Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is Tougher Better?

I've recently started browsing various sub-reddits on topics that interest me (EDC, GalaxyS5, Travel, etc.) and came across this question in the Survival section:

I believe that the human race as a hole is becoming soft. Being 16 I admire my grandpa dearly, whenever I shake his hands they are as tough as leather and he walks outside to get the news paper every morning all year in bare feet (he lives in upstate NY USA so he gets a fair amount of snow) and I have never heard him complain once. He is a definition hard ass. When equipment fails all you have left is your body for protection, how can I make my hands harder, feet thicker, and just be all around harder. My fingertips are hard from years of guitar playing and feet semi hard from walking on a rock drive way as a child. Any ideas on hardening your body?

The top answer was actually quite delightful:

Is hard the only option? Or the best option? Maybe we think of hard as the best way because we are afraid of what may come, so we strategize in terms of armor -- putting shields over our bodies, walls in front of our hearts, and rigid structures around our thinking. But it may just turn out that by hardening ourselves we are already losing the liberty that we hope to preserve.

What about responsive, and adaptable, and relaxed?

The teeth are hard, and their hardness is useful; but the teeth chip and crack and eventually fall out. The tongue is soft, and because of that it lasts a long time. (I'm not just talking about our physical makeup here, I'm pointing at alternative approaches.) A boulder is ancient, and strong, but when water flows onto it the boulder wears down and can eventually be penetrated or split.

Read the entire answer here.

I love a number of things about this reply: first, it doesn't simply dismiss the question or the fact that it's being asked by a "kid." But really, I love the (hippie?) notion that there are a number of different paths one can take to being resilient. Sure, there's cross-fit-bench-press-anything resilient. But there's also being flexible, creative, and many other approaches too.

This echos a story I recently heard on The Moth (download the whole episode here). In it, a father needs to come to grips with his wimpy son. Again, different paths. It's definitely worth a listen.

And finally, I love anything that refutes the notion that the Good 'Ol Days were somehow fundamentally better than today. Sure, parts were and parts weren't. Back in the Wild West Men may have been Men, but they also frequently died of cholera.

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