Sunday, January 15, 2012

Evolution of Man

A comment on my post yesterday got me thinking. The reader pointed out that we should be careful with the tanks of propane we gathered, as they might contain anhydrous ammonia, an incredibly volatile and deadly substance used in meth cooking. My thanks to that reader for thinking of our safety, but I was already aware of the danger. That thought, remembering my firefighter training and the meth fire I helped put out while I was in school, led me to this post.

I've always been a curious person. Before the zombies came and burned our world down, I'd had a lot of jobs. I've talked about that before, but I think it bears repeating. I've got a degree in Fire/Rescue Technology, and a ton of training in all the crazy things you need to know to be a firefighter. I loved school, loved the fact that a good firefighter has to be a solid generalist. You've got to know a lot about the construction of many kinds of buildings, the materials that go into them. How they burn, their strengths and weaknesses. I got an EMT certification during the first six months of the program, which is a whole other set of skills. I know ropes and knots, the tensile strengths of a dozen kinds of ropes made of various materials. I was fascinated.

I've always been that way with my work. I've worked a broad spectrum of jobs that made me surf the web, learning more about all manner of details of what I did for a living. Combine that with my curiosity in general, and you've got a person with a very broad set of skills. I can build a house. Set a bone, stitch a wound. I spent many years pursuing education in the martial arts not because I wanted to be a badass, but because I wanted to build an understanding of the mechanics of the human body and how to exploit them. The philosophy also attracted me, obviously.

I don't say this to make myself sound impressive. Of all the skills and pieces of knowledge I've picked up, none are as dear to me as the survival skills I learned. Those classes were fun but far more important gave me the rudimentary knowledge I needed to survive in very harsh circumstances.

In short, I was lucky. I had many chances to fill my brain with information that might come in handy one day, and I took them. The larger realization that hit me yesterday was that most people who've survived The Fall are the same. Maybe not slackers like me who were directionless in their lives as long as I was, allowing me the time to learn at my leisure, but generalists with a lot of very useful knowledge. Many people have had to learn on their feet since the zombie plague hit, and I'm damn impressed by that. I had the luxury of calmer times and quiet reflection to amass my skills. Most other people had to pick it up or die.

This is a subject I've talked about before, as I've said, but I can't help banging this drum. If you're reading this (and sometime in the last few days, LWtD reached 100,000 hits, which is nearly a miracle) then you've survived under conditions and facing threats that were too much for the vast majority of people to handle. I see Rachel, Steve, Becky, and Bill working around our little cottage here, shoring up drafty spots in the roof, working leather into usable clothes, making meals that efficiently combine nutrition and calories, and a hundred other little things. They are little things, but I really want you to think about that.

Think about all the small things you've had to learn since all this began. Did you know how to sew? Could you have done a decent set of stitches in a ripped pair of pants? Maybe, maybe not. But I bet you learned. I bet you put your mind to that and a ton of other skills that are simple but incredibly useful in daily life. I've said before, with many caveats and moments of hesitation, that The Fall has some silver linings to it. This is one of them. People are improving themselves to meet the challenges of the world we live in. We have to.

I just find it very impressive. It's a bit funny as well--for example before The Fall, I knew maybe one or two people who knew how to make gunpowder. I can think of three dozen who do now off the top of my head. I know men who had never done a bit of auto repair, always taking their cars to the shop at the smallest sign of trouble who can diagnose and fix any of twenty common problems with their vehicles.

I see it in the efforts of the team to make our little temporary home more comfortable and livable. We used to focus so much on how hard it was to live in this new world that at times we ignored the lessons it was trying to teach us. I guess what I'm saying with this long, winding rant is that I'm proud of us. All of us. We may never reach our full potential, but by god we're gonna keep on trying.

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