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Finally, "Emergency" Becomes Problem Solving, III

Now that I had overcome the urge to panic and make things worse, it was time for the positive agenda to start: what action should I take to get my RV unstuck off that mountain?

But not quite. There was still one more useless act to perform, but at least it did no harm. I started walking toward the half dozen ranchettes at the top of the mountain, known to me from a recent mountain bike ride. 

It turned out to be too far on foot. So why wasn't I riding the mountain bike? Probably because, in a panicky mood, I thought it would take "too long" to put on my bicycle shorts, and I had to "do something" immediately! Then I walked off to the ranchettes without bothering to put an explanatory note on the van's windshield. (That would have taken "too long", you know.) This act of stupidity just made me more ashamed of blocking the road to any motorist coming up the mountain, behind me.

Once again this other person, personifying Experience, said, "This walk is too long, you screwed up, this isn't helping." So I walked back down the mountain to my RV.

But the physical exercise did some soothing and calming. I straightened the front wheels; dug in front of the wheel that had spun into the road; tried rocking out of there, and almost made it; put rocks on the downside of the wheels; removed heavy 5 gallon water jugs from the van; and got the tow rope out so that it would be ready to go. 

It was amazing to watch "myself." Now this person had become a relentless problem-solver. No real physical breakthrough had occurred, though. Finally I went to the widest part of the road next the my RV and began removing rocks, so that motorists could get by. As each rock was hurled off the mountain, Panic became ancient history.

Recall the quote from William James, borrowed a couple weeks ago. It pertained to breaking bad habits, but I think it applies just as well to turning Panic into problem solving:
The second maxim is, Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up: a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. 

As Professor Bain says:— "The peculiarity of the moral habits, contradistinguishing them from the intellectual acquisitions, is the presence of two hostile powers, one to be gradually raised into the ascendant over the other. It is necessary above all things, in such a situation, never to lose a battle. Every gain on the wrong side undoes the effect of many conquests on the right. The essential precaution, therefore, is so to regulate the two opposing powers that the one may have a series of uninterrupted successes...
It's funny that neither of these gentlemen used the ratchet wrench as a metaphor. Perhaps the ratchet wrench was not commonly known in their era, at least to a Boston Brahmin and Harvard professor.

I kept busy at these activities for 20 minutes until a pickup truck appeared at the top of the mountain, and headed downward to me. He was a local, and had four-wheel drive. He wanted to put it in reverse to tow me out of there. This made no sense to me. He argued that his reverse gear was lower than first gear. I was calm enough by then to resist arguing with him; he was the hero after all.

The towing worked easily. It was almost an anti-climax. We had a little chat afterwards. I gave him a few bucks, as a token of appreciation. He didn't want to take the money, but I insisted.

Afterwards I developed some deep appreciation for the experience. It's not that we moderns are complete wimps and cry-babies. We just don't get much practice dealing with "emergencies."  If we did, we would start getting good at it, just as our ancestors were.

This brought to mind a quote from Gilbert Murray, The Five Stages of Greek Religion, page 170:
"...throughout antiquity the possibility of all sorts of absurd and atrocious things lay much nearer, and the strain on personal character, and the need for real "wisdom and virtue" was much greater than it is at the present day.  That is one of the causes that make antiquity so general, the strong governments and orderly societies of modern Europe have made it infinitely easier for men of no particular virtue to live a decent life..."
Indeed, we live in climate-controlled comfort, with our government-mandated safety helmets and airbags, and our insurance programs. We live in more safety and comfort than human beings ever have. But, ironically, we are probably more fearful, much to the benefit of the political class. Our characters, our Virtues, have shrunk in the cocoon of security.


There was another profound anthropological satisfaction that grew on me after this experience. How satisfying it was to receive help from another member of my own animal species! It's so easy to see the human race as a noisy nuisance in a metropolitan and over-populated world. "Help" is usually confined to odious bureaucracies. But to feel overjoyed to see a human being is a pleasure we have almost forgotten.

Just think how primal this kind of satisfaction is compared to the almost universally accepted notion of a "natural" experience: looking at useless pretty scenery. This requires you to think of homo sapiens as a part of nature, rather than as the opposite of nature.  The latter is the Manichean pseudo-religion of the metropolitan Greens. It is just the kind of experience we should move towards, as we graduate from our newbie-hood and our glorified tourist status, and start to take traveling seriously as a profession.


Michael said…
Great analysis of the whole situation including our present domestication. I wrote something related in this blog post about "Taming the Wild".

Also, that was nice of you to offer a few bucks. I'd have done the same. I've been stuck on a dirt road at the start of a snow storm. A hunter came by, diagnosed my engine problem at took me into town to get a tow truck. I've also been to a number of dinner outings where there's always this ritual where the men posture over how we are each going to cover the bill. It get's really tiring. A recent historical discovery has clarified my thinking somewhat. Here's something I wrote that relates:

Central currency is a centuries old fabrication that detractors of boondocking say we should be exchanging. They are fools and patsies for only seeing central currency as legitimate exchange. When we simplify people naturally revert to exchanges that local, personal, humanistic, inherently more stable and sustainable. Though there's not the same opportunity for future savings with local currencies, if one has faith in one's self or others there's no worry. Which is what many belief systems promote but has been squashed by said shell games.
Jim and Gayle said…
Currently, we spend a bit of time cleaning up the debris of our fellow homo sapiens at our current spot. Seems that firing off guns at glass liquor/beer bottles that they have emptied is quite appealing.

While we have met a number of folks since hitting the road whom I like and respect, including you, overall I prefer the useless scenery.

And, to Michael, a good dose of that old nuclear fireball would get us all back to that glorified existence. However, were it not for future savings we would still be working with not enough time to read these musings and be enlightened.

Michael, I read the link you provided, but didn't understand the post all that well. I'll reread it.

This is the third time in as many years that I've offered a few bucks to a rescuer. It is amusing to watch the Hero refuse money when offered, despite the fact that going to a four wheel drive tow vehicle would cost me thousands of dollars, and paying to be towed in places where your towing insurance won't cover you would cost $300--$800. Besides that, a Hero who has been on the other side of the equation knows how fun it is to display gratitude, one of our finest qualities.

Jim and Gayle, my snide quips at useless scenery are not aimed at convincing people to stop enjoying scenery. But it is a pleasure that tends to saturate the first couple years RVing. Then what?

I try to write about more satisfying types of natural experiences that a seasoned RVer can "graduate" to.
XXXXX said…
I've wondered that same thing, whether folks 100 years or so ago were better at dealing with emergencies than we are. I was contemplating it in regard to death, since they lived with death so much more than we do (high infant and child mortality rates, childbirth death for women, death from antibiotics...lack of understanding of the spread of disease through uncleanliness, etc.) but when you read the writings of these people, they grieved and suffered just the same as we do. My guess would be that an emergency was still an emergency no matter how much experience you get with it.
Perhaps we are more neurotic though, meaning we have less reason to fret, because of all the things you mentioned, i.e., insurance, etc. but I think the human psyche is primed to look for things it should ancient instinct when there were many physical threats. It's built in now. To prove my easy it is to have fear rise in one's chest because they THINK they see something or hear something and it is nothing really. And look at how easy it is to put fear in the hearts of most people through commercials selling some medication or treatment, etc. The one I'm thinking about is the shingles vaccine if you've had chicken pox.

I can appreciate the last paragraph, where you encourage your readers to think of mankind as a part of nature rather than separate from it. Doing that allows one to recognize the dark side of mankind much more readily and that allows one to recognize their own dark side as well. Until one does that, they're just fooling themselves about pretty much everything. I suspect that's your real beef about focusing on pretty scenery rather than the whole picture. We like to focus on pretty scenery in every aspect of our lives and ignore/dismiss/disown all else. It's a happy place if you can lie yourself into it. Many do.

Hell, let's do away with all pretty things...pretty women, pretty music, pretty scenery, pretty sun dresses. Hell, while we are at it, let's spray weed killer on all the flowers, too. We need to get over pretty stuff, let's rise above it for it distracts us from our true purposes of being unappreciative, miserable, and bland.
Box Canyon Mark
Now, now. Somebody needs a nappie. Nobody said anything about eliminating Beauty. I make snide comments about the types of Beauty that are too easy to gawk at, and too stereotypical. I've always encouraged people to move on to the next harder thing.

And as for bland, the experience in this post was very un-bland. Your advice was that I just get a 4-wheel-drive truck, which WOULD have made it a bland non-experience.
George, I too bet that real emergencies affected people badly in the old days. But I'll bet they were a lot better at overcoming merely difficult situations, and not prematurely calling them "emergencies". Today we can't wait to call anything an emergency, just to bring in the FEMA swag, if for no other reason.

But who died and left you God, that your perception is the only path to virtue and intellectual fulfillment... why are you the chosen disciple of the "pompous dead," those intellects who didn't have a real job enough to occupy their free time (apparently) and think they have the truth in a corner so they will determine for others which beauty is too "easy" (like, it's only for those with low I. Qs. ? I don't know what your heart is made of anymore...does it not beat? have you ever shed a tear at an awesome Arizona sunset? If it makes me smarter to have and show less emotion and gratitude for my landscape loves...then I'd rather be dumb.
Box Canyon Mark
John V said…
On the topic of cleaning up garbage, we classify our public lands boondocking spots on a "number of bags" basis. If it only takes one garbage bag to clean up a site before we camp, we call it a "one bagger" and consider it a triumph. We've had far too many three and four baggers in national forests and BLM sites. It's amazing the amount and types of garbage our fellow citizens will leave in these beautiful spots!
Mark, let's choose some other time for this. It's not the topic of this post.
Next time you two get to Moab (and Bobbie, too, of course, but she's too smart to get involved in all this) - I'll buy you both an Evolution Ale. I have some comments I'd like to make about the scenery, but I need reinforcements (Mark) before doing so. :)
PS One more comment - Boonie, I don't think you were really stuck, since you didn't go for help. Even though it came to you, you might've gotten out some other way. Guess we'll never know... :)
XXXXX said…
For me, it's not one or the other but both. After spending considerable time looking into the dark side of things, the ugly side of humanity, I realize I have a greater appreciation of what is beautiful for true beauty is rare. It's only when you know pure ugliness (in its many forms) that one can appreciate true Beauty.
The type of beauty you are defending is only skin deep. That doesn't qualify in my book.
The bottom line is "Each to their Own." Life is ultimately all about perception. Unique to each individual and that has its own kind of beauty.
XXXXX said…
Just think how primal this kind of satisfaction is compared to the almost universally accepted notion of a "natural" experience: looking at useless pretty scenery. This requires you to think of homo sapiens as a part of nature, rather than as the opposite of nature.

I am dissatisfied with my previous comment on this subject and want to give it another shot.
I think it would be an entirely different society/world out there if people considered themselves a part of nature instead of separate from it. You can blame the Christian notion of a soul for this separation. Their definition was defined as a soul which was not of this world and lived on afterwards. A soul that was unique and unchanging to each human being born. Quite different from earlier definitions of a soul which defined it as ever-changing, as something that flowed in and out of an individual, something that had the ability to mix with EVERYTHING else because it was believed that Everything has a soul, every animal, plant, rock, etc. The soul of the world.
With this latter way of viewing the world, the cycle of life was respected and everything had a value. We couldn't justify exploiting the world as we do now.
When a person looks at a sunset and cries with the majesty of it, what really happens? I think the normal boundaries blur. (The normal boundaries of ME as a separate being and everything else being something OUT THERE.) We take the experience in and relish it. It becomes a part of our soul to the extent of unleashing a gush of human emotion. All is intertwined. The joy of the beauty of the world; i.e., the potential of Beauty and subsequently the motivation is born to bring more of this into humanity or at least one's own life.

Boonie described a case of human kindness, something built on mutual consideration. In this world of crime and manipulation and cruelty, etc., surely such an occurrence is a beautiful thing, something the sunset suggests but it ends there. Human kindness has the ability to deliver and that is a beautiful thing because we human beings are so capable of such terrible things.
edlfrey said…
I have never teared up over a sun set and I lived in Arizona for 27 years and have visited the state a number of times.
I have had the eyes mist just a bit and I chocked up a little when some one showed me a kindness. If I were stuck and someone pulled me out that just might do it, it has in the past.
I don't get emotional when looking at 'scenery' and even less so when looking at photographs or painted pictures of 'scenery'. I guess I just don't have that artist gene or artist soul that is necessary. Or maybe no heart?
Unknown said…
The description of your "emergency" and your accompanying inner process reminded me of this description I recently clipped from a blog post by Rogue Priest.
"Before I began my travels I had the idea that travel changes the mind. I pictured that traveling far and wide would, on its own, be some kind of transformative practice—that the adventures I’d find myself in would refine who I was. That’s essentially true, but I don’t think I could have imagined how it actually works.

Travel is not an adventure game where overcoming challenges develops new skills, or where mentors and allies appear to help you through the toughest times. Travel breaks you down. Most of the new skills you gain are developed during the many, many times you fail to overcome challenges, and more often you feel like you’re gambling your way forward with a skill set that’s far from sufficient. Mentors and allies can be found, but you generally have to create those relationships yourself—you have to take a lot of social risks.

The result is that travel does change you, deeply, but not by simply powering you up to some kind of super-talented globetrotter. If anything, travel changes you most effectively by undermining your sense of self, your certainty. It forces you to rethink things you believe.