Although I have a sense of deja vu (or deja ecrit?), I will continue. I haven't had a climbing project in a long time, as in: a route that takes a more focused level of concentration and execution of movement to complete. For the first time in years, I have spent the last month simply climbing with little thought given either to being 'in shape' or about completing larger and more difficult goals. Obsessing about my level of fitness has, in past times, taken a significant amount of enjoyment away from my rock climbing. Even last summer, during which I maintained a similar mentality, I still injured myself as a result of putting too much pressure on my finger joints trying to relive past glories. This year the idea has gelled even more firmly that I'm not training for a world cup competition, nor will I ever need or want to do so; pure difficulty (or the arbitrary 'bar' we set for ourselves) and the illusion of success are two of the bugaboos of anything we do here on Earth. They also are some of the things that drive us so strongly into these activities that to others may seem pointlessly trite. This suggests to me that a balance is necessary between the challenge and the joy of the activity. My personal experience is that these are not mutually exclusive by any means: if I'm not challenged in some way, that space of interest into which I delve while I climb (or write, or create music...) ceases to exist. The exploration of this space holds particular interest for me, as do the strategies we use to create this space and maintain its integrity and perceived value.
Climbing is problematic because, like other sports that involve feats of courage, strength and tenacity that are subsequently assumed to be measurable in some way (grades, times) the ego becomes a focus, emitting a spectrum of outputs from the constructive to the destructive. Anyone who seeks to excel at an activity, I think, is familiar in some way with this conundrum, either plotting a sensible course or succumbing to whirlpools of fear or egomaniacal tendency, or both in different measures. The balanced path is therefore the one that keeps us from spinning in place, looking forwards and backwards by turn, never really able to move beyond or to reflect meaningfully on what lies behind. It, of course, only really exists as a fantasy because all of us will spin from time to time.
So this is my meta-challenge: to maintain a creative space while allowing for difficulties and the vagaries of success, failure, completion, etc. Perhaps it could best be described as just rock climbing. I mean, of course, that it's as simple and as complicated as that: having the ability to look external and internal pressures, real or imagined, straight in the face and, while maintaining awareness of them, continue to focus. Sound cliched? A rather pallid insight, perhaps? Sometimes a realization of the most pedestrian truism is a revelation unto itself. This summer I have had the pleasure of rock climbing. By maintaining a pleasurable level of challenge and stopping just short of putting any undue pressure on myself, I have discovered that I actually climb more fluidly, more powerfully and with far more precision in this space than when I feel some strange, obsessive obligation to succeed. I've never experienced this degree of freedom before, at least not quite to this extent. It's really all so simple; it only took twelve years of toil and recurring injury to get here. Nothing for free in this life!