Sunday, June 14, 2009

Being a Survivor

All organic life forms, including humans, are created by magic and exist primarily by the willful instinct to survive.

Survivor is a CBS TV reality show where a bunch of “real” people are sent to a remote location, with very little food or equipment, and attempt to “survive” in their new surroundings while being followed closely by cameramen and sound technicians who are probably trying very hard not to giggle.

Reality TV is about as close to reality as I am to winning Miss Congeniality in the next Miss America contest.

At first, the 16 contestants are split into two tribes, usually consisting of four men and four women each. Every three days, the tribes compete in an elimination contest. The losing tribe is required to vote one of their members out of the tribe and thereby out of the competition.

After the tribes have been scaled back to about half the original size, the two tribes merge and start another round of contests where the winner of each event is immune from being ousted during the next vote.

When it gets down to the last two contestants, the previous seven voted off choose the winner. The lone survivor wins a millions dollars, an automobile from one of the sponsors and a spot on the David Letterman Show where they will be ridiculed before hundreds of TV viewers.

To become a contestant, you must fill out a lengthy questionnaire, include a health certificate signed by a physician and submit a short video of yourself explaining why you should be chosen. Out of several thousand applications, the field is narrowed to a few hundred based on the video presentation. This is where reality ends and something even stranger than reality begins.

The producers of the show tend to favor videos depicting bizarre behavior by the sort of humanoids that cause apes to reject the theory of evolution. If you leap out of a Dumpster with a rose between your teeth or fall out of a tree wearing a Zorro outfit, you have a much better chance to be selected than if you were reasonably normal. Apparently being loud and obnoxious helps as well, especially if you are prone to yell “whooooo” and “yahoo” after every action, such as winning a contest or tying your shoes.

Then after a series of interviews, the final 16 “real” people are selected.

Even though the 16 contestants are not exactly a representative slice of the human race, you can still learn a lot about human behavior by observing them in action.

Invariably, within each tribe, a person will immediately take it upon himself/herself to be the leader and begin barking orders. In almost every Survivor contest this was the first person voted out of each tribe, regardless of how competent the person was or how hard he/she worked.

Apparently, the human race doesn't care much for eager self-appointed leaders no matter how competent they are.

For some, life on Planet Earth is a struggle for supremacy. But for most of us, it's a struggle for survival. And the struggle for survival is hard enough without being under someone else's ambitious command.

After the gung ho leader is eliminated, the tribes tend to typically split into responsible workers and irresponsible loafers. The workers resent the loafers because the workers must work harder to make up for the time the loafers spend loafing. The loafers resent the workers because they resent being made to feel guilty for loafing.

This also seems to mirror the human race in the struggle between those who take responsibility by providing for themselves and those who feel entitled to the fruits of the labor of others.

During the course of the contest, as contestants are eliminated one by one, alliances are formed among various schemers seeking to manipulate the voting process. They have more power and control as a group. In the real world, these manipulators would gang up on others by joining unions or political parties.

In the first Survivor contest, the most manipulative person won. Over the next couple of years, the winners were the ones who acted the most honorably throughout the contest. This too is evident in everyday life where who you are or how you play the game often has no bearing on winning or losing.

In TV Survivor, the best strategy seems to be to keep a low profile, do your fair share of the work, refrain from criticizing others and accept your fate when the outcome is out of your hands.

That may not be such a bad strategy for survival in the “real” world either.

We are immortal mortals, eternal beings within infinity. Our purpose is not survival, it's to reach a state of bliss regardless of circumstances.

Quote for the Day – "A warrior considers himself already dead, so there is nothing to lose. The worst has already happened to him, therefore he's clear and calm." Carlos Castaneda (shaman)

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and keeps a low profile on the road to infinity. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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