Cliff Jumping: The Effects of Danger and Safety Reliance on Depth of Friendship

This is an imaginary experiment I came up with for a graduate school class. It  deals with the lack of danger, and hence lack of opportunities in modern society to form deep bonds..

 

Cliff Jumping: The Effects of Danger and Safety Reliance on Depth of Friendship

 

Me, jumping off a cliff

 ABSTRACT

This study examined the effects of danger and cooperative safety dependency on the quality of friendship amongst ten groups of three men.  The trio’s engaged in the highly dangerous activity of cliff jumping where they put their lives in danger and depended on each other in case of emergency.  The author hypothesized that the danger and safety reliance of the activity would strengthen their bonds of friendship.  The results of survey data confirmed the hypothesis.

 

The thunderous plodding of a woolly mammoth burrowing through the bush was contrasted by the quiet whispers of the fur clad cro-magnon.  “Olog voha mug.” With that Swift With Foot leapt out of his crouching spot and rushed toward the elephant, spear in hand.  The flint pierced the beast’s jogular. Letting out a gigantic grunt the animal bucked and knocked Swift With Foot to the ground.  It moved in for the kill, preparing to stomp the young hunter into the dirt. Flying Bear and West Wind moved quickly. They thrusted their spears into the elephants hide.  The mighty mammoth fell.

The three early humans let the scene engulf them in silence for a few moments before letting out rapturous screams and embracing each other feverously.  They were more than just friends, they were cousins who lived together in the same band of hunter gatherers.   Every day they risked their lives for each other and their success depended on their loving bond fostered through dangerous experiences.

People living under the relatively safe conditions of a modern urban society may suffer from a lack of deep friendships (Cosmides, 1996).  Because our environment rarely forces us to expose ourselves to dangerous situations with our friends, we may not feel the deep bond that can result from experience a high adrenaline situation with your friends. It also deprives us of situations in which we may need our friends to be there to ensure our survival.  Having a friend willing to step in and risk their own personal welfare to help you when the stuff hits the fan can create a deep bond amongst men (Buss, 2000).

The present studies aim is to examine the effects of two independent variables on the quality of male friendship.  For  the purposes of this study the author contrived two operational definitions. One called ‘danger’,  which is an activity with an inherent risk of injury. The other variable is called ‘safety reliance’, which is defined as having one’s safety dependent on others during a dangerous  activity.  This paper hypothesis  is that both variables, danger and safety reliance will have a positive effect on the dependent variable which is quality of friendship.

Method

Participants

Participants included 60 undergraduate male students from a large east coast university . They all volunteered to do the experiment through the acquisition of class credit. The students consisted of 20 separate groups of three friends.

Materials

A protruding rock face where cliff jumping into a deep river was popular was found.  A questionnaire was used to assess whether or not the experience had strengthened the bond between friends.

Procedure

A control group for the Danger variable of 10 trio’s of friends were taken to a local swimming pool and instructed to jump off a diving board on innocuous height. Ten trio’s of friends were taken to a local rock face 50 feet above a deep water river.  The boys were then given the instructions to jump off the cliff in order test the independent variable Danger.  Half of them were also instructed that if one of them should become injured during the fall, it was up to the other boys in the trio to save the wounded man and ensure his safety.  This was the IV group for Safety Reliance.  The 5 sets of boy in the control group for Safety Reliance were told that if something went wrong they would be saved by an EMT on hand.    Afterwards all participants were told to fill out a survey asking whether they felt their friendship had strengthened after the experience.   A follow up was done one month later to see if there were any lasting effects. The boys filled out the same survey. The survey included questions on a seven point scale ranging from  1 ‘highly disagree’ to 7 ‘strongly agree’ with statements such as ‘this experience has  made me feel closer to my friends’ and ‘I feel a stronger bond between my friends now after the experience.’

Results

Both hypothesis were confirmed by the results.  The ten trio’s of males in the Danger condition all reported to be closer friends after the cliff jumping experience and all five trio’s of friends in the Cooperative Safety  responded that the danger of the experience and the safety reliance cooperated towards this bond, both immediately after the jump and during the follow up one month later.

                                                        Discussion

It is a problem of modern society that you can never know who your true friends are. The whimsical nature of the modern friendship leaves people with a sense of insecurity. The purpose of this study was to see if events more closely simulating the danger and safety reliance of our ancestral times would deepen the bond of friendship amongst males.  The results of the studied showed overwhelming evidence that engaging in a dangerous experience with a group of friends that involves reliance on another for personal safety deepens a bond of friendship.

There were of course some limitations to the performance of this study. At first the IRB did not approve as the danger to the participants was perceived to be too risky. However, a small bribe in the form of a ‘donation’ was made to the right people that ensured the committee’s approval.  Also amongst the first groups of boys to jump from the cliff included a rather rotund boy weighing in excess of three hundred pounds.  It was feared that upon impact the gluttonous fellow might empty the river of its precious liquid. Luckily these concerns were unfounded and the boy merely had to be saved from drowning once it was discovered he was unable to swim.

REFERENCES

Buss, D. (2000). The Evolution of Happiness. American Psychologist , 15-23.

Cosmides, T. &. (1996). Friendship and the banker’s paradox: other pathways to the evolution of adaptations for altruism. Proceedings of the British Academy , 119-143.

 

 

If You Could Have Any Wish in the World Granted, What Would it Be?

*The following story is my adaptation of a buddhist tale of the thai forest tradition

Five kids were playing in the woods. Picking up sticks, throwing rocks, looking at flowers and pretending they were Indians. All of a sudden a little man in a green coat bounded out from behind some bushes. Startled at the site of the children, he pranced off in the opposite direction. But those kids were fast! They chased after him and soon had him surrounded.

“Aye! You’ve caught me”, yelled the tiny man with the Irish accent.

“Are you a leprechaun?” asked one of the children.

“Why that I am my child. Will you please let me go now? I must be on my way.”

“You are a leprechaun and we’ve caught you! That means you must grant us a wish before we let you go!” piped a second child.

“Ah. This is true. I may grant you one wish. But only one of you.”

“But all of us caught you! We should each get a wish!” said a child.

“I can only grant one wish. The way this will work is that each of you children will tell me a wish. Whoever has the most clever wish will be the winner and I will make that wish come true! Now who is first to tell me their wish!”

The first child said, “If I had a wish I would wish for a brand new slingshot!” Since he was terrible at throwing rocks and hadn’t hit anything all day long.

The second child said,”If I had a wish, I would wish to own a Toys R Us. Then I can have a sling shot and an XBOX and all the other toys I want!” The first child became sad, realizing how silly he was to wish for only a single toy while the other child’s wish was so much better.

The third child said, “My wish is for a billion dollars. With a billion bucks, I can buy my own Toys R Us, a candy store and whatever else I want! Maybe even my own house too, that way I’ll be able to play video games and eat chocolate all day and my Mom won’t be able to stop me!” Now the second child felt dumb, clearly this third child had the superior wish and was much smarter than he. How silly it was of him to wish for a Toys R Us when he could have wished for a billion dollars.

The fourth child was a girl, and a very sharp one at that. “If I had a wish,” she said, “Then I would wish for three more wishes! With my first wish I’d get my Toys R Us, with my second wish I’d ask for a billion dollars, and for my third wish I’d ask for three more wishes! That way I can go on wishing forever!” Now even the child who had wished for a billion dollars felt sad. The girl was clearly a genius.

The four children then looked over to the last remaining child standing there quietly. Surely there was no chance of him to win, for what could possibly top an infinity of wishes?

But the fifth child proved to be the most clever of them all. He said, “If I had a wish, I would wish that I was so content that I would never need any more wishes!”

With that the leprechaun smiled, and granted the last boy his wish, and he became enlightened.

Stress Check App For Your Phone

I just downloaded a pretty cool app called Stress Check by Azumio. This app measures your levels of stress by taking what is called a Heart Rate Variability measurement. By putting your finger near the lens of your phone, the app is able to measure your heart beat. Physiological stress levels are then calculated by taking your heart rate and analyzing the variability between your heart beats. Apparently while under greater stress your heart beats will show less variance.

The test lasts about two minutes and you are instructed to remain still during the reading. Unfortunately for me a bug landed on my face about 30 seconds in. I tried to remain still and hoped it was just a fly. Of course I was wrong and it was a mosquito and as soon as I felt the itch I coolly crushed it with my right hand while keep my left hand still holding the phone.

My reading showed I had a stress level of 14%. Which according to Azumio is very low and reflects a restorative state of relaxation and calm.

Pretty cool App as far as I’m concerned. I just wish I didn’t have this huge red mosquito bite on my face.

Edit: just took it again. No mosquito interference. 0%..

Took it a third time while stuck in traffic on the way home. 0%.

Guess I’m pretty calm these days.

 

Download the App and tell me your readings!

 

People With Down Syndrome Are Happier Than Normal People

My Down Syndrome cousin Cody

If you wanted to be born into an ideal situation to live a happy life, would you rather be born

A) Good looking, intelligent and to a wealthy family

or

B) With mental retardation, stunted growth and a slew of abnormal facial characteristics advertising that you have down syndrome?

I’m sure it took you all of half a second to choose option A.

My Down Syndrome Cousin Cody, relaxed and content on Lake Placid

But you would be wrong..

A slew of recent studies has shown that people with Down Syndrome report happier lives than us ‘normal’ folk. Even happier than rich, good looking and intelligent people.

Talk about counter-intuitive, huh?

Findings from a study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics surveyed 284 people with Down syndrome ..the results were as follows..

The average age was 23, and 84 percent were living with one or both parents/guardians. The findings:

  • 99 percent said they were happy with their lives
  • 97 percent liked who they are
  • 96 percent liked how they look
  • 86 percent indicated they could make friends easily
  • 4 percent expressed sadness about their life.

 

I spent 2 years studying the relationship between money and happiness in a grad school laboratory and I can guarantee you that wealthy, intelligent, good looking people don’t report anything close to those numbers. Those numbers are absolutely remarkable.

And it’s not just that a larger percentage of people with Down’s are happier than average, but people with DS experience a sense of joy and contentment with life above that of even normal happy people as this study showed.

 

The Big Question..Why are people with Down Syndrome so happy?

If I had to guess I would offer the following two hypothesis..

1) People with down syndrome are loved and cared for. Studies show that 79% of parents with those with down syndrome said their outlook on life had improved since having their child and that 94% of siblings of those with down children were proud of their DS brother or sister.

2) People with down syndrome don’t overthink. With the absence of stress caused by excessive rumination, people with down syndrome live more in the present moment and are able to enjoy life.  They aren’t bugged by the constant worries that plague the mind of the average person.

Not that DS people don’t have their troubles, they obviously do. But the degree to which their moment-to-moment consciousness is filled up with worries about traffic, bills, being late to work, getting everything done in time, imaginary conversations with people, etc etc, is likely less than of a normal person.

This would lead further evidence to my hypothesis that happiness is the default state of the human mind, it is only with the unnatural stress of modern life that our minds become overactive and we become unhappy.  People with Down Syndrome, by way of their cognitive disability, have protection from these burdens..

I have a cousin with down syndrome, and I can tell you he has few scruples about what people think of him, a sort of freedom that I envy.

Of course, things aren’t always perfect for those with down syndrome, life still has it’s challenges, like when your kayak overflows with water and begins to sink….

 

And then struggle to get back on..

 

 

Top Ten Tribal Principles

 

 

Here are the Top Ten principles of the Tribal Way in order to live a life endowed with a sense of vitality and well-being.

 

 

 

1.  Foster Close Social Bonds.

Our ancestors grew up in small bands of people who counted on each other for their survival. Contemporary studies on well-being show that what separates very happy people from the rest of us is the strength of their social and romantic relationships.

2.  Be Physically Active.

The daily grind on the African Savanna involved walking great distances in search of food, carrying heavy buckets of water back and forth from the stream to the campsite, fetching firewood, and the occasional fight or flight with a dangerous animal.

3. Eat Healthy

Hunter-Gatherer’s ate a diet consisting of fresh, whole natural foods such as game meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts. There was no processed food to go around back then and consequently they enjoyed a robust health unimaginable by today’s average person.

4. Sleep

Sleep comes in a variety of different ways around the world, especially outside of western culture.  Whether you have to get your sleep all in one go, like taking an afternoon siesta, enjoy polyphasic or even sporadic sleep like some hunter-gather cultures, the important thing is to get plenty of it. While those of us in the West are often sleep deprived, hunter-gatherer’s chief complaint was sleeping too much!

5. Get Out In Nature

A variety of studies have shown the benefits of being immersed in nature range from improved health to a calm mind and better concentration. Our ancestors lived amongst the flora and fauna like a wild animal. Flowers, trees, landscapes, camp-fires, sunsets…soak it all up.

 

 

 

6. Calm Your Mind

According the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA the average person thinks 70,000 thoughts per day. Constantly wrapped up in this tornado of worries, thoughts of the future and past is stressful and exhausting. Hunter-Gatherers in contrast lived almost entirely in the present moment and had a remarkable lack of worry or stress.  Hunter-Gather’s are said to be the first meditators, staring at the flames of a burning fire and letting their thoughts drift away. Meditation, Yoga, and relaxation techniques such as slow breathing should be used daily.

7. Less Work, More Leisure

Meaningful work, not too much. That is the key to a happy profession. Hunter-Gather’s spent 20 hours a week or less foraging for food. Most of their day was spent in abundant leisure activity, playing games, singing songs, gossiping with friends and family and taking naps. Figuring out how to accomplish this in our workaholic modern world is the big challenge. If you have any ideas please write them in comments section below!

8. LIve Adventurously!

In the Maasai tribe of Africa, a boy is not considered a man until he has killed his first lion. With a spear….

Can you even fathom the amount of courage this takes? Nietzsche famously said “Whatever does not kill you, makes you stronger”.  The Tribal Way doesn’t recommend you becoming adrenaline junkies, but occasionally pushing your boundaries, taking risks, and exploring new horizons can imbue one with a sense of competence and confidence.

9. Enjoy Art

Tribal societies regularly engaged in community dances and rituals. They sang songs, painted their bodies, wore masks, adorned themselves with jewelry and had a great sense of fashion.

 

10. Explore the Occasional Altered State of Consciousness

The happiest people to ever walk the face of this planet are the Shaman’s of hunter-gatherer societies and the enlightened monks and yogi’s from East.  While the safest way to reach these higher states is through advanced meditation techniques, this also takes the longest. Psychoactive plants such as magic mushrooms, peyote, Kava, and marijuana have a long history of use in tribal societies. The more intense psychedelic trips should be only explored under the supervision of an experienced user as they are in these tribal cultures. If done right and safely, these trips can create a life changing glimpse into the magic of reality. The high doesn’t last however, and that is why we here at the tribal way recommend hardcore meditation so as to be able to achieve these amazing states of mind safely and on command.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Tribal Way..

You are a wild animal.

 

You are the product of 3.5 billion years of evolution. You have billions of direct ancestors. All of whom were able to successfully navigate the world, kill their own food and find a partner to bear offspring. In the last few million years your human ancestors were able to hunt wild prey with either their bare hands, or at most, rudimentary tools.  They lived care free and healthy lives.

How does your life compare to your tribal ancestors?

Can you chase down a wild boar with nothing but a spear? Are you lean and fit? Can you walk all day long on your bare feet while carrying a small deer on your back?

This is the tribal way.

Do you sleep well every night? Do you wake up refreshed and joyful as you step outside into the warm morning sun?

Are you having soul melting sex with a healthy, beautiful partner several times a week?

This is the tribal way.

Do you eat a breakfast of ripe, delicious fruits? Does your diet subsist of wild, fresh plants and animals?

Are you perfectly healthy? Are your teeth white straight and shining? Do you have clear skin? Perfect eye sight, and a body that feels energetic?

Do you spend most of the day laughing and playing games with your closest family and friends?

Are you free of stress and worry? Are you present, here and now, with a clear mind? Do you walk around with the lightness of a feather? Do you dance?

This is the tribal way.

As the sun sets, and the full moon lights up the sky. Do you stare up at those beautiful distant stars as you succumb to the vast awesomeness of the universe?

 

Press Play. Dance.

The Morality of Eating Meat, or Why Vegetarianism is a Disease of Civilization

 

 

This is my 600 word essay I submitted to the New York Times Essay Contest on why eating meat is moral. 

 

ld argue that getting eaten by humans is the greatest thing that has ever happened to the species we consume. There are 19 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows, and over a billion pigs and goats in the world. The fact that we farm and eat these animals has made their species and ours the five most successful vertebrate species ever to walk on land.

But to do so would miss the point of why eating meat is ethical, or better put-it is not unethical.  Any decision about ethics needs to be wrapped in a framework of an ethical theory that makes rational sense.  Unfortunately, none do.  As philosopher Richard Joyce has effectively argued, morality is a myth. Evolutionary psychology reigns.

If a great white shark has a twin, he will eat his brother in the womb. Is this shark unethical for doing so? In a gene-centered view of evolution, this kind of cannibalism is in the shark’s genetic interests.  Not as self-sufficient as our gill-bearing distant cousins, our biology dictates that we are better served to survive and pass on our genes with help of others. Our innate moral preferences are really just the encoded set of behaviors and emotions that helped our ancestors survive and replicate in the millions of years humanoids roamed the earth in a hunter-gatherer existence. We do not eat our brothers when we are young because we need them to help hunt woolly mammoths when we grow up.

This is not to say that humans can’t have subjective wishes for their own life. Like to be happy and healthy. Or make rational choices to increase our well being with other’s we share society with. But it does mean that there is no objective binding force that requires us to live our lives in such a way. And subsequently, there is no binding force that would require humans to devote their efforts to the emotions of non-human animals who can’t reciprocate in the social contract.

Visit any extant hunter-gatherer society in Africa or the Amazon and you will find the happiest, healthiest, and psychologically well-adjusted people on earth. You will also see they have absolutely no qualms about killing animals.  They innately know that humans in their group are to be loved and respected and other animals are food.  Pygmy children will start hunting small game around the camp as early as age three.

The vast majority of people living in modern society today have never killed a creature larger than an insect.  This discord between modern society and the environment of our evolutionary adaptation has led to a situation where we have become overly sensitized to the cycle of life.  While our ancestors shot wildlife with arrows, the majority of our interactions with animals today comes in form of having pets. In vegetarians, the mechanisms in the human brain designed to feel empathy for fellow tribesman has become misplaced and spilled over to mammals once relegated to things we eat.

From the perspective of raising our own subjective well-being, it is hard to see how this misplaced empathy is anything but a psychological defect.  The meat eater feels plenty of joy while eating a nice cut of steak. The vegetarian, ostensibly feels disgust at this same action. Perhaps one day vegetarianism will be placed alongside heart disease, cancer and the other diseases of civilization.  As Nietzsche famously put it over a century ago, the moralists say little about objective ethics, but revealed much of their own psychology.