When someone uses the word survival, it’s many times tied to images of living off the land, roughing it, bear grilles getting dropped from a helicopter, or some fool tripping over himself in the woods.
The survival I’m going to discuss, is the root of the word. Basically, to keep the body alive.
In part 3 I discussed life, and rezinate brought some really interesting perspectives which taught me a lot, I hope they do the same for any who read this. The part 4 will hopefully put this into more perspective.
In part one I talked about the mind/heart/body connection, and how one thrives or dies depending on the other two. I talked about fuel, and hopefully this part will put that into perspective a little more.
Survival, meaning to keep the body alive. Think about that for a minute and ask yourself, what does that truly and fully mean?
A person in a coma, that never recovers, the body forced to keep working through machines, that is survival. Old ones that have machines put into their bodies to keep it from failing, but in turn lose their freedom due to being tied to those machines, that is survival.
A serial killer, kept alive with no remorse, no caring for another person, that is survival.
I began thinking about what this truly meant when I read the story of massai, a Chiricahua warrior arrested with geronimo. His story can be read here, and I would ask that you do so before you finish reading this.
So many Americans I have talked to speak of how they want a life, they don’t have a life, they’re stuck. When life is all around them and they never see it, because they are only surviving.
Medical science loves to beat its chest about how there have been so many advances that life expectancy has been greatly extended. I say according to whom? If you are using the 28 year life expectancy of the roman empire, than sure. But is it really living or only surviving?
If corn only grew from a kernel, grew tall, and died, never having provided food, is that living, or merely sustaining it’s body? To provide bodily fuel is its role in the circle, maybe we are here to provide a different kind of fuel.
To see a child so full of life, slowly but surely dim, becoming a flame less candle, is that living?
To sit in front of a television and ignore the laughter of the child you provided the seed for, or the woman you planted the seed in, is that living, or merely sustaining the body?
And what does that sustaining only the body do to our hearts and minds?
We see so many young ones centered around the next app, the next twitter, the next Facebook post. So many complain about how little they know. Whose fault is that? Who was the one that sat in front of the television watching football, and putting them in front of their favorite cartoon just to get some “peace”? What do you think that taught them?
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and nothing inbetween.
What struck me like a ton of bricks, as I saw some of massai in myself, was the detachment from society. Another thing that touched my heart so deeply, that it still brings tears, is that as bad and as “wild” as this former man was, he was still able to be brought back to some normalcy by a woman.
This woman, Natastale, a white mountain apache woman, was abused terribly by massai, yet still had the strength of self to be a woman, and in time, save herself, by bringing the human back out of massai, if only in short intervals.
It struck me so very strongly, and reminded me of many experiences. I realized, for men, society, but more importantly, and I think most importantly, the difference between survival and living, stems from a good woman. Be it a mother, grandmother, sister, friend, wife. They are as rezinate said, our unehlanvhi. What brings light to our darkness. What separates tribes from savages. They are our civility.
When we do not respect them, dominate them, attempt the change them, silence them, abuse them, ignore them, we men become just as savage as massai.
Natastale is a credit to her people, and I feel a lesson for women today, that so many bad things can happen, yet if they remain true to who they are, there is a great strength and power inside them.
But also a lesson for men, that we are nothing but savages attempting to survive without our good women.
My sister and mother told me stories of a childhood I can’t remember most of. They told me of a father that did not beat me because my mother provoked him when she saw the anger coming, and would lay on the floor bloodied and broken to save her children. My sister saw the same and would step between me and my father and pull his anger onto her to be beat instead of me. She said she was used to it, and I was so tender hearted she could not bear to see me hurt like she had been.
I am crying as I write this because if the pain in my heart from the actions of my father, but also for the love of a mother and sister who would disregard their own safety to protect the little ones. These women are my personal heroes. They are the women warriors I use as an example of strength, determination, fearlessness.
They took the pain for me so I would not just survive, but stay living with a strong spirit. Later in life I returned the favor as best as I could. But more than that, I learned that a person cannot overcome great suffering alone. The great suffering brings us down, we need others to bring us up, to give a hand to help us climb out of the hole. But once out of the hole, we must stand on our own feet.
By the time I was 10 years old, I was fed up with something I still cannot fully recall. I recall bullies at school and on the bus that my sister stood up to. I recall her scratching a teenage boy in the face and nearly blinding him because he touched her where he shouldn’t have. I recall her beating a boy that was abusing me so badly he had to stay home from school for days. Some would say she went overboard. I say she reacted to a situation she was fed up with. But she never hurt an innocent. She fought against abuse, and protected the innocent.
I learned from her and my mother and at 10 stood in front of a boy younger than me to protect him from my father. I do not know what I did other than speaking, but I remember from then on and my father did not hurt anyone in my presence again. I remember the look look of shock and fear on my fathers face. I remember saying “don’t ever touch him again” and I put all the strength of my little spirit into those words.
There is a reason we make tribes, tell stories, group together. It isn’t just for protection we group together, it is also for living. Like when my mother and sister protected me, they did so in order for who I was to more than survive, but stay living.
It’s far to easy to take a life, it’s much harder to take suffering onto yourself to protect others. But ones like my mother and sister do so without thinking. I learned that from them, and I continue it, and others learn from me.
For me that protection teaching came from my mother, for her she says it came from her grandmother, and for her it was from her father.
My mother has taught many women to be strong inside to stand up for themselves and others. I try to carry that on, and teach men to use their strength to protect. No man should give his woman no choice other than to take a beating to protect her little ones.