In all honesty, I’m not the best non-fiction reader. I tend to read it very slowly, word by word, and my mind often wanders, resulting in having to re-read the page I just finished because it passed through my head like butter on Teflon. So the fact that I’ve just finished the book Deep Survival in under a month shows no small sense of absorption in the contents.
The book, in essence, is a methodical case study of what characteristics make someone survive in disaster situations. Everything from neurology to chaos theory to spirituality is covered in what I feel is a very thorough and meaningful look at how someone can be faced with extreme adversity, particularly life-threatening, and overcome it. While I can’t say I’ve been confronted quite so starkly with the very real prospect of dying as the cases cited in the book, I have at least been within sight. That is, those cases I can remember; I’m told that I did my damnedest to kill myself as a two year old on my grandparents’ farm, including dangling from a second-story rafter over a feed barn full of cattle.
In particular, I was repeatedly reminded while reading of a deep sea fishing trip my dad and I were on a couple years ago. In his book, Gonzales talks about the separation of people who panic and people who plan. In case after case, he found a sharp distinction between those who surrendered to their situation in hopelessness and were among the first to go, and those who acted, often with seemingly misplaced “black” humor at the situation. As we discovered our boat was beginning to founder miles from shore due to an unrepairable part, there were two distinct reactions: the panic of our captain who immediately gave up on the boat, and analytical and humorous approach of me and my father. It wasn’t forced; this was an automatic reaction, who we were. This was what we boiled down to.
For me, the book resonates in many ways. The activities, the places, the texts and philosophies; many of them have a significant importance to me in some form or another. To tie them all together just reinforces something I’ve always striven for, consciously and unconsciously, but only occasionally quantified.