Views on politics and current events

Thursday, August 17, 2006

'Possum Living Skills

"I think that the US is going to need folks with "possum living" skills in the future. "The above quote is taken from a comment left by Teri on another post. I like the term, 'possum living skills. Never heard it put that way before. I've heard of living frugally, living a spartan life, and just plain livin' on the cheap. But whatever you prefer to call it, 'possum living skills have certainly come in handy for me.

So why use a 'possum as an example of living frugally? By the way, it is 'possum. Only biologists and such use the 'correct' name opossum. Well, a 'possum (the North American variety is the type I'm talking about) is a very resourceful critter. So well adapted to life that they haven't changed for many millennia. I have read about some of the 'possum's ancestors that lived in the same times as the saber-toothed tiger and wooly mammoth. 'Possums that stood 8 feet tall, and could be pretty nasty (Oppossumus maximus nastius?) . But obviously the more diminutive cousin of these monstrosities were better equipped for survival, for I've never heard of a modern day sighting of the big ones.

A 'possum is an omnivore, which is a nice way to say that they'll eat anything. They tend to be nocturnal. The picture I've included shows that even a 'possum can have their cuter moments. But with a long hairless tail, fur that looks like a dirty dustmop and a thin bony face, they'll most likely not win the best looking critter award. But we're talking survival here. If I had my choice between livin' and eatin' versus good looks, I'd take livin' and eatin' every time.

They also have the famous survival tactic of 'playing dead'. I've seen 'possums do this, and it is a strange sight. They go into convulsions, keel over, hang out their tongue and roll their eyes. Sure looked like it was dead to me. Biologists still don't know why they do it, or whether it is really 'playing 'possum', or it is a bodily reaction to stress. But be forewarned, 'possums don't always play dead. Sometimes they get quite aggresive when cornered, and with a mouthful of needle-like teeth they can do some damage. They also on occasion hiss like a snake. A most disagreeable sound. So what possesses a 'possum to decide whether to play dead, hiss, or fight? Nobody knows. Perhaps a 'possum, like a human, gets up on the wrong side of the bed and is cranky, or maybe they just don't want to deal with things. In any case, their defensive mechanisms have no doubt been a factor in the species' longevity.

Some 'possum living skills pointers:

  • Live on the cheap. You'd be surprised how little you can live on if you really try.
  • Get your priorities straight. You want to keep working all of your life at a job you hate, or do you want the opportunity to be like a 'possum in a persimmon tree? Folks from the south have told me that when the persimmons get ripe, the 'possums are happy. Find out what makes you happy. What are your 'persimmons'?
  • Pick your battles wisely. Know when to hiss, to be aggressive, to play dead.
  • Don't neglect the night. Sit outside in the dark once in awhile. There are less visual distractions at night, and you can think better.
  • Good looks aren't nearly as important as getting enough to eat.
Didn't think 'possums were that smart, now did you?


Dancho said...

I think the key thing here is that we humans have to learn not to be Homo Maximus Nastius and learn how to be Homo Resourcefulus Critterus

Alan said...

Yes indeed! A good dollop of Homo Humanus Compassionati wouldn't hurt either.

Teri said...

Husband and I spent a certain amount of time bouncing around doing things like picking fruit and working at a USDA tree nursery. We owned the roof over our heads (school bus to airstream)and seemed to get by on very little. Once I read an old journal written back when often didn't make ends meet. I was surprised at how little I mentioned money in those journals.

Then came a decision to go back to school and try for a corporate job. Worked in tech support and moved closer to the city. Bought a modest house. It all went south in the tech bust. Corporate work is not all it's cracked up to be.

So here I am, back in a real community, scrambling and scratching to make a living and happier than when I made twice as much. I now feel that people deprive themselves when they using purchasing power to solve issues. It's a lot more creative to see what you can use to make do. The modern American lifestyle really is just unrealistic. Too many people living a lifestyle that they can't afford and will never be able to pay off. And they deprive themselves of the reals joys of life when they spend all their time working to pay for this stuff.

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