With so much written about climbing already, sometimes I can't believe I still feel compelled to put thoughts to...pixels? I suppose the amount of words I spend on the topic is proportional in some way to my level of participation, although sometimes inversely. Right now, however, they are the result of a direct feed from the rising level of excitement of getting 'serious' again about training and climbing. For me, the seriousness is generally moderated by a healthy influx of irreverence, but this was not always so.
Somewhere along this serpentine 12 year path, sprent as it is with little vistas of brilliance, black holes of injury and obsession, waypoints of apparent wisdom and joy; somewhere along the road of toil and epiphany both, I have shed much of the angst and hubris that once drove me to grab tiny holds and vice-grip them until my knuckles ached and my skin tore itself to ribbons. Having cupped my chalk-dry and rock-torn hands in the cool waters of the oasis of experiential learning and danced in the fount of better judgement, I can now eschew the obfuscating miasma of perceived self-worth and the vainglorious misadventures of ego for the pure pursuit of sport, for the sang-froid of the enlightened athlete. In short, at a place in time when every failure is a success and every success a veritable diamond of truth itself, climbing transcends mere feats of strength and bravery and rises immutably from the ashes of petty competition and self-aggrandizement as a wondrous phoenix, a golden path, a stairway of flawless marble sweeping up and up and up towards the absolute zenith of human achievement atop which arcs the double-rainbow of selflessness and bliss flanked by the alabaster unicorns of...
Did I mention I'm selling these fine used ropes and harnesses?
Whatever my reputation for cynicism (apparently certain...legends...are in circulation regarding my 'attitude') I can never truly step beyond the bounds of a certain wry humor whilst describing what climbing 'means' to me. It may truly be the marble stair--just so long as there is a drunk passed out in his own vomit in the landing and a banana peel on a step halfway up. It may truly be the adamantine tower sweeping towards the heavens--just so long as there are monkeys inside screeching and flinging their poop out of the windows. I guess I'm back on my soapbox with this tack, beating a dead horse and calling the grass green, but I think of it more as an ablution, a reckoning with some of the skeletons to whom I've played necromancer in some of my past posts. And if this is all a canard intended to direct attention towards my trials and tribulations, like most of my posts, then let it at least be a rare and entertaining bird indeed!
I once posited climbing as being a potential 'pure' pursuit. I did so indirectly, of course, by denouncing my foray into 'sponsorship' (think C-team here, not 9a onsights). I examined my motives and decided I was soiling my petticoats by attempting to monetize my personal form of soul-searching. Never mind that free gear helps you go on climbing trips. I have shaken the very foundations of rock climbing as I know it by viciously questioning the notions of progress and achievement in our fair sport (although I don't disagree with this interrogatory approach in this case). I have derided climbing in the most sardonic and uncouth fashion, downplayed my own achievements to the point of nihilism, spent an unseemly amount of words writing about turkeys and proselytized endlessly about...well, a lot of things (notice I didn't say alot). But you know, if this blog is about anything, it is about the delightful effervescence that is wordplay.
Seriously now: I have been training myself silly lately at the best winter crag in Washington (that was just finished early this year! Check it out! Hint: I am one of the guys with the backwards chalkbag hanging from an oval carabiner with the half-open gate stuck in the back of his jeans). In the midst of losing winter beer weight and regaining the ability to CRUSH! I find myself with a sense of melancholy. A casual glance through the mists of time past churns up a conflagration of guilt and regret too unruly to be extinguished by mere rationalizations. Alright, I'll tone down the excess mouth-words: rather than taking my decade of climbing at face value for all the experiences I've had, my present mind (that is anything but present) wants to deal my past self a new hand. I realize that at a certain point, I spent a lot of time being stupid, taking any climbing skill I had for granted. Then I look further forward and realize that I've continued doing that...all along. The horror and truth of Eternal Recurrence, "man is a tightrope" and all that. And Zarathustra was a climber, make no mistake. But fuck that. Things can change. If my blog is any indication, I've taken the taking for granted to such new heights that I've summited that heap of rubbish and now I can finally look around with a new perspective. I'd like to believe that. And that wistfulness is just crocodile saltwater in the spilt milk, so to speak. And that it really boils down to the fact that the here and now wouldn't be here without the there and then...or something. But I think I see a beacon through the murk of this cynicism--and it's not just a phantasm wrought of malnutrition and overexertion. I find myself grabbing tiny holds again and vicegripping them until my knuckles threaten to explode--because I love doing it.