Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stranded on the Island

Several years ago, I was stranded in the student lounge in the University of Texas Law School in Austin due to torrential downpours and tornado alerts. The shuttle service wasn't running -- meaning there was no way for any of us to get home -- so me and my small group of first-year law student friends huddled up in the lounge to eat dinner out of the vending machine and wait for the storm to pass.

At this time, the reality show "Survivor" had been a big hit for several years. If you ever watched the show, you know that at the end of each episode, a tribe would have to "vote someone off the island," usually because they had not contributed enough to the survival and well-being of the group.

Well, since we were stranded on our own little island in the lounge, we decided to pass the time by holding a secret ballot to vote someone off the island, just like on Survivor. We all wrote down a name and a reason on a scrap of paper and handed it in to our ringleader.

I don't recall the specific outcome of the vote, but I do remember who I voted for -- my friend Sean. Now, Sean had a doctorate in philosophy and was nothing short of brilliant. Today he's a high-powered, six-figure-earning litigator for a prominent international law firm. His powers of logical deduction were unmatched. But I voted for him to be kicked off the island because, as I noted at the time, "Thinking doesn't feed me."

Now, I was being funny then. But it is true that if the S hit the F tomorrow, and your office job just evaporated into thin air, you would want to seriously consider what contributions you could make to the survival of your family or community so that you would not be considered a drag on the survival of everyone. Hopefully you would contribute because you care about the people around you -- but it's also a matter of saving your own skin, if the veneer of civilization begins to wear thin and people begin to act in selfish and anti-social ways.

And so we come to the point of the matter: what can you do? Make? Fix? The answer to these questions could easily be found in how you choose to spend your spare time, or a hobby you pursued when you were younger. Are you a weekend grease monkey, tinkering around with that old junker in your garage until it runs like new? Do you live just to spend time rooting around in your vegetable garden on a Saturday morning? Do you have a passion for carpentry?

It is possible that some professions will be even more valued in such a situation than they are now. Doctors, for example, will probably be some of the most sought-after "tribe members." Lawyers like me -- eh, not so much. Which is why my particular hobbies, which are centered around the fiber arts -- knitting, crocheting, spinning, quilting, and sewing -- will most likely be my contribution to my family and friends in the event of a Long Emergency.

No comments: