Friday, December 16, 2011

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

I recently watched a TV program called Dual Survival that features two very knowledgeable guys from different backgrounds placing themselves in a variety of survival situations, then showing how to handle the challenges. Good show, and a good source of survival information. But one of the biggest messages I took from the show is how knowledge needs to be balanced with wisdom.

Both of these fellows have a commendable depth of survival knowledge. One of the men comes from a military background, so his approach is what you might expect from a military mindset — challenge nature, push hard, keep moving, hoo-rah!

The other guy refers to himself as an extreme naturalist who gave up wearing shoes 20 years ago so he could be more in touch with the earth and nature. His approach to survival is to cooperate with the natural elements, move slowly with caution, and utilize all the natural resources.

Like I said, the program is well done, and I can recommend it as an entertaining source to gain survival knowledge. But there is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge, and even with all the knowledge in the world you can still make foolish choices.

As I watched several episodes of this program, it became clear to me that going to extremes in one's approach to facing survival (or even general life) challenges sometimes defies wisdom. For example, insisting on living so close to nature that you shun wearing shoes or other protective clothing is (in my opinion) a departure from wisdom. This fellow obviously fancies himself a native, but if you understand the ways of most native cultures, it is clear that they use footwear and clothing appropriate to the season and environment. Clothing is the first line of defense against the elements, and there is no rational reason to fail to provide that level of protection to one's self.

It is true that some primitive cultures go nearly naked and shoeless, but those are exceptions to the rule and only in "friendly" environments. And as soon as those cultures are introduced to more protective clothing, they adopt it as their own. Adaptation is a key point for survival, and natives are quick to adapt new methods when they see that they are an improvement over the old traditions. Some purists see this as an intrusion of civilization on primitive cultures, but you don't see the natives complaining about the upgrades.

Now, I understand that the fellow in question is trying to create a persona for himself as he teaches primitive survival classes. That's a business decision, and it might actually even reach into his personal preferences of how he wants to live. Whatever floats his boat…

The trouble I have with it is that he parades this on a public forum such as TV, and it will undoubtedly influence some viewers into thinking it's okay to disregard the fundamentals of survival when it comes to clothing. Without a doubt, it makes good TV. What it doesn't make is good survival doctrine.

I'm not saying the man is not knowledgeable. It's obvious he is. It's the wisdom I question. And, by the way, I'm not alone in this. His partner on the TV program repeatedly declares the "extreme naturalist" sidekick to be nuts.

In my world, colored and flavored by both Special Forces military training and years of primitive living study and experience, I want people to understand that going to extremes in any direction might tickle your fancy, but it might also be foolish. Gain knowledge and experience, then apply wisdom. That's the best formula I know for survival.

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