J.K. Riki

Island Lessons

I recently started watching a television show called The Island. To summarize, fourteen Americans are dropped off on a small, deserted island for a month with very few basics supplies and have to survive. Everything is filmed by these men. There is no crew, well-fed and taken care of, standing around with equipment while the others try to survive. Three of the men are professional cameramen, but they are part of the adventure, having to survive alongside the others. There is only a radio in case of a severe emergency when someone has to be medically removed (which happens often, because I don’t think any of them were quite ready for something this intense when they began).

The show also teaches some great survival lessons. Example: Never eat crab shells. Apparently… it doesn’t end well.

There was one interesting response I had to the show that I didn’t expect.

For the first ten days or so, the people on the island had very little to eat. They mentioned that for a stretch of days, they each consumed about 400 calories. Total. For the entire week. (Recommended intake for active adult males is 3000 calories each day.)

This made me suddenly appreciate the abundant food around me a lot more. We’re very fortunate to live in a time where we don’t have to scavenge or hunt for survival. Food is, generally, pretty readily available in most advanced countries. I realized I had been taking it for granted a lot, and not being mindful of what I personally had available for nourishment.

From that realization, I decided to try an experiment. I went into the kitchen and cataloged every piece of food we currently had. You can see the list here, if you’d like. I then decided to pledge using everything currently available until it was gone. Meals would have to come from that list, or the herb garden out back. No lunches or dinners out (unless it was via invitation, which for relationships’ sake I included) and no trips to the grocery store. I was curious to see how it might change my perspective.

Suddenly food was a (self-imposed) limited resource. When I chopped a carrot and didn’t use all of it, the little end left went back into the fridge instead of into the trashcan. I cared about it more, and appreciated even the left over odds and ends.

I also discovered (or rediscovered) food I forgot we had. I found a can of vegetable soup that had been pushed to the back of a cupboard, and also some peanut butter and jelly that was previously out of sight and ignored. I also found out we had more crackers than I knew what to do with, and I have no idea why or where they came from. This new perspective made me grateful for these things I had otherwise been so careless with.

It’s terrific when we can step back and look at something we take for granted in a new light. It can build a sense of appreciation we might otherwise let fade into the back corners of our minds. This week you might consider doing something similar. Whether it’s with food, or transportation, or even just a hot shower in the morning, remember to look at the opportunities around you and consider how incredible it really is. It doesn’t have to be to an extreme, merely a moment of conscious thought. That appreciation can really change the way you look at the world.

I’m still early on in this experiment, and I imagine it will get more intense the more the food stock dwindles. It’s nice to know in the back of my mind I am able to go to the store a few blocks away when the day arrives where nothing in-house is left. It’s also scary to imagine life where that’s not the case.

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