Beyond Collapse

Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization from Scratch

Civilization

Dealing With Death On Your Own

It’s that time again, campers! However, I want to bring up a little something that recently struck home for me, and how it can translate to a very real (and likely very common) post-SHTF chore: How to bury your dead. This topic came home two ways.

First way? My wife has an uncle who is now a (temporary) resident in our home. Loves fishing, beer, a former Hell’s Angel, and men in Los Angeles still feared him. He arrived by UPS, in a small box. So why is he here? Well, we live geographically closest to her family’s plot, so we get to make sure he’s deposited in it once the family can garner enough agreement as to who pays for the burial services. It’s been about a month now, but he’s one of the quietest guests I’ve ever hosted, so I don’t mind. He once weighed 220 lbs, now he weighs in at 17 lbs or so, and he sits on a shelf in the living room –  in a little brown plastic box labeled “Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.”

Second way? Two weeks ago, a friend of ours left this mortal coil. Even though he was in his 70′s, he loved to exercise… as in, former Marine aviator doing a 16-mile trot for fun on Sunday mornings kind of workout. Vietnam veteran, but the happiest, gentlest, and most well-adjusted man I ever met. Loved getting his hands dirty. The autopsy discovered a stroke, and the police found him somewhere around mile 12 of his last run. It was the customary part of his run where he loved to “talk to God.”  My wife and I literally held his youngest son (26 yrs old), as he broke down in our living room while telling us the news. Given that he was a good man, I was a little choked-up myself.

Sitting in the funeral (ever been to one for a friend? Not Fun), my mind wandered a bit… As most good preppers are wont to do, I got to thinking about how one of these would go without the massive support and resources that civilization has. This is what I came up with…

 

Bring Out Your Dead!

Let’s start with first things – you say you’ve got a fresh corpse on your hands. Unlike in my above examples, there’s no friendly neighborhood funeral home, coroner, crematorium, etc. to handle this, so it’s on you, big guy… Now whatcha gonna do about it?

Well, first off, make sure the guy is well and truly dead. No really – you will want to be sure on this one.

Pictured: One indication that you screwed this one up...

Pictured: One indication that you really screwed this up.

 

I’m serious about this, by the way – before modern civilization, the number of people who were buried while still alive was disturbingly large. Folks would slip into a coma (usually from some sort of disease), only to wake up later, in a box, underground, where they would die a dark and horrid death by suffocation. Archaeologists would often exhume coffins from previous eras which had heavy scratch marks underneath the coffin lid, if that’s any indication of how common it was.

So – unless you want your loved one to suffer that kind of sendoff into the afterlife, maybe you want to insure that the person is well and truly dead. How to do this? Let’s start with the obvious: Heartbeat, respiration, reactivity. Find the carotid artery (on the neck – look for your own first if you’re not sure), keep your fingers there, and feel for a heartbeat for at least five solid minutes. With a small penlight (or a candle if nothing else), move a bright light on and off of the victim’s open eye, checking for the pupil (that little black hole on the eye) to contract and expand. Check the body temperature (anally, and be sure you never use the thing on a live person!) – the body will reach room temperature after a day or two. Finally, bathe the victim and let him or her lay on a table for at least 2-3 days between estimated point of death and burial – with someone watching the whole time for any sign of life. This can give you time to dig the hole, prepare the body, and give family and friends time to have a proper funeral if the deceased has them around.

Now in times of crisis, and when things are all hairy out there, you may not have the effort to spare or the means to pay close attention. In such a case, simply set the body out back with some dignity for at least 3 days.

 

Faces (and Butts) of Death

If you’re going to have a stiff hanging around for a day or two (and as a family, it’ll give you time to grieve and prepare the body for funeral, so this is a good thing) it helps to know what in the hell to expect. In this age of professional  funeral services, most of the dirty bits are hidden from the typical citizen.

So, in the interest of education, here’s some of what you’re in for…

  • The body often gains a blue or waxy tint, starting at the toes and fingers, even while the victim is alive. This is due to an increasing lack of circulation as the heart begins to fail. Eventually the lips and closer extremities turn waxy and/or blue as well.The body gets pale completely somewhere between 15 minutes and two hours after death.
  •  There’s a reason I said to bathe the body earlier, and it’s not a cleanliness fetish. At the moment of death, the deceased will have all of his muscles relax – including the mouth, diaphragm, anus, bladder, you-name-it. Those last two I mentioned mean that if there’s anything in the bowels or bladder, it’s gonna come out. On the sheets, so be prepared to burn those puppies once you’re done with them.
  • If you turn or move the body, you may feel an out-rushing of breath from the body – sometimes air is trapped in a collapsed lung and gets released when the body moves.
  • After a few hours, Livor Mortis begins to kick in – this is where the blood begins to settle towards the lower parts of the body. Without a heart to pump the stuff around, gravity kicks in and pulls the blood downwards.
  • The body will initially stiffen as Rigor Mortis sets in. The body starts getting stiff in about 3-4 hours after death, gets completely stiff 12 hours later, then gradually dissipates until somewhere between 2 to 2.5 days after death.
  • Gas buildup will be inevitable anytime after the sixth hour… all that half-digested food in the gut will begin to rot – this leads to a bit of farting and/or belching every time you move the body, and an odor that will guarantee you’ll smell death. This gas may also cause the deceased to sit up, twitch, move, and a whole bunch of other little things that will positively scare the crap out of you.
  •  If the temperature is hot enough outside, you’ll get to see (and smell) decomposition kick in early – within a couple of days (or sooner in really hot weather), the eyes will begin to deflate, fluids (and any uncoagulated blood) will start running out of any convenient orifice (as well as ooze through the decomposing skin), and the odor will quickly get unbearable. Note that the body will also begin to swell up heavily, especially in the abdominal area.

So now you have someone, and you know he or she is dead… now what? Well, you’re mostly down to two practical choices – cremation or burial. Any other option is, well, outlandish. So, let’s explore these two routes, shall we?

 

Burn Baby, Burn

m1-flamethrower_3

No no no no NO! This will NOT work!

 

Cremation is the fastest and easiest to perform, right? Well, wrong. In order to properly cremate a body, you’re going to need enough long-burning fuel (e.g. wood or coal), going at a high enough temperature, and have it going for long enough to get the job done completely.  Consider that you’re trying to convert 100-200 lbs (or more?) of human flesh into dry ash – that’s going to take a lot of heat. Modern crematorium furnaces generate temperatures of 1600-1800 degrees F to do the job, running for about one hour per 100 lbs of body weight. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cremation)

A final potential obstacle is religious-oriented. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Traditional Jews, and even some Mormon sects disapprove of cremation.

All that said: if you’re going to do it, do it right, else you risk the potential for disease and contamination. At least a full cord of wood (or the equivalent in coal) will be needed for one average 180 lb body. It would be preferable to have two cords, though any extra can be put to use elsewhere. Stack at least half the amount, then place the body atop it. if you have any sort of accelerant to get things started (gasoline, diesel fuel, etc), it’s a good idea to use it. Use the other half of the fuel to keep it going until there is no discernible body part left. You may have to gently push the extremities into the center of the fire, but keep it going at least until the bones are dry, then crack and come apart very easily. Once you are done, you can bury the remains or do what you will with them, as they will be generally safe to handle at that point.

Finally? If you do go the cremation route, have a designated place to do it, and make sure everyone in the community puts it to use.

 

How To Plant a Human

…one shovelful at a time.

The easiest way to dispose of a body is to bury it. The task of digging a grave looks a lot more arduous than it really is, but to be honest it requires less work than cutting/gathering all that wood and then tending a fire for hours on end.

Digging a hole requires just one person – mostly because during the latter stages of excavation, only one person will fit in the hole to finish digging it.  However, you’ll want more than one person if you can, because digging a grave is still going to be hard work, and a hole that deep will present safety concerns – especially in sandy or unstable soil, so you’ll want someone looking out for you. Be sure to refer to the book as to where best to site your grave (failing that, an existing graveyard from pre-SHTF days woks best.)

You’ll want more than just a shovel or two – a pickaxe is going to make the process much easier to do, as you come across tree roots, rocks, and sundry other chunks of stuff. It’s preferable to do this in shifts if there’s more than one person. Dig the hole at least 4′ deep, 3′ wide, and 1′ longer than the deceased. In regions where there are large predators (e.g. bears, cougars, etc), be sure to dig 6′ deep to prevent, say, a bear, from digging up your loved one and eating him or her.

Note that in winter, the ground may well be as hard as a rock down to the frost line for your region. In that case, building a fire to melt the ice out of the soil for the first 18-36 inches makes for a workable solution to the problem.

Believe it or not, a coffin is actually optional. In many cultures (even colonial America), the body is usually buried in a cloth shroud, and coffins were usually used only by wealthier people. That said, a coffin is fairly easy to knock together, assuming you have enough nails and lumber to get the job done.

After whatever ceremonies you feel appropriate are completed, and the body is interred, be sure that *all* of the dirt which came out of the hole is put back in, then piled on top. Over time, the coffin may collapse, the dirt will settle, and time will make the ground level again.

 

Disposal In Numbers

Let’s face it – a true civilization-ending SHTF situation will produce a *lot* of corpses. Disposing of them is not just a matter of cleanliness, but of health. In such a case, you’ll want to find somewhere convenient and quick to dispose of all that dead flesh. In situations like this, it is not extreme to put a working backhoe or bulldozer to work, building a mass grave and quickly covering the bodies. Yes that’ll cost diesel fuel, but the savings in health (and life!) will be worth it. Find a suitable site, then dig a trench large enough to hold all of the bodies, plus enough dirt to cover them to a depth of 4-6 feet. If necessary, dig multiple trenches and break up the pile of bodies into manageable numbers.

Cremation at a mass level is doable, but it will require a *lot* of fuel, time, and work – and the smoke will get everywhere. This is an option if you’re very short on manpower, but have way too many bodies to dispose of, then it may be your only real choice. For instance, find a large(-ish) house that is vacant and away from anything that could catch fire (like trees, other houses, etc.) Pile in as many bodies and fuel as you can. When ready, add some liquid fuel to the bottom floor (or lowest point), and torch the whole thing from there, keeping watch over any stray cinders and/or sparks, so they don’t start fires elsewhere.

Other alternatives? If there’s an abandoned mineshaft, sewage piping, cave, or other sufficiently-sized hole in the ground (that you otherwise have no use for), mass burial in these places can be done. If you live next to an ocean, a mass burial at sea (in shifts) can be done as well. Just be sure that weights are used to prevent the bodies from bobbing back up to the surface.

 

How Not to Dispose of a Body

Dumping your dead, say, down-river? Not recommended, at all. First off, you may live upstream of another group of survivors, and they’re going to get awful angry at you for contaminating their water supply. Secondly, bodies have a habit of not floating very far, so some of them will still contaminate your local area. Finally, dead bodies attract scavengers and predators, and the local wildlife will not be as scared of you anymore – especially since there won’t be so many of you around.

Cannibalism? Umm, no. Even if you’re literally starving to death, don’t even think of trying it. Unless you know exactly what killed your intended dinner, and you eat him or her promptly, you’re risking near-certain disease and death yourself. Decomposition quickly renders a body completely risky to eat, even in very low temperatures. Cooking under primitive conditions won’t remove all viruses, bacteria, and cancers… all of which would be very receptive towards inhabiting another human body – namely yours. Best to eat a dead animal –any non-primate animal– where the diseases present in it aren’t as risky to your own life and limb.

Displaying the body of a raider or other criminal as a warning? After writing the book, I thought about this a bit… and it’s probably not a good idea. For one, the chance of disease is pretty high, even if no one touches the thing. Secondly, if the deceased is related to someone in the next settlement/town/etc over, they may take exception to one of their own being displayed as a trophy… even if the guy had it coming.

Most other means have their pros and cons, mostly cons, unless a very narrow circumstance happens to dictate otherwise, so you don’t have to worry too much when it comes to your preps.

 

Bits and Bobs

Speaking of preps, some things to keep on hand? That depends on how you intend (or to be honest, prefer) to bury your dead. This is not to say you have to prepare for failure, but it does mean you should prepare for the inevitable; even if you survive and live 40 years beyond, you’re still going to croak, so you may as well have the things you need for that eventuality.

For burial, keep a few shovels and at least a couple of pickaxes on hand. You can go the economy route by having a couple of large cloth sacks (large enough to fit inside) for use as burial shrouds. If you want to go one better, then store enough lumber to build coffins for everyone. No need to build them just yet… you may have a more immediate use for the materials before then. Just be sure that in either case, you include enough rope to gently lower the body, shroud, and/or coffin into the ground. Also be sure you have a bunch of spare rags or towels to use in order to soak up any fluids from the body between point of death and the burial.

For cremation, your best bet is to store some fuel (gasoline or diesel), and the means to get as much firewood (or coal) as you need to get the job done… and that’s it.

No matter which route you take, it will be handy to keep a lot of extra sheets around, and keep a thermometer specifically to check dead bodies with if you’re not certain (in colder weather, it’ll be harder to tell otherwise).

Anything beyond that? Depends on your religious preferences and moral ethos.

Finality, in Finality

I want to mention that in spite of the attempts at humor above, death is a very serious thing. It has the unfortunate aspect of being rather final, and with very few biblical exceptions, it is rather irrevocable. Having this happen to a loved one is one of the harshest aspects you will ever experience, and is gut-wrenching to the extreme. What this means for you is this: if the body is of someone you do not recognize, treat it with respect. At one time, someone loved that person -even when the corpse is your problem, someone likely still does love him or her. Treat the body gently, kindly, as if it were your sibling or parent. Even in the case of mass burials, try your best to give a modicum of respect and dignity.

Even if you’re selfish and hateful beyond belief, remember this – someday, it will be your body being carried to burial or cremation. You see, death happens to us all…including you and I. Keep that in mind the next time you have to deal with someone else whose turn has come.

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Sunday, June 30th, 2013 Generic Musings, Immediately After, Long-Term, Short-Term Comments Off

Mini-SHTF, and How To Survive Them

For a moment, let us forget the massive civilization-ending events. Let us set aside the things which threaten humanity itself. For a moment, while we’re all busy prepping, let’s take a moment to consider SHTF events that occur on a more personal basis. I’ll give you a little personal example, as it may help out…

Feces, Meet Air-Handler:

Recently, on a Friday, we got word from the boss that all telecommuting is to be suspended, and that we all need to arrive on site each working day. Puzzled, angry, and not a little fearful, our merry tribe of worker bees speculated aloud on what was going down, and why.

Monday answered all questions. We all arrived, and it became apparent that the reason we all had to be on site was so that we would have our company-issued gear with us, when meant they could more easily retrieve these items as they downsized (that is, lay off permanently) a number of us.

This included me.

Here’s what normally happens to those without a prepping mindset (I can speak from past experience)… First there are the emotions – fear, shock, anger, betrayal. They quickly cloud your mind as you fight to utter coherent sentences and struggle to keep up with the conversation. The next urge is to frantically scan your mind (to the exclusion of anything else) as to your present financial situation – how much is in the bank? Which bills are due? When will unemployment kick in and how much will that be? How am I going to make the rent/mortgage next month – OMG will I be homeless!? While all this is swimming in your head, you don’t hear (much less comprehend) what the suited drones are telling you, so you quickly grasp for whatever you can, including some really dumb options – like signing anything they shove in front of you.

The good news is, after a split-second flash of emotion, none of this happened to me.

What Prepping Can Do For You:

Fortunately, I’ve done a bit of prepping, including all the social interaction bits, which I cover a lot of in the book. I am happy to report that the results are, to date, far different from how I experienced layoffs in the past:

* I kept personal and professional relationships alive, even with folks whose ideology and outlook differ from mine radically. I mentioned my situation on a couple of social websites, then by email and phone when I got home. By the next afternoon, I had trusted agents and employers calling me up with potential job offers. I had two interviews scheduled by the end of the day. Mind you, this is an environment where jobs are scarce at best. I barely had time to polish the resume before I had recruiters and employers coming out of the woodwork asking for a copy of it. Score one for being an outgoing person, no?

* Due to a habit of setting money aside, I can cover the gap between the unemployment checks and the bills for quite a few months. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a difference that makes in how you feel during the initial news of being downsized: I did a quick mental scan of my expenses, knew almost immediately how much I had (and had coming in), and was able to clear my mind to think of next steps. This extra thinking time also allowed me to insure that my former employer didn’t try to screw me over on the way out (yes, they tried). While others were frantically wondering where they would get income, I was looking at all the paperwork and going over it, line by line (and crossing out a few lines – they resisted at first, but when I told them that I would be stopping by my lawyer’s office on the way home, they quickly became quite amenable).

* Thanks to a pantry full of food, I can go a month or two without seeing the inside of a grocery store, and that’s not even touching the long-term food preps. With the price of food these days, that’s a pretty huge load off my mind (and wallet!)

* Because I chose vehicles that have a good balance between cargo capacity, performance, and fuel efficiency, I can drive some pretty solid distances for interviews, yet still remain within my new (smaller) budget.

* Due to (again, as per the book) mentally training myself to ignore emotions (for now) and instead seek solutions in the face of adversity? I was able to think with a clear mind – even though it isn’t easy to mentally shove back the surge of anger, betrayal, and worse, I was still able to manage it very well. This also allowed me to think ahead as to what steps I needed to take next, and to discuss them with the missus. I was able to calm down my wife over the phone before I left the office for the last time, formulate a plan as to what needed done immediately (versus the medium term and long-term things I can tackle later), then put it into action. By the time I left town on the drive home, I was calm, thinking with a careful and considering mind. I even saw a rainbow among the mountain passes on the way home, and enjoyed the view.

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, because I strive to improve myself spiritually? I was able to get home, hug my wife, answer all of her questions calmly and clearly, and together take stock of our new situation. We both dropped to our knees, thanking God for what we have been given so far, and for what we see. We asked for forbearance, charity, a discerning mind, to dismiss any thoughts of revenge or anger, and to show us which way He wants us to go. Not my will, but His.

Now this may sound silly to the atheists and agnostics among us. Well, think what you will, but the feeling of peace, clarity, and calmness I experienced afterwards? It made an already calm outlook optimistic and hopeful. We were cracking jokes and cheering each other up within minutes, and began working together to discuss options (…options? Things like possible relocation and to where, trimming the family budget to maximize the money situation, then to go watch the sun set quietly.) Let me put it this way – I was able to sleep in a little the next morning, wake up optimistic, and have that optimism proven throughout the day. You can call me whatever silly names you like for being a devout Christian, but as for me? I make it a habit to not argue with success.

How To Avoid Disaster On The Micro Scales:

Now job loss (or any similar-sized life event) is pretty stressful.

I won’t lie to you – my top priority is to resume making money doing what I love as soon as possible, and I’m working hard to that end. My wife still cried. When things reached a quiet point, I found a quiet place and let fly with my own emotions. There are still lingering uncertainties, though as each day passes some of these uncertainties have become potentials and opportunities. I spend each day working connections both professional and personal. I tear into job sites, so that I have gained a very good picture of what’s out there both locally and regionally. All that said, here’s how I was able to do it without massive stress, anger, or thoughts of planting bombs in any offices. Note that this can apply to any SHTF situation that doesn’t affect the world at large:

* Save up! I cannot stress enough how important it is to build up a nest egg against emergencies like this. Even if it isn’t in precious metals, having money in the bank will take a huge load off of your mind when that layoff announcement comes. It also comes in handy for other similar emergencies – car crashes, sudden medical emergencies, the odd tornado that deposits a stranger’s car into your garage by way of your roof…  As long as the outside world considers the money to have value, that extra bit of dough can help remove all worries, or at least blunt the impact that your new calamity will have.

* Train your mind to seek solutions, not blame or revenge. For most folks, it is impossibly hard to set aside emotions in the face of bad news. However, this must be done – you cannot give in to anger, fear, or worse, as it paralyzes you, making the situation worse. You can always curse or cry later – but right now, you have to act decisively, and to work towards solutions. Keep your eyes on the prize, and be prepared to update that plan as events change. If you are able to take in a situation, you can formulate a plan of action.

* Identify now what you really need, versus what you can jettison. In my wee example, I work in an industry where I had access to folks’ bank records, so they are justifiably paranoid about what you can do after being told you no longer work for them. When I was escorted to my desk to pick up a few things (they’ll ship the rest), I was able to identify what things I needed, and was able to leave the rest behind without a thought. On a more important scale, it applies to knowing what needs focus (food, water, shelter/warmth, tools) versus what isn’t needed (a large TV subscription package, snacks/sodas, etc). Those of you out there with massive smartphone contracts can throttle back to a cheap prepaid cellphone. A family of four who has six cars can probably be rid of a couple of them. If you have a hobby that costs you money but does not directly contribute to your continued survival, ditch it. While most of this is common sense, too many people get rather defensive about it, and justify the most outlandish things which contribute nothing towards continued survival.

* It never hurts to plan ahead. Think through various scenarios, even if they are painful (job loss, death of a spouse/child/etc, auto accident, whatever), and form tentative plans as to what you can do about them. More often than not, if you mentally prepare yourself, you will be the most likely to remain a calm rock of support in a family or group that may be losing their heads.

* Drill this into your head: You can live with less. Orient your life towards that end. Do you really need a massive cable/sat TV package, or a bleeding-edge smartphone and tablet on an expensive data plan? Is there some logical reason for driving some shiny new car on a pricey lease? Do you really need to live in a house that swallows 1/3 or more of your current income? Hawaii or Europe …really? How often do you use that boat or RV camper, anyway – is it enough to justify the expenses that it incurs? I’m not saying to cast aside some once-in-a-lifetime thing you’ve been dreaming of (and building up to) for years – but if you’re buying caviar with a beans-and-rice income, maybe you should sit down and re-think your priorities.

* Constantly build on and improve your personal relationships. True story: When I got downsized in 2005, my ex-wife’s first reaction was to pack up her things and say that “this isn’t working”, and filed for divorce. I’ll leave out my emotions on the matter, but I mentioned it to point out that unless you have a strong relationship, and know your spouse and family members well? A bad situation may end up amplified into a worse one. Knowing your personal relations also helps you to know how to help them through the given crisis, since you will know how they will react, what they will need both physically and emotionally, and it helps you to prepare them in advance if possible.

* Constantly build on and improve your relationships with neighbors and co-workers. Having a large number of friends at work (even if they leave for some other job) better helps you to find work if you lose your job. Keeping in touch (even infrequently) on a professional networking site (e.g. linkedin.com) helps you keep in touch. Being on excellent terms with your neighbors, not just superficially, can help you (and you can help them) when tragedy strikes in your neighborhood. For small SHTF events, everyone can get together and help the stricken neighbor. For the ultimate SHTF events, you can band together and survive. I daresay that helping neighbors through the smaller/personal stuff will increase the chances that you all can band together and help each other through the bigger/global stuff.

* Pray. If you’re atheist/agnostic, then meditate or something. The point is, get in touch with who you are, and do so on an ongoing basis. As much as some folks tend to sneer at religion, it serves excellent purposes in the secular realm: it helps foster community, helps to prepare oneself to withstand adversity, and in general is a great way to stop and calm yourself. Take full advantage of that. On a spiritual level, it does some rather amazing things. If you know, then no explanation is needed; if you do not know, no explanation will suffice.

* As long as help is still around, take advantage of it. Don’t rely on it solely (or even plan for it to be there), but consider this: In my little situation, my former employer paid into unemployment insurance all this time, so I intend to take full advantage of it. Just note that if there is help, there may be strings attached – no matter who or what the source may be. Know what those strings are, and evaluate them carefully before accepting any of it.

* Orient yourself to optimism, with a dose of realism. Pessimists need not apply. Unless you can look forward to the future and honestly asses the facts at hand, you won’t be able to keep your head.

In conclusion:

Overall, prepping for small SHTF events isn’t much different than prepping for the Big One. Take your time and plan carefully in advance. Be prepared to adapt to new developments. Love your neighbor, your co-worker, and your family member. Orient your priorities towards continued survival.

If you can do all of this, life suddenly isn’t as nasty and surprising as it seems when things go rotten.

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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 Before Collapse, Generic Musings, Short-Term Comments Off

Stocking Up On Memories

Yesterday, I came across something that, while simple, turns out to be pretty profound; it was enough that I got to thinking beyond that.

You have folks that stock up on almost every conceivable thing – bullets, food of every sort, tools, and whatever the big sites have managed to scare them into either buying, building, or improvising. However, that one little post has brought something to light that few preppers ever bother with in their rush to get out ahead of doomsday: Stocking up on good memories.

Certainly, this is covered in the book, and multiple times – enjoying life is a prime reason that we as humans live (right behind reproduction), and one really does need to enjoy civilization while it is still around – else why the hell would you want to bother trying to rebuild it?

There are too many out there who have their heads down, openly eschewing the world as we know it entirely. Some avoid it because they’re fixated (way too much) on whatever their pet prophesy happens to be. Some can’t because they’re too busy working on top of getting the preparations down. Some aren’t able to because they reason that buying an AR-15 before the government bans them all is more important than taking the kids out on a one-in-a-lifetime trip to Yellowstone.

Once Upon A Future Time…

It’s been 45 years since The Big One. Your little community has managed to come together, and in spite of all the death, destruction, and various other hardships, things have become stable, and look to be growing for your little town. Your little group of survivors have turned what used to be an elementary school into your community buildings, and converted its wide grassy fields into a farm from which most of you garden off your own plots and eat. The playground became the market, which has become quite prosperous in the past 10 years. Everyone is reasonably well-fed and relatively happy, and have made their homes and fortifications among the houses along the periphery of the school property.

As the oldest resident, you wound up being the village elder of sorts. At 66 years old, you are among the last to have lived as an adult during the pre-collapse era. Once a week, you sit by the side of the building after church. Almost all of the kids (and not a few adults) all gather around, listening to your stories of life during “The Magical Times”.  What exactly do you intend to tell them there, Mr Storyteller? If your answer involves talking about prepper websites and books, and how you packed all your stuff in preparation, then man – is your town ever going to be boring! If your answer involves made-up conspiracies and the greatest editions of The Tinfoil Bulletin? That’s even worse, and I wouldn’t blame the kids for blowing you off and going somewhere else to play. Most of the kids would think: “What a miserable effing experience! No wonder the world blew up – they deserved it!

Now what if your stories told of wonderful things – wild-but-accurate descriptions of amusement parks, of driving for hundreds of miles in one day just to see a beautiful valley? What if you could tell them of magical gatherings of people to light a Christmas tree, or to celebrate a new year? What if you could tell them of the time you walked the streets of cities across the ocean, and how you got there in less than a day by flying? What about all the basketball games you and your long-dead friends once attended, and how you and thousands of other people shouted and cheered as one? You could even tell them about the games you would play on a box, and play against people from all around the world. Then there was the time you went on this giant ship and sailed to some cool island…

Memories: More Important Than Most Other Preps

As you might have noticed by this point, there’s more to preps and gearing up for a civilization reboot than just stacking, racking, and packing. There’s more to it all than just getting good at the rifle range.

There is civilization itself. It contains a vast catalog of really awesome stuff to see and do. It not only provides you with enough leisure time to prep, it helps give you time to create, to ponder, and to wonder. It has the means to let you do some really cool stuff. While I harp on it in the book, I want to harp on it here, too. Get your ass out there and have some fun once in awhile. I don’t mean fun like in camping and drilling for preps, I mean fun like take a camping trip to a national park. Go out sport fishing some time. Pick a random town on the other side of the continent (or for those in the middle, pick a side) and go play tourist. If you have the means and the world situation isn’t too far gone, pick some spot on the globe and go visit it.

The idea here is that if you’re going to want to rebuild civilization after it’s gone, you need to explain to future generations why they should even bother. That’s where the good memories come in, no?

One Prep, Multiple Benefits

Taking time to make these memories is pretty important for you too, boyo. It does more than provide a lot of cool stuff to talk about, and even does more than help educate future generations. It allows you time to relax a little. It gives you the very needed chance to talk to other people you don’t know, and to get their insights and viewpoints – that alone will force your mind to stretch a little. It prevents you from your own form of normalcy bias… or rather, your growing abnormalcy bias. It helps give you greater insight of your own.

As someone who does prep, I do gain one benefit that most non-preppers never will: I appreciate the things I see – and do so far more than they can ever hope to. In an age where you can see wonders on your television in retina-stretching HD, seeing them for real has an almost transcendental effect. Knowing that it could be gone within a decade or two means that my mind soaks it in just that much more intensely – I find that my enjoyment of the item, act, and people last long, long after the photos, tchotskies, souvenirs and baubles have broken, faded, or become lost.

I think that if you seriously do prep, you may indeed experience much the same things – you enjoy that which may be gone tomorrow, whereas the typical tourist yawns and wonders when the buffet comes up next.

Your Mission, Should You Decide…

I’d like to close this wee blather with a mission for you: get out there and have some serious fun at least once this year. Plan and take a vacation. Get you and your family out somewhere cool, interesting, and fun. Talk to everyone you meet (just don’t get suckered), and enjoy the hell out of it. Try some new activities, new food, and new stuff. Do something that scares the crap out of you. Don’t forget to buy a cheesy t-shirt of the event.

Most importantly, soak it all up as if it will be the last vacation you will ever get to take. Why? Because you never know – it may well be.

 

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