"Only those who risk failing greatly can ever succeed greatly." –RFK
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
This is a fabulous book. I read it from cover to cover while traveling to and from Houston this past weekend. Wow. As Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm said, "I tore through Deep Survival like I'd been waiting to read it my whole life."
Yep, that's how I felt too.
Some cool quotes from the book:
"He saw that to lose everything at the edge of such a glorious eternity is far sweeter than to win by plodding through a cautious, painless, and featureless life." (One of my favorites Janis Joplin had already said it best in Me and Bobby McGee when she sang the profound words "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose.")
"Ultimately, it is the struggle that keeps one alive. What seems a paradox is simply the act of living: Never stop struggling. Life itself is a paradox, gathering order out of the chaos of matter and energy. When the struggle ceases, we die." (When do you feel most alive? Sitting at your desk at work with all the world's modern conveniences at your fingertips or at the finish line of a tough ultramarathon, a first marathon, a 5k, even a stroke survivor taking those first steps all over again?)
"A survival situation brings out the true, underlying personality. Our survival kit is inside us." (We see this often at Badwater. While Badwater is a relatively controlled environment with help always less than a mile away, this self-imposed survival situation brings out the true, underlying personalities of the runners and crews, even the race staff. Why do some rise above their struggles and other make poor choices? The book attempts to answer this.)
"The best survivors spend almost no time, especially in emergencies, getting upset about what has been lost, or feeling distressed about things going badly....For this reason they don't usually take themselves too seriously and are therefore hard to threaten."
"But you must hold onto the plan with a gentle grip and be willing to let it go. Rigid people are dangerous people."
"It is not a lack of fear that separates elite performers from the rest of us. They're afraid too, but not overwhelmed by it. They manage fear. They use it to focus on taking correct action."
"It sounds cruel, but survivors laugh and play, and even in the most horrible situations -- perhaps especially in those situations -- they continue to laugh and play. To deal with reality you must first recognize it as such, and as Siebert and others have pointed out, play puts a person in touch with his environment, while laughter makes the feeling of being threatened manageable." (Doctors and other health care professionals know this all too well!)
This is an excellent book. I can't say I learned much, even with all the references to parts of the brain, but I can say this book brought feelings of affirmation. Check it out for yourself and see what you think. Are you a survivor?
I am an ultra runner, physician and have been medical director of some of the toughest ultras. I tend to be a mover and a shaker and louder than my size suggests. However, my Gemini twin is gentler and contemplative, an artist, a writer, and a poet. I am a dog lover, a believer in souls, and have a special affinity for those who struggle because I have been there.
This is my crazy lovable huggable Weimaraner, Steely Dan. I call him Steely. He left us in January of this year at only 6 years from lymphoma that did not respond to chemotherapy treatments. Steely was a total goof. He loved trail running, road running, treadmill running, new experiences, making eye contact, sleeping on his back, me, kids, and liver treats. He was Zappa's best friend. We miss him dearly.
This is Stella. A rescue from the shelter. She's about 6 months old and a Border Collie. She is a joyous bundle of energy and curiosity and now also Zappa best friend. She will make a nice running partner when she grows up.
This is the now the big brother of my family - a rescued Greyhound. His name is Frank Zappa. I call him Zappa. He's 7 years old and has learned all about life beyond the track and crate from Steely when he was with us. It was very rewarding to watch his personality bloom as he settled into the family. And yes, he runs like the wind!
This is Natasha, my dearest friend. She was with me through college, medical school, residency, and she moved with me from Chicago to Spokane several years ago. She was my best running partner for 10 years. My sweet Natasha died from bone cancer in 2006. I miss her still. I hung a windchimes over the deck outside. When it chimes, I smile and think she has finally -- wherever she is now -- caught a squirrel!