The Fork In The Road

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Gal

Trad climber
a semi lucid consciousness
Dec 4, 2012 - 03:00pm PT
Very interesting responses & points of view... I agree with what you are saying, Mike Friedrichs :-)
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Dec 4, 2012 - 03:20pm PT
HFCS, hmmmm sounds like a lot of history. Again my mantra:

Live well
Love much
LET GO!!!!

Much to learn even from the people who piss us off!

Cheers,

Charlie D.

jogill

climber
Colorado
Dec 4, 2012 - 11:48pm PT
They look like forks in roads, but they don't really exist, and there is no evidence that a person can point to that substantiates their existence. Everyone has a single arc of history

Simple determinism or fate, or something a bit more intricate? If one assumes that time is a pre-existent block and moments are slices of that block, then in a sense one has both free will and yet is trapped in a matrix of fate. But I suspect you are being both poetic and mildly mystical here.

If I flip a coin at an intersection of two roads and proceed according to the result do I exercise free will and contend with fate simultaneously, or in a linear cause & effect fashion? If time is a block, however . . .

In Stanislaw Lem's ergodic theory of history he proposes (in his theory of time travel) that under certain circumstances altering a detail of history could produce the same or a similar long-term result. E.g., if Hitler were killed at an early age another rabid and eloquent leader would appear and the Third Reich and its atrocities would follow.

Let's see. If Mark had made the alternate educational decision long ago, he could still have ended up in a typical, civilized existence, rather than feeling excluded from normal society like Walt. And what of Walt? Had he opted for normality, he could still have ended up as he did. Puzzles upon puzzles.

The Will of Allah . . . ?

Just musin'

An abstraction on Base's dilemma. No help for him here.

;>)
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:15am PT
Wow. Lots of great thought-provoking posts here. I need to think about this one a bit longer before I can properly reply.

But I bet ol' Jean-Paul Sartré will have something to say.
Borut

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:43am PT
^^^
But I bet ol' Jean-Paul Sartre will have something to say.

I remember the dude from 1973. He (we) would be trying to sell "Libération", a newspaper now institutional but forbidden as it first came out.
Though a bourgeois, J.P. liked the "dirt", and I guess he helped out with his thumbs up for us kids.
Personally prefer A. Camus.




(Edit)

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:47am PT
Sacré merde! I rarely make typos, but TWO typos in ONE name. Yikes! ^

I fixed it.
Borut

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:52am PT
OK Pete

One more, LOL :

"Sacrée merde!"
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Dec 5, 2012 - 01:31pm PT
Jogill said to my declaration that "forks in the road" don't exist:

Simple determinism or fate, or something a bit more intricate?

Jogill, your idea of determinism may need a bit more complexity.

Causality is a form of determinism. To wit:

(i) How does one define and articulate a universe that has an infinite number of variables, none of which can be accurately described, interacting with every other variable, across an infinite space and time? (That's quite a matrix.)

(ii) How can one account for a determination of Anything? How does Anything happen?

(iii) Reality / the universe (and everything in it) appears to be a mystery when you look at any of it closely. "It's turtles all the way down."

(iv) I'm fine with "the will of Allah" or XYZ if that does it for anyone. Just words; just pointers; no real findings that get to the core.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2012 - 09:24pm PT
Sorry to bump a dead thread of mine, but one of the biggest problems I had was the difficulty of finding true adventure.

I can't live without it. It's been that way since I was 14 and somehow grabbed The White Spider in the library, where I would hang out during the summers as a little kid. If you can imagine a 13 year old boy in Southeast Oklahoma, which is hilly and forested with oaks, but about as far from the Eiger as the nearest star.

I read that book over and over that summer. Man I had FOUND it. Then I found the local gang and the first generation of climbers here grew up together. They are still my closest friends, although I see them rarely, if at all. Everyone is scattered across the world now.

It was different from the California or Colorado climbers, who just had to wake up to go climbing. Our climbing was fun, and almost every route was an FA. We started spending as much of our time in Eldo as we could, and The Naked Edge was sort of our version of Astroman or Valhalla.

I think it was much easier for those who lived in California to make it. For many of us, it was a low paying job in Mammoth or Tahoe. No home to go to in the winter. The jobs paid little, but were cool as hell. That cat driving job was something I would have done forever.

So when I went to go work, I had to move a thousand miles east, and within a couple of years I had a baby on the way and a buttload of responsibility to learn and get ready for. Raising a child comes first. I don't care who you are.

I remember my last BASE jump very well. It was a bright day with a foot of snow around one of our favorite 1500 foot antennas. I had jumped the sucker at least 30 times. Anyway, I was foolish and jumped my skydiving rig with a super fast skydiving canopy. I opened off heading and flew through the wires, missing one by a few feet by a quick turn.

My old buddy John Hoover (rip) jumped a few seconds later and he saw the whole thing from above. Normally I would have laughed it off, but I had a baby at the house and it really scared me. I never made another BASE jump.

The last real climbing I did was coming off of the sofa and taking my brother in law up the Nose. It was lots of fun, although we were pretty slow as I had to teach him everything on the route. He led his half of the leads until Camp 5 where I took over just to get off by dark.

Anyway, ya know that crappy Class 4 traverse after the King Swing? We did that as it got dark, and even though I knew better, I lowered out the pig with a tag line, which got caught in that flake which has a thousand cut ropes on it. I had to go down to the pig then transfer over to the tag line and go down to free it. I remember the clusterfuk of changing over to the tag line in the darkness with my headlamp as the car lights cruised the road below. As I was going through all of the change over and stuff, I suddenly thought, "Man. What am I DOING up here. I've got a two year old boy back home." It all worked out fine, but when we topped out and untied, that was pretty much the last pitch of my life. I had responsibilities to someone other than myself, and if you are a parent, you know that those responsibilities lie with this little life, who is now 20 years old and off to school, making good grades and pretty much all self sufficient now.

Those years of raising my son were pretty hard. You have to be there every minute to be a parent, and you have to be very devoted. A baby isn't a puppy.

I remember teaching him how to piss outside when he was a kid. We went over to a tree, turned our backs to the women, both pulled out our junk and I let fly trying to paint my name with the little guy doing the same thing right next to me. Now those are cool moments. It is a lot of work being a parent, but they are great. Out of all of the crazy sh#t that I have done over my life, when they handed him to me in the delivery room was the most unbelievable experience of my life.

See the difference between me and Walt? My road was now one way with no exits for 20 years. I still took off for months and took off to explore the blankest and most inhospitable places on the continent for many years, but lately I have been totally sucked in to the dress up in dry cleaned clothes, shave, and have meetings with people who were not only groomed for the normal life, but excelled at it. Hell, they were as happy as the climbers in Camp 4 for that matter. It isn't like the normal life isn't a good life, it is just different adventures, mainly having to do with big sums of other people's money.

Right now I am steering a horizontal well which will cost 4 million bucks when done. We have had troubles with the mechanics of one of the directional tools and it got pretty hairy at one point.

Hairy in the sense that you had to make decisions that take a couple of days of rig time to fix, meaning a couple of hundred grand. Not my money, but I treat it like it is.

So the time flies by now. A year seems like nothing, but parenting was a great success and everything is finally on autopilot now. The marriage has lasted, mainly because you have to be stubborn and learn not to blow a fuse over little things that become bit things somehow.

I have led an interesting life, so I'm not complaining. I still need some adventure, so I am adjusting to a permanently hobbled knee and looking at something new, which I have done since I first read The White Spider.

I dunno. It was fun climbing, but the real adventures were the best part. Soloing a 5.8 for the 200th time was no adventure, but climbing in the mountains or doing a wall were. Best of all were the friends. Now and then I will spill the beans and start telling hilarious old stories, like showing an attorney how to do Walt's "jacket trick," but they just don't get it. That is another universe to them.

Ahhh. I wish that people could see what our eyeballs have seen.

Does anyone have memories of moments that were so intense that you can remember every second? The smell, the sound, the light, everything seared into our brains.

Sometimes I think that life is a collection of moments, and I have certainly been blessed with my fair share. Some of us collect these moments like coins. It isn't like we are better than other people. Not at all. People are people. Some are kind, some are not. Some are complicated and deep and it takes a while to soak them in.

Back to adventures, which are the moments that I crave like heroin.

I'm not done. I'm just planning ahead for the next set. The only thing that is different is that I have a mortgage and life insurance and am too round to fit in my old clothes.

All of the moments, the good and the bad ones, are not to be regretted. The only regrets are harming another. How we treat others comes easy to some, but I had to learn it. The best way to learn it is to have your nose rubbed into a pile of sh#t at some point. Then you learn the depth of human experience a little, and realize that everyone is living their own lives. I've learned to not judge others too harshly, or hurt them with a careless remark.

A few years ago, I contacted a few people who I had harmed in the past. A gay kid in school who I called a faggot when I was all of thirteen. I remembered and regretted that. He had no recollection at all, but that wasn't the point. I needed to try to make it right. I found him and apologized from the bottom of my heart. How we treat others is one thing that I have learned by getting older. I used to be a little prick. Ask a dozen people here.

Adventure and those moments of absolute clarity. I'm gearing up for my next round of those. It has gotten too quiet. Yeah, they are selfish sometimes, but if you can do a little planning, its fine.

All I know is that every second of our lives is important. Not so much for ourselves, but to those around us who are more gentle or brittle.

I gotta run. An email with the latest surveys and all that just pinged my inbox. Sorry to ramble.

Go read that story about Walt. It is pretty damn honest.

Man, I miss him, but when he died with Bill Russle trying to revive him, it really took a chunk out of my heart. I think about Walt's choices now and then, because he really made a hard turn in his life when he quit Lockheed. I know that he regretted it sometimes, but I would give a zillion dollars to see what his eyeballs saw. The good ones...not the ones where he got tossed into the cooler.

OK. Onward. I have no advice to give. Everyone's road is so complicated and unique. Just don't hurt people if you can help it. That will be the real thing that haunts you later.

Sorry for the rambling.

Can you all share a couple of those moments that our burned into your brains? Just the good ones. The bad ones are a drag, and we all have them.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 7, 2012 - 10:05pm PT
I gotta say Mark,

I really like what you wrote in the OP. To me it is standalone and even a bit rhetorical. Remember Halloween when we'd all get home, up-end our booty bags and line up all the candy treats? All the kids comparing their sweets in elegantly arranged little housing tracts on the hardwood floor? No need for that here. What you wrote is wonderful simply as a display of life's natural tension. Left fork, right fork, Walt, kids, boss, dirt bagging … There's always love lost, unrequited love and transient bliss.

‘Kind of hard to beat the reaper, the boot heel of sociopolitical forces, the luck of the draw with family and so forth. You get what you get, and all the while there is longing. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose: even goodtime Charlie's get the blues. (Ha ha that was whacked!). Ever notice how falling in love has a pain, a sweet pain, a searing feeling of separation from and a drawing toward the beloved in one slow smooth push of the stiletto as it pierces the breastbone? And also notice how that pain is not so dissimilar from that tearing urgency felt during the breakup?

It ain't all good. It's bittersweet.
Your writing is terrific. It's its own reward. To hell with the questions and this spirited plumbing of the depths of the whole damn hayride.

If you can write the way you do you didn't miss out on so much.
Life is always so close, success so near our grasp: “but about as far from the Eiger as the nearest star”.

Hats off to you brother … for being there with us, for reminding us.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Dec 7, 2012 - 10:17pm PT
Can you all share a couple of those moments that our burned into your brains?


Out there
Out there
Credit: Dingus Milktoast

Credit: Dingus Milktoast

Credit: Dingus Milktoast

Credit: Dingus Milktoast

DMT
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Dec 8, 2012 - 10:39am PT
Most of us feel our lives are filled with long bouts of normality, punctuated by brief moments of terror. That's what you seem to be thinking in your mind, Base. But your writing is filled with serious and substantive consideration, decision, and realization.

Excitement may exist in other places than on the rock for you. But the rock probably provide a more direct, simpler, and sharper sense of challenge when compared to that found in the ambiguous complexities of modern living.

Life's challenges are clear on the rock. I think many of us here long for that straightforward simplicity that we found in climbing. It's a great sport in amazing settings with a few special others.

What do you think you'll remember on your death bed? Many people report they remember the times of love, of those dear to them.

If that's the case, then you appear to be in exactly the right place. Cheers.
bjj

climber
beyond the sun
Dec 8, 2012 - 02:24pm PT
This is a very interesting and (for me) timely subject.

I've forked several times. After University I forked one way, becoming a ski bum for several years. Then, fed up with being poor, forked another and started a professional career for several years. Fed up with office culture and the monotony of rat racing, which was not worth the reward for someone who never cared about material things, I forked again and went back to live in the mountains, presumably to ski again, but in reality because it was the polar opposite of the path I was headed down.

I was mostly happy, but unfocused. It was then at the age of 25 that I discovered climbing. We all know what happens when that bug bites. Everything finally made sense and there was purpose.

I managed to stay on that path for a solid 10 years before forking again back to "real life" due in equal part to horrible chronic injuries (tendonitis, lower back problems) that wouldn't go away, plus the insecurity of not having any kind of career or well paying job in my mid 30's.

I taught myself to become a programmer, got involved in other sports and was relatively content for almost another decade.

Now, at age 44, with the old injuries 95% gone, I am about ready to fork back yet again. I have become burnt out on programming (no one was meant to sit in front of a computer toiling for others 10+ hours a day) and started climbing again about 2 months ago.

Coming off the couch after 10 years was a serious kick in the ass. I stayed in shape all these years, but we all know there's a BIG difference between "in shape" (meaning not fat) and "climbing shape".

When I left climbing, I was well into 5.12 territory and nibbling at 5.13. I was solid on Yosemite cracks well into 5.11 range. I had BIG plans that never came to be.

Now, even though my mind thinks I should still be at that level, my body has other ideas. It's like starting all over - I am struggling with 5.10. Though the frustration of coming back makes me want to quit again every time I get my ass kicked, the love is back and I improve just the right miniscule amount every week to keep from quitting in disgust.

So now at 44, with enough money saved to live numerous years without working, and with no wife, kids or debt, feeling aimless, I figure now is the time to fork again for a while and go back into "the life" - and this time I can at least do it with some style. No more dirt sleeping and bread & kethup dinners. The extra comfort will help make up for the lack of skill, so in the end it ought to balance out (someone please check my math on that).

I know 44 is a child's age on this forum, but I am finally starting to feel old and this may be my last chance to call upon whatever my body has left in it, before I finally have to dial it back for good.

Wish me luck. I plan to be back on the road full time come spring.
ladyscarlett

Trad climber
SF Bay Area, California
Dec 8, 2012 - 05:35pm PT
hehe, wanna talk about child's age?

Lots of good posts, thanks for sharing everyone.

For me, strangely, I've found that many of my forks that lead me towards climbing often lead me away from many of my other social groups. It's still odd to continually make these choices that fulfills my passion, but draws me away from my non climbing life.

I remember once, bailing on a conference with friends for a non climbing hobby that I'd been looking forward to for weeks.

2 days before, I get a call from a climbing partner to go hit a mountain I'd been lusting over for the past year, and within minutes, I'm ready to take the weekend to climb.

Many forks fer sure...and a lot more for me I think.

but I figure, I'm just stumbling through, and if I stumble well enough, I'll be able to reel about and hit up both roads for a bit ;)

We'll see...there's still a fair amount to come!

Thanks again for all the shares!

Cheers

LS
MH2

climber
Dec 8, 2012 - 09:19pm PT
I'd be with Tarbuster, Base, hat off to you and what you were able to convey.


Yes, I've seen things I won't forget, such as the look in the eyes of the new born, but here are a few experiences from a non-climber.

One of our nursing home residents put his life of 90 years into 12 pages of single-spaced type. His career had been with Blue Funnel, a UK shipping line.

"in mid-1940 one of the company's passenger/cargo ships...was converted to a troop ship...We assembled our first convoy, boarded our troops [in Durban, South Africa] and sailed at dusk for North Africa. I was on the bridge with the Captain. At six o'clock he said, "I'm going down for a quick dinner." I found myself in charge of the bridge of the Commodore ship of a blacked-out troop convoy in a submarine zone. I was 21. Fortunately, nothing happened, the Captain returned, and I stopped sweating...We were sent to Basrah, eight miles up the Shatt-Al-Arat River in the Persian Gulf. There we boarded two thousand Polish-Jewish refugee women who had managed to escape from Poland. We took them to Suez and they became the nucleus of what is now Israel. They were a fascinating group, every occupation from prostitutes to doctors and professors...[after the War] My next ship was "TELEMACHUS"...We loaded a full cargo under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association and took it to Athens...We unloaded in Piraeus...Athens was in sad shape...the days of tourists were far in the future...One evening, two of us went up to the Acropolis and were the only people on it. We sat silently on the steps of the Parthenon and watched first the sunset and then the moonrise. We could feel the atmosphere and history seep into us and the sensations have stayed with me all my life."


from The Life and Times of Peter John Geoffrey Power
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 8, 2012 - 09:22pm PT
Caravaggio started out as a stone mason! Glad he took the painter's fork.

Dave Brubeck went to veterinary school until his advisor nudged him down the musician's fork.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Dec 8, 2012 - 09:39pm PT
Cheers LS!

DMT
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:12am PT

One of the comments above. . .

". . best of all were the friends. . ."

Still is.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Dec 9, 2012 - 12:27am PT
BASE104, you have made the best of both worlds. If I weren't so tired from a long trip from Pittsburg I would write more.

We talked about this very subject 20 some years ago sitting in a parking lot in the buttermilks.

Cheers!

John Penca
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 9, 2012 - 07:20am PT
I must confess that I was never presented with the fork in the road dilemma that most people on this thread speak about. For me my intellectual life always came first. Probably the fact that I had been working at boring manual labor jobs for a good five years before I graduated from high school had a lot to do with this.

The most I ever set aside for pure climbing and dirt bagging was one summer and I promptly broke my arm the first week. After that I always looked to how I might combine the two with research and academic job always the more important factor. Hence I did my master's on mountain people around the world and my Ph.D. on Sherpas so I could live in the mountains, climb, and write about climbing.

The only downside to all this was landing a wonderful job on a tropical island where this ideal life got out of balance in favor of the academic. Hopefully this can be restored somewhat now that I'm retiring and going back to the mountains. It's nice to be at an age where I have plans but not ambitions.
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