by Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones of doomandbloom.net
I just wanted to share a few thoughts on spirituality and survival. Survival certainly involves being prepared for disasters, getting your food storage, medical supplies, and all your other ducks in a row. But getting your spirit in order could be one of the most important things you can do to prepare for the uncertain future.
When I was young, I read Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”. In it, Old Scrooge meets the spirit of Christmas Present, represented by someone who reminded me of a survivalist Santa Claus. He came with a banquet room full of riches, but these weren’t the riches that really mattered. His lesson to Scrooge: The riches that do matter are your relationship with mankind, and what you have done to make the world a better place for your having been in it.
Most of the riches you’ll experience should be simple: things like a walk in the woods, a blue sky, a rain shower, a smile on a child’s face. Experiencing these things is what really makes a person rich: Rich in spirit, and that, my friends, will get you through the toughest times.
I’m a Christian, and so this is a Christmas greeting. But whatever you believe in, a benevolent Providence, the wonder of nature, or just yourself, having a sense of spirituality in your life can only make it richer. I always stress that learning is the key to maintaining your family’s health in times of trouble, but you don’t have to know a lot to be a spiritual person. What you do have to know is how to make the lives of others better by your presence. If you can do this, you and your family’s resilience in any adversity, whether it’s a natural disaster, an economic collapse, or even something personal, will keep things together, even if everything else falls apart.
An example of how spirituality will help you survive is the case of Lt. Commander Ned Shuman, POW and veteran of the infamous prison “The Hanoi Hilton”. Nine days earlier, after a failed attempt by U.S. Special Forces to liberate the prisoners, the North Vietnamese removed Ned and 42 other POWs from their cells and incarcerated them in a single holding area. For several men, it was the first face-to-face encounter with other Americans since their capture.
The first Sunday after they were removed from their cells, they attempted to hold a church service but were threatened with severe punishment. Seeing the men’s disappointment, Lt. Cmdr. Shuman — a naval aviator who would spend five years as a POW — stepped forward and asked each man: “I want to know — person by person— if you are really committed to holding church services.” The answer was a unanimous “YES”.
The following Sunday, the trial by fire began. Lt. Cmdr. Shuman, as highest-ranking officer, began to lead the soldiers in the Lord’s Prayer. The guards quickly wrestled him to the ground and he was taken away to be tortured. The remaining POWs, however, continued reciting the prayer as one, despite the North Vietnamese guards who were beating them with gun butts.
From then on — until the men were released as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973 — they held a weekly church service. Everett Alvarez Jr., a naval aviator who was held as a POW for 81 / 2 years by North Vietnam (and a former deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration) commented. “For those of us who were religious or spiritual, it was a very important part of our morale, optimism, and overall, it was a part of our survival.”
Think a little about what you can do to make your community a better place. Put a little time and effort into improving the lot of your fellow man, and you will become rich in spirit and worthy of survival.
One last thing: Ned didn’t get to go to Church this Christmas: He passed away at age 82 on December 3rd. But thanks, Ned, for your service and sacrifice, and for proving my point about spiritualism and survival.