A Couple of Thoughts About Rock Climbing and Life in General

Despite my relative lack of fitness, I am enjoying climbing again immensely. Although I’m doubtful it will ever carry the clout it once had in my life, I believe I’ve entered into a much healthier and perhaps more interesting relationship with it--brought about, oddly enough, by my catastrophic finger injury two years ago. My onsight level, or the difficulty level at which I can climb an unknown route on my first attempt, seems to steadily increase even as my redpoint level (unknown at this point) remains the same. I’m looking forward to trying more routes with the intent of completing them first or at least second or third try. I finally understand the root of the enjoyment of attempting to climb intuitively even on routes I haven’t tried before, allowing the fear and accompanying awkward inhibition of movement to pass through me, allowing me to attempt an understanding of its origins and thus draw from its experiential value. Perception, although somewhat immutable, is subject to alteration by any and all forces, whether substantive or ethereal in origin; to wit, one’s fear of the unknown versus one’s ingestion of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances, or by one’s somewhat more direct gathering of physical information via sensory data. The spectrum of influence is immeasurably great in scope, but intent and the potential focusing of that intent remains a powerful tool to alter perception in interesting and subjectively beneficial ways. Climbing is an activity that requires one to attempt an understanding of these ‘metaphysical’ arenas, as without the effort fear and doubt will always rule the activity. They may always rule regardless, as I have no way of knowing otherwise based on my own experiences. That experience is based on limited attempts to consciously alter perception (there’s a lingual paradox!) to achieve different states of mind, particularly while attempting highly technical rock climbing. For me, a route I’ve never attempted provides a perfect chance to attempt this method of alteration because the only expectations are often ephemeral and based entirely on fear of failure or (often imagined and highly unlikely) injury. I must commit to the challenge with the abilities I have and attempt to harness them effectively. Sometimes failure occurs despite otherwise brilliant execution of said abilities. An adjunct or perhaps equally important linked challenge is the interpretation of failures or successes, both somewhat subjective terms based on perception and value judgments and both presenting their own sets of interpretive problems vis a vis the ego filter and endemic feelings of self doubt and fear of failure. The somewhat extensive literature that attempts to frame climbing as comparable to the act of a warrior, or no different from the acts of a warrior, is by no means accidental: the focusing of intent and temporary loss of personal ego is essentially compatible with the concept of the psychology and metaphysics of a ‘warrior’ put forth, perhaps derivatively, by the like of Carlos Castaneda and again by others borrowing from his texts for more ‘practical’ applications. Suffice it to say that the simple act of climbing is enough, but it can concomitantly provide a rich substrate for personal exploration that shouldn’t be ignored, especially out of personal fear or anger at one’s perceived failures. This concept could also be said to apply to all things that we experience, as all things are essentially perceptual. All it takes is a huge, comprehensive effort to efface a lot of bad habits, feedback loops pregnant with fear and doubt, laziness and ennui, self-hatred...

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