Monday, September 12, 2011

Letting Go of Summer

Now that the fall semester is over, the days of multiple visits to the Park have ended. But something else seems to be going on as well. Last Saturday, I hiked up to Upper Chaos to give another go on Barbed Wire Beard, a classic "It's just the one move" kind of problem and found myself completely unmotivated and incredibly tired. I bumbled my way down to look at Freshly Squeezed and still could not shake the sense of deep fatigue.

There is a slightly surreal ambiance of warm sun and wildflowers still in effect up there but for who knows how much longer. Perhaps this fall season will be another long one, allowing a few more visits on weekends but the feeling of lost momentum lingers even as the temperatures become more favorable.

The move on Barbed Wire Beard
Stasis is the word the ancient Greeks used to describe the absence of progress when opposing forces of equal strength meet, not so much in stable equilibrium but in constant conflict and disruption. For me this is my life as far as bouldering is concerned right now, unproductive effort resulting in frustration. Philosophers such as Aristotle would say that I might working against something in my inner nature and I have thought about this myself. What would a meaningful goal in climbing really consist of? A number? A specific problem? Something else? To realize this goal may require letting go of others, goals that only appear to be meaningful from a sufficient distance.

A webmaster in Europe wrote of a recent piece, "It is targeted to climbers/boulderers who are interested in a deeper sense of doing such an activity and I guess that your article could be hardly understood by any younger climbers..." I am concerned not just about younger climbers not seeing the problems in current climbing attitudes and practice but all climbers. Is climbing merely a way of evading/avoiding the deeper signs of crisis that are sounding everywhere in our time? Perhaps this is the conflict that is weighing on my mind, a conflict that even the grandeur of the Park cannot overcome.


Lloyd Family said...

For my entire life deep signs of crisis have been sounding, and from that I've learned you just have to keep living your life as best as you can. Today's signs of crisis actually seem tame to me, compared to my childhood fears of armageddon due to an upcoming nuclear war with the USSR.
The problems faced by our society and older climbers seem quite similar at the moment. The expectation of never ending economic growth for our society, and never ending progression up the grades for climbers of a certain age are both unrealistic. At some point the goal for both needs to be a shift to doing better with the level we're at. Better style perhaps.

Climbing does provide us all with temporary escape from personal and worldwide crisis, but it isn't merely that. It also provides physical fitness, mental focus, and perspective on things that can help us address the problems once we return from the mountains. We all know climbers who haven't found balance in their lives, climb to much, and withdraw from society too much. But if we look at our society from a distance, the problem is too little climbing or other enriching pursuits, not too much.
It's clear that many paths people have followed, and continue to follow, will only lead to dead ends. Science, the Arts, Climbing and a few other pursuits still show promise.

If you reach a cliff's edge, don't walk off of it. And if you don't feel like turning around, you can walk along it for a while. Hopefully someone gets what I'm saying.

Francis said...

This is a fantastic bit of writing Peter, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Great use of Aristotle and the Greek usage of stasis...for me, it is indeed a sport of goals and finish lines, yet I seem to achieve them more frequently when I treat bouldering movement as an end in itself, not as a means towards some success that I envision....anyhow, just some thoughts.

Peter Beal said...

Thanks David. There is a connection, I agree, with the impossibility of infinite expansion of growth in climbing ability and economic growth. Good analogy. Recognizing the point at which one should let go of that approach is difficult. For most boulderers it happens very early, I have found.

Francis, I have been super busy with hardly any time to get together a proper response to your book. There is a great deal of interesting even provocative material in it. Are you ever in Colorado these days? We should meet and talk about it some time.

battaglia said...

good post peter.

I thought this to be valuable roughage for thought when meandering around the question of climbing's worth: