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Man vs. Mindless


I don’t generally watch much in the way of TV but last night I found myself looking for something to put on as background noise while I was texting with a couple friends. Flipping through the limited selection I opted for on SlingTV, I saw something that caught my attention on NatGeo, Running Wild. When I watch TV, I enjoy documentaries about nature and animals and I like some of the shows about surviving in the wilderness.

I do, of course, realize that this variety of “reality tv” isn’t really the reality of surviving in the wilderness but it’s about as close as I can get while sitting comfortably on the couch in my underwear and enjoying a massive burrito from Chipotle. Anyway, back to NatGeo and Running Wild. The show features Bear Grylls taking various celebrities out into the wild. I personally find Bear Grylls to be highly entertaining when it comes to TV hosts.

Between his British sense of humor, positive never-give-up attitude, willingness to look like a fool or eat all manner of nasty shit, and knowledge of survival tactics, I always enjoyed Man vs. Wild. Running Wild is a whole different level of entertainment if you ask me. Getting to watch him do what he does AND subjecting various celebrities to all the same stuff he eagerly gets into is hilarious.

The particular episode airing last night was one in which he was paired with Shaq. I have never been a big sports fan in general and watching basketball is no exception to that, but watching Shaq out in the woods with Bear was great! He referred to himself as “the black Bear Grylls” but aside from a great positive attitude, the two couldn’t be any less alike.

Bear walks carefully through the woods, picking his way around the trees and through the brush. Shaq just marches straight through, tearing limbs from trees that get in his way. When he tripped it was like watching one of the trees themselves coming down in slow motion. The dynamic between the two of them is priceless though, especially the way that Shaq’s monumental stature makes bad-ass-Bear look like a little kid anytime they’re in the same frame.

Say what you will about shows like this, but I think the thing that I like most about them is that, in an age where so many people and kids have their faces buried in their phones and computers all the time, it encourages you to get out of the house and learn how to actually survive in the world around you. You aren’t going to learn all the skills you’d need just by watching and listening to Bear but it inspires curiosity and a desire to learn.

It gets people thinking about what they would do or need to have if they were ever in such a situation. And with any hope, it encourages people to act upon those thoughts and be better prepared for what life can throw at you. It also helps pass on some of those primal skills that helped set us apart from the other species on the planet like building fire without a lighter and lighter fluid. Hopefully most of us will never have need of constructing a shelter from nothing but what is around at the time, but if you’ve seen it done before, you at least have a starting point and an idea of how to go about it. I may not know the first thing about Call of Duty or Halo (or whatever video game is in these days) but if you drop me in the middle of the wilderness with a knife and a ferro rod and come back a couple weeks later, chances are good that I’d be just fine. A bit hungry perhaps, but I don’t think I’d be all that worse for wear. These are skills I firmly believe we need to hold onto.

Technology is great, and I can’t wait to see what creative innovations we come up with next, assuming they’re actually useful and not just a new way of taking a selfie, but we need to not loose the skills we neglect in our modern world. I don’t want to be the sort just sitting around waiting for the world to go to hell in a handbasket, I want to live in the now and with a sense of hope. I also want to live comfortably in the knowledge that IF I ever needed those skills, I have them and have passed them on to my daughter.

It’s reasons like these that make me glad that, as far as TV goes, we have the Bear Grylls of the world to balance out the Kardashians. There’s a lot of options as far as entertainment go when it comes to TV but I’m really glad to know it’s not just all highly paid grown men playing with their balls, douche bags pumping their fists on the shores of New Jersey, and poorly educated individuals fighting and finding out who their real “baby’s daddy” is in front of a live studio audience.

There’s nothing wrong with a little mindless TV and despite my previous descriptions, I don’t have anything against any of those shows listed above. I’ve never really been a big fan of Jerry Springer, but it can be quite an interesting foray into certain arenas of the human condition when taken in small (very small) doses. Such shows may not be my cup of tea but I too occasionally watch things that have absolutely no educational value and whose sole purpose is to give me some time when I can shut my brain off. This wasn’t intended to be a rant against things people might enjoy on TV, just a brief description of the sort of things I enjoy and why.

What’s the point of all this? Who cares what I watch and how will reading this in anyway be different than one of those mindless tv shows? To that, I don’t really have an answer. Maybe it’s just something mindless to read as a distraction. Maybe it will make you pause next time you are flipping through the channels and see Bear grimacing as he eats something truly horrific and you’ll learn something.

Maybe it’ll encourage you to do a bit of research on survival skills. Or maybe it’ll give you one more reason to just turn the TV off and get outside for a little bit. Hell, maybe it caused you to put the phone down or close the laptop screen out of sheer boredom and go do something else. I have no way of knowing what sort of impact, if any, the time I spent writing this out will have on anyone, but I feel better for having gotten it all out of my head and onto the page and, after all, that’s part of why I keep doing it. If you’ve managed to make it all the way through this, congratulations and thank you for taking time out of your day to read what I have to say.

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