I’ve been watching Les Stroud: Beyond Survival. In each episode Les lives for a week or so with a different indigenous culture studying their survival skills and at least one of their religious ceremonies. He doesn’t pass judgement on their rituals and always respects the boundaries they set up. Most of the time he doesn’t experience what the people say is supposed to happen at the ritual. He doesn’t then claim is was illegitimate, he explains he’s glad to have participated. At one point he danced for ten hours in a village and said how could he not enter a rhythmic trance state like that and not be effected in some way. It would take time for him to process it and he was sure to remember the experience in years to come as an important one.
The show has reminded me how important balance is for a thriving ecosystem or human culture no matter where it is on our planet. From Southern India to Madagascar the climate is changing and resources are dwindling due to massive logging and fishing industries. Les though has noted that these indigenous people all ways find a way to make it through another day. To hunt and gather up enough for their one daily meal that is shared among a whole family or a whole village. Trash that floats in from the ocean becomes a treasure to them. It’s used to make nets or diving gear so they can get the fish and other sea creatures along the floor. By Western standards the people Les lives with and learns from should be miserable. (This isn’t to say they don’t suffer from ailments that readily available modern medicine could aid in but I digress.) However, it is their sense of community and heritage that brings them joy. In the Madagascar episode Les said, and I’m paraphrasing, in all cultures but my own, everyone who is able in a community comes together to help build the homes. And this brings me to the heart of what I’ve learned from Beyond Survival: community and attitude is everything.