What was the most terrifying place you’ve ever been dropped off? Was it the kindergarten bus stop, or the front door of the DMV? Perhaps the docking harbor of an island with the highest concentration of cougar attacks? Maybe the island seething with buffed out cats wasn’t a childhood memory or a destination on last week’s errands list. The secluded North Vancouver Island was also not on a list for new Maui resident Lucas Miller; that is, Miller’s spooky list rather than his catalog of most recently visited places.
Miller, one of the four final contestants of The History Channel’s new television series Alone, did not recount his experience as one you’d see in a Syfy Channel homemade movie. Blood spillage and encounters with ravenous spliced animals were not brought up in my conversation with this television show survivor. There was a stare down with a wolf, but imagine looking up into the eyes of a whalewolf crouching on the roof of your house. No, Miller focused on an even more phenomenal event that took place on the daunting island, even without all the quality CGI: his personal transformation.
You’d expect some sort of metamorphosis to occur in Miller’s situation. No camera crew. No producers. These are the words The History Channel uses to describe the lonely circumstances of the ten contestants sent to the island, left alone to test who will last the longest; a first for reality television show feats. A mission with such a hazy horizon would lead most to derail into the persona of a madman and declare a volleyball as their best friend. For Miller, it was almost like a spiritual retreat.
“Nature works with drawing out the poison in the wound,” he said. “And you might have to process the poison a few times.”
Miller said that the poison serves as a metaphor for emotions within ourselves that we normally push away, opting to ignore these feelings in favor of the comforting screen of our favorite Netflix show or the roll of gratifying likes our latest selfie produces. Miller’s only option of entertainment was a self-carved guitar. Or building a yurt.
“When we strip away all those things we can’t run away,” Miller said. “Nature works in harmony and can flow through and out of you. Once you allow emotion to work through you, there’s a huge transformation that takes place.” Miller transformed back to a “childlike state” in which he let his emotions manifest into laughs and shouts. He said this contrasts with the real world, an environment that makes us wear a mask to protect an image. As Bowling For Soup’s song goes, high school truly never ends. Does that make the national park system the true Ivy League?
Miller enjoyed the exposure to his psyche. He chose this show specifically because it wasn’t like a car with its headlights on, gleaming an obnoxious light on human drama. Spilling honest confessions for the camera was Miller’s hardest trial, but he preferred appearing “overly emotional” versus afflicting others with tears. Arguing over the proper technique to start a fire in his birthday suit was not Miller’s forte, as Alone’s Discovery Channel counterpart Naked and Afraid calls its participants to do.
“It’s harder to be more compassionate, but we need to love each other more,” Miller said in regards to how eager people are to judge. Criticism is like claws that never sheathe, which only come out more when confronted with a reality television show star.
Miller was not always quite the Dalai Lama, whom he joked about sounding like as he shared his insights. Although the show touts Miller and his cohorts as “experts,” a title he humbled with the alternative term “trained,” the initial weeks supplied trials and its accompanying negative thoughts. An epiphany struck Miller as he was building a cabin, a goal he said was “pretty ambitious, which was in line with who [he] was.” Miller was so aggressive towards his project that he realized his intent was based on his desire to impress viewers.
“I don’t want to be on TV and look like a loser,” he said. “But as I processed it more, I began to have more pure intentions and started really enjoying myself.”
This fresh purpose transfigured into an interpersonal journey Miller hoped would have a positive impact on History’s audience. This isn’t his first project of goodwill. In fact, the Iowa native was scouted for the show from his work in wilderness therapy, assisting young adults in finding themselves and building trusting relationships, challenging endeavors considering their backgrounds.
Miller now works for a new cause. Relocating from the mainland to Upcountry Maui to open an orchid, Miller aims to promote more respectful farming practices and stand against GMOs. He idealizes a future in which the public can work with those in power to “implement better farming practices.” He also plans to open a practice for Ayurvedic medicine, which combines yoga, herbal therapies, body work massages and diet shifts.
Miller’s current masterplan excites him, but he still misses the straightforward lifestyle required of inhabitants of the wild. Living amongst the trees, Miller said he did what felt right. It was less “cerebral” and more “feeling.” And our society is all about maximizing our cerebral abilities to become super humans.
“There are so many options on what we can do,” Miller said about modern life. “Being in the wilderness was simple. So simple and beautiful.”
Breaking from the public service announcement of living a virtuous life free of materialism and media, I must inform you to tune in on Thursday, Aug. 20 (10pm/9pm Central) to find out who wins the $500,000 grand prize.
Photo of Lucas Miller courtesy The History Channel