author’s references to oneness with the world, the separateness of the nature world that IS, and the importance of having a highly private world in the soul of the survivor almost in the same breath gets somewhat confusing, if not altogether confusing.

One of Gonzales’ mountaineer-survivors cuts his friend’s rope to save his own life. How about empathy for those injured? Would you be enthusiastic to climb the mountains with a survivor like this guy?

The same reviewer has this to say:

I sometimes wish Gonzales would tone his prose down. Survivors may be the ‘real heroes’, but we need all personalities for our species to survive; from the survivors to the martyrs to the techno-geeks which make the med kits and the radios that rescue survivors. Ultimately, nature doesn’t give a damn if you are a survivalist or not.
Interestingly, the two climbers in the rope cutting incident survived, and continue to climb. It’s not mentioned whether the climbers have climbed together since.

Luck. Gonzales doesn’t talk about it much. In addition to the strengthened inner world (and reading Gonzales’ book) — we do need luck. If Mother Nature is capricious and unpredictable, if you aren’t sure about your partner, then luck or absence of it could mean a difference between life and death.

Speaking of survival, update: 10 minutes after I posted this, virtually in my neighborhood, this happened yesterday and isn’t over yet. I hope the boy survives.Long Peak
Update: The teenager from Canada survived. It was 100% luck that he did.


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