Brains as important as brawn for survival


I’ve seen a lot of the apocalypse lately … or the end of civilization, the end of the world, or the end of the universe, much of it in strident promotions for summer blockbusters such as “Pacific Rim.”

And at the theater last night, I saw trailers for others I hadn’t even heard of yet.

On the small screen, I’m also inundated with ads for survival scenarios, fictional and otherwise. The “real” ones, of course, are the product of hugely popular (and appropriately named) reality TV. In addition to the genre-generating “Survivor,” there’s “American Ninja Warrior,” and “Get Out Alive,” among others. And speaking of popular, “Walking Dead” has captured the imagination of millions of people.

And in spite of — or because of — its violence, “Hunger Games” has a similar fan base, as does “Game of Thrones.”

I’ve actually watched some of “Revolution,” a series about the loss of power around the word.

The electrical kind of power, that is; there’s still a lot of power-mongering going on amongst the human factions.

It seems that brawn is too often portrayed as all we humans will need to survive.

Sure, there’s usually a high-IQ type in these depictions to pore over maps in candlelight or puzzle through secret journals. The sexy leading roles, though, go to those who lead the fiercest charge to save humanity.

And weapons … no shortage there for the inevitable battle to control the firepower, in whatever forms are left behind and whatever might be invented for that particular future.

But what about can openers? The kind we turn with our thumbs, of course, because the power would be out.

I’ve personally always considered the can opener as essential for existence in a pre-packaged post-civilization world.

I recently watched “The Pianist” for the first time, a depiction of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s desperate struggles in Holocaust-era Warsaw.

In the film, a simple can opener plays a pivotal role in his survival as Szpilman is discovered in his frantic search for food by a Nazi officer, who becomes an unlikely caretaker until the officer himself is forced to flee.

Physical prowess counted for little then as hundreds of thousands of people like Szpilman attempted to survive while in hiding.

And, of course, brawn meant next to nothing as human bodies broke down in the tragedy of the camps.

This, however, is where the human brain — and, ultimately, the human spirit — triumphs.

Through carefully crafted preparations, Szpilman was secreted in Warsaw and cared for by people who tended to him, often at great risk to themselves, because he was a human being.

Examples of the magnitude of maintaining our brains also abound in chillingly prescient portrayals of the future in literature such as “1984.”

In “The Stand,” Stephen King’s tale of human life after a biological warfare project goes horribly wrong, King’s people are smart and compassionate, and they take care of each other in the course of eventually defeating evil.

The way I see it, true survival has always relied — and will continue to rely — not only on the strong-bodied, but also the strong-minded.

And it’s the strong-hearted who will ultimately save us all.

Andrea Doray is a writer who loves Colorado, and likes to share it. She sends her thoughts and wishes to those affected by the wildfires in our state, and elsewhere. Contact her at


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment