Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recreation versus Procreation

The local paper publishes a regular climbing column by Chris Weidner, a well-traveled and experienced local climber. It is typically a thoughtfully written (and often thought-provoking) exploration of the more human side of the climbing experience and this week was no exception. You can find the column here. In it he ponders the potential problems of a life dedicated to climbing past the age when many adults have opted for domesticity and child-rearing. While I agree that the experience of climbing is intense and committing, in the end, I would have to assert that its value is insignificant related to the intensity and commitment of caring for a child (and we have an easy one!). Climbing is a game which ultimately is contrived to its core, a lot like art, another passion of mine. Its value I would suggest lies elsewhere, outside of the actual practice of the sport, perhaps more in reflecting on the experience.

For me a large part of maturity (and I am by no means mature) is recognizing where real value lies and I feel that while having children and long-term relationships are not essential to a fulfilled life, going completely in the opposite direction and focusing on "a lifestyle where things like climbing, travel and self-awareness are priorities" will ultimately prove a dead end. Boulder is definitely a bubble in this regard as many people who live here have chosen this path; however I am not sure that genuine "self-awareness" is a likely by-product of following it. In any case, it is not and really should not be an either/or proposition that one chooses climbing or family. This is seems to be an American thing, and I applaud the more appealing European example where one sees multiple generations climbing, often together at the same time. I look forward to seeing more recognition by climbers that life doesn't end with a mortgage and children; it just gets more complicated and if climbing isn't about solving problems, what is it about?

11 comments:

Olson said...

Nice post Peter.

sock hands said...

i'd have to say that being bottom's up in a creek catching crayfish with a jaegermidget would be more fun on any given day than sending a frustrating climbing project.

i like the euro example too.

every day i see people who are contemplating the ends of their lives and trying to structure their legacies. those without kids or with estranged kids seem to become more and more lost with age. it's funny that many of us seek solitude during our youth and grapple for fellowship in our twilight.

i think the subtle sorrow of not having kids far outweights the fears that they bring.

or at least so i believe.

nice thing about the climbing community is how easy it is for old coots to "adopt" treacherous youths. though the selflessness of the parent-child relationship would never be replicated, i think there are options for those biologically precluded from baking buns in the oven.

J V said...

Thumbs up.

wyclimber said...

A post and topic that seems to be garnering more discussion these days, what with our laundry list of impressive happenings now including people like JC Hunter climbing 5.14 and having a tribe of kids in tow. There are so many more modern day rock hounds, many of which chose to not relinquish the activity when the seriousness of family threatens their narrowly defined constraints of climbing freedom. I have a wife, three kids and a small business, but still mange to get out climbing, and at 40 I am climbing as good or better than ever. I feel terrible for climbers who had to "give it up" because real life swallowed up their fun time.

wyclimber said...

JJ, The fact that you can even picture being tail up in a creek catching crawdads with JJJr and having the time of your life, should tell you something. Kids have been one of the highlights of my life, and yet I can still give you an extensive tour of V7's should you come to Cody for bouldering.

chuffer said...

good stuff

Tom Markiewicz said...

Excellent post and as a new father I hope you're right. I feel like I've made the right decision to have children, but there's still this lingering fear about the sacrifices with climbing. Only time will tell how it all plays out, but I too enjoy reading and hearing more about how parenting can co-exist with our climbing obsession.

Peter Beal said...

Let me be clear here, you will have to sacrifice something. Perfect freedom and parenthood don't mix well and some aspect of the "obsession" will have to lapse. The compensations however are much more interesting and powerful than you can imagine.

wyclimber said...

Again well stated Peter. I guess I was referring to the more black and white notion that climbing ends when children arrive.

Peter Beal said...

I agree and was addressing Tom M's concerns primarily.

Stevie said...

good stuff!

I climb more often, and harder since I have children.

My daughters have made me want to become a better human being. It has allowed me to find better balance in my life, and thus enjoy more and better climbing. It's a win/win situation. Kid's simply bring out the best in people, and if climbing is part of what makes you who you are at your best, it will improve as well.

I can't speak for everyone, but what really killed my climbing vibe for a while was grad school. Man did that thing do me in. My small brain simply couldn't deal with thoughts of climbing moves and critical theory at the same time