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You Sweat You Die


For the past few months I've been working my way through all of the seasons of Survivorman (modulo the weird bigfoot season, that shit was too much, even for me). Yesterday I finished the last episode of season 8. Here are some thoughts on the show.

When it feels like the world is burning and your life is miserable there is something oddly reassuring and calming to watch Les Stroud survive for days on end, often in horrific conditions, with only bare essentials on hand.

I can't help but to ask myself why I find it so comforting to watch some middle aged Canadian starve himself and go through hell out in the wilderness. Is it just so I don't have to? Maybe.

I've been thinking about this and it struck me that when we experience moderate hardships in life we often tend to take a step back and reevaluate our particular situation. We scale stuff down and start looking to more, so called, simpler things in life. Feeling drawn to survival TV shows is almost a caricature of this back to basics mindset.

Another related perspective is that this type of content instills a internal reassurance that, given some preparation, skills, fitness and luck, even if everything breaks down in a very literal sense it is still possible, although challenging, to survive and in some rare cases even thrive.

Personally I'm surely unfit for any kind of real survival situation and I would most likely parish within a day but it is a nice thought that provides some comfort in trying times

Yet another perspective is that the appeal might be that if Les Stroud can do what he does I can find a way to deal with my shit as well. Or it could be plain old simple escapism. One aspect for sure is the naive urge to just give up on everything and run away with the intent to try to live a "simpler life".

I tried to get into some survival/bushcraft youtubers to get my fix but I haven't found anyone I like yet. They tend to focus too much on expensive gear, kill too many animals, be old timey larpers or just sensationalist assholes.

One unforeseen beneficial side effect of watching Survivorman is that I've started spending much more time outdoors. Talking walks in nature, spending a night in the forest with a friend far away from civilization and stuff like that, no survival ordeals. The pandemic is of course a factor in this behavior but nevertheless it's very good for me.