Gutter theory

In his book Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales talks about survivors based on physical risk: military pilots, astronauts, mountain climbers, river rafters, firefighters, surfers. Survival here has a very masculine ethos, though Gonzales tries to make his list of psychological survival skills applicable to everyday survival. But the last words of the book confirm the original focus when the author proposes the “Gutter Theory of Life.”

It goes like this: You don’t want to be lying in the gutter, having been run down by a bus, the last bit of your life ebbing away, and be thinking, “I should have taken that rafting trip …” or, “I should have learned to surf …” or “I should have flown upside down — with smoke!”

Funny, but in one’s last moments, such thoughts seem quite irrelevant. One might just as well think: “I should have gazed at one more flower, one more moon,” or, “I should have hugged my spouse more often.”

Gonzales goes on to wonder if the last thought of a certain astronaut who died in a motorcycle accident wasn’t “I did it all!” Regardless of who he was or what he had done, maybe he really thought, “Dying in the gutter. Ha!”