Rewind: A Life Without Climbing?

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Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2013 - 12:56am PT
I had to know this list of questions was a bit lengthy and potentially convoluted.
I'm really psyched to read what people have done with it!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2013 - 12:56am PT
Question:Where the hell are we?

Answer(s):

Geographically: Northern Hemisphere
Socially: on the margins
Narratively: with some way to go!

 From: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
cowpoke

climber
Jan 31, 2013 - 08:21am PT
Imagine you'd never been introduced to climbing: big fork in the road type hypothetical thought experiment.
...
This is a direct query about our innate drives and how we find an outlet for them and what other kinds of things might have met that need for self-expression.

At the risk of hyperbole, I believe you have posed a beautiful call to introspection. The beauty is, I believe, in recognizing from the outset the confounding dilemma of gene-environment correlations, and forcing us to wrestle with that correlation in our own lives. Thus far, I have found the challenge too great to finish formulating my personal reply (I keep going back and re-writing my history, and struggling to see it in a coherent path, for better or worse), but the alternative life-trajectory hypotheses (and evaluations relative to contemporary state of pre-climbing pursuits/passions) of those of you who have tackled this head on are fabulous.

In a further effort to delay posting my story, and yet feel I have managed a contribution to the thread (small as it may be), I'll add a story of a field grappling with the issue that makes Tarbuster's clever question(s) so elegant.

In 1983, the Yale developmental psychologist Sandra Scarr and her then graduate student Kathleen McCartney (recently announced as the incoming president of Smith College) published a theoretical slap on the wrist to the field of psychology (and all disciplines tempted to understand human development and behavior simply through observation of person in context). The point of the paper: genes and environments are correlated, in a developmentally progressive manner.

In a nutshell, here is the progression:

First, genes and environments are correlated in a passive manner. The correlation is considered passive because the child has no choice in the matter: both the genes and the environment are provided to the child. For example, parents who are athletically gifted pass along both the genetic material related to that giftedness and, usually, provide an environment correlated with that giftedness (e.g., sports are emphasized in the home).

Second, genes and environments are correlated in an evocative manner. Beginning early in life, children evoke from their environments responses that are correlated with their genes. Imagine, for example, an elementary school field trip is taken to the mountains for a nature hike: when the naturally gifted climber/scrambler takes off ahead of her classmates, jumping from rock to rock and scampering up talus and choss, her teacher might exclaim: "Suzzie, you little mountain goat, you! Hey, everyone look where Suzzie is, up on that boulder!" Which, in turn, likely reinforces for Suzzie a continued engagement in the activities for which she was genetically predisposed.

Third, genes and environments are correlated in an active manner, because we niche pick in a fashion that is correlated with our genes. Suzzie, for example, when choosing between colleges very well may think about matters other than academics such as: "How far is school x from world-class climbing?"

If of no other use, this rambling underscores the beauty of the original question(s): it took me multiple paragraphs to explain the crux of a question that Tarbuster sets up in a couple sentences and a few bullet points on chance, choice, and innate drives. Parsimony = elegance.

Now, back to introspecting...

[But not before saying: I hope my effusive praise is not mistaken for anything other than genuine delight that you are back around these parts, Roy. Like the hero come to save the damsel in distress, just in the nick of time. (uggh, speaking of evoking: ST as a fair maiden, huh?)]
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2013 - 06:24pm PT
Nice, furthering and deepening the discussion is worth more than any praise! Great job.

And remember the question which elicited the fewest responses:

Has that [pre-climbing]pursuit evolved to your dis-taste, or diverged from the values which climbing has inculcated within you since you left your earlier path?

To paraphrase: do you see your starting point differently now?

Cowpoke: following your deconstruction of my study and looking into the extra stuff that you brought with, namely the nature/nurture collusion as the antecedent, I would hazard to guess that none of us really broached that orphaned question (controlling for it just being poorly written of course) because we don't typically encounter much friction or cognitive dissonance with our past passions. Climbing is an outgrowth of those earlier pursuits. Those earlier pursuits were the incubator!

As with bronze baby booties, or our "eggshells" ... We have little other than fondness for them!
LilaBiene

Trad climber
Feb 2, 2013 - 09:03pm PT
I happened upon this by skywalker:

...but I'm NOT a climber!...

However the theme in my life has been one of "alternative" recreation, so I think I'd be O.K. without climbing but will always be a weirdo.

...and then went back to the beginning and read everything, my eyes practically popping out of my head by the time I finished reading cowpoke's post on genetics & environment.

All this being said, I don't think I'm in a place to comment on climbing from the perspective of it being a fork in the road, having only very recently ever even entertained the thought. Lest you think I'm going nowhere with this, and to prevent your eyes from rolling back in your head in boredom over a n00b's ramblings, I'll try* to address the questions.

I grew up believing that I had no athletic ability, that I was too big/cumbersome, that I was lazy and at best, a bookworm. I didn't discover this side of myself (except for having been on skis since I was 4) until my 20s, and only later then that I'm mad about adrenaline.

A word about being "A" anything (see skywalker's quote above): This struck a chord with me because I've always resisted calling myself anything, except maybe a skier because I've been on skis for as long as I can remember. I'm not a climber, swimmer, golfer, blader, gymnast, yogi, lawyer...whatever. These are things in which I engage and/or that I train at/am learning to do. I would mostly consider myself an aspiring any-of-those-things -- life is a learning process until the sun goes down and the stars don't appear.

I've always challenged myself with the things I'm least good at. Perhaps because this is where the unknown lies. This particular trait caused a lot of friction in my family growing up, as did my innate stubbornness, which, as my parents will tell you, they tried to quash. The harder they pushed me towards conformity, the more steadfast I became in my belief that there was a conspiracy amongst "normal" people to override and crush individuation, original thought and the very idea that any "known" entity could and should be questioned (if for no other reason than it was a good mental exercise, and who knows, something new might pop out...gasp). As an 18-year-old, the idea of flock-dom scared the sh*t out of me due to its blind uniformity...and very dull prospect of ever involving anything remotely new or interesting, so I decided to take a year off and head to Germany to work as an au-pair. (The school called my parents and asked them to try to talk me out of going abroad because it would have a negative impact on the school's "straight to college" percentage. True story.)

I'm a "weirdo", too, I guess. I've stated elsewhere that when I went to Facelift 2012, it was the first time I ever felt like I fit in anywhere, which in and of itself was a r e a l l y s t r a n g e experience. I'll leave it at that.

I'm not doing a good job of answering questions, I don't think, but I'll just offer that these are the thoughts that the questions evoked, for whatever it's worth.

Twice I've been climbing on rock. Thank you, Ben & Dale and Ed & Anders...for introducing me to the dark side...wicked, tantalizing master that it is. Great BIG grin.

Prior to learning who my birth parents were, I never once entertained the idea. Madness. Horrifying. And totally pointless. Somewhere between early March of last year and some unidentifiable point in time thereafter, I got clipped in to a rope to which I'll be attached until my sun goes down for the last time. I'm not a climber, but am drawn to climb. (Where did my paralyzing fear of heights go, I'd like to know?)

cowpoke highlighted some really interesting concepts and observations, and I'll have read about the research. TFPU, cowpoke.

I don't think that I would have ever wound up climbing had it not been for Don Lauria posting up the Dolt Stories thread. (I tried for months to figure out what a "mountaineer" is before learning in April or so last year that my birth parents were connected through a love of climbing, and...er...a certain affinity the Dolt had for ( . )( . ), which apparently run in the big and beautiful category in my birth mom's family and, naturally, skipped my genetic lottery. LOL.)

Yet, at the same time, from the limited exposure I've had to actual climbing, voracious reading of stories, articles, books, forum posts, etc., climbing just fits....me. As far as I can tell, it requires balance, with a desire and willingness to move and play with every possible variation of balance one could intuitively explore...100% presence and complete awareness of all things external and internal (including all 5 (maybe 6) senses), with the ability to absorb and process all of this information in a non-linear fashion...ability to control emotions and be disciplined mentally together with 100% access to unbounded creativity at the same time (and the understanding that these are not inherently opposing forces). There's a certain desire to be continually bombarded with puzzles, dead ends, what ifs, failures...and the knowledge that in one's deepest recesses the strength and will are there to try to overcome any obstacle again, and again, and again, even when reasonable prospects are dim (and to be enlivened by these prospects...and to genuinely desire more).

An idea I've been thinking about for many months now, is whether there is a possible genetic necessity to continually bump up against and exceed previous physical limitations and knowledge of terrain, including regular, all out efforts, for both mental and physical survival. Switching to a no-grain diet and swimming 6 days per week literally saved my life almost 1.5 years ago. Prior to that, I had been virtually house-bound for 5 years (and chronically depressed for 40), without medical explanation. Until I climbed with Ben for the very first time last year, I had never experienced a sport that completely exhausts the body from head to toe and that was simultaneously so mentally stimulating and exhilarating. If I didn't have to work to both dig myself out of the financial hole being sick for 6 years created and provide for my little muppet, I can tell you without hesitation that I would be climbing anything and everything I could find.

While I may have figured out how to get my life back health-wise, I would never have ever known who I AM relative to this world but for Don Lauria and BooDawg, who provided me with the connections to the origins of my life...right here on the Taco. In my heart I will be forever grateful. Thank you Don, BooDawg and CMac, for giving me the gift of climbing and more.

LilaBiene

* I tried, I really did.

Edit: Okay, I did a mass edit and will give it a go again another time. I don't enjoy re-reading my garbage at all! ;D
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 2, 2013 - 09:09pm PT
A life without climbing....hell, i have trouble going a day without climbing.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 3, 2013 - 11:16am PT
Hang tuff Jim! We are all pulling for you. Heh.

LilaBiene suggested an answer to Jim's ... er, Struggle:

whether there is a possible genetic necessity to continually bump up against and exceed previous physical limitations and knowledge of terrain, including regular, all out efforts, for both mental and physical survival

* I tried, I really did.

And you succeeded!
LilaBiene

Trad climber
Feb 3, 2013 - 11:26am PT
Took an awful long and meandering trail, though, eh? I'll edit down the excessive drivel. ")
Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
Feb 3, 2013 - 12:38pm PT
Has that [pre-climbing]pursuit evolved to your dis-taste, or diverged from the values which climbing has inculcated within you since you left your earlier path?

For sure. But I think it had a lot more to do with the climbers and perhaps less so with the climbing. I grew up in a very conservative family, in every sense of the word. It was also very tightly controlled -- who my friends were, what my activities were, values, politics.

The crazy, eclectic, creative, sometimes self-destructive, emotional, authentic nature of the people I met along the way had a profound effect on me and changed my earlier path about 180 degrees. I no longer saw experimentation as a distraction from the goal but perhaps the goal itself. Instead of being closed and judgmental (although I can fall into this at times, as most of us perhaps do), I became a lot more open to all the possibilities that this wonderful journey provides, both on and off the rock.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 3, 2013 - 01:24pm PT
Thank you for revisiting that Mike!

The crazy, eclectic, creative, sometimes self-destructive, emotional, authentic nature of the people I met along the way had a profound effect on me and changed my earlier path about 180 degrees

Perfect.
So you look back on your earlier pursuits as having been overly regimented. This is an outcome of the expanded perspective which your climbing activities have rendered.

We really could float the question in a separate thread: "How Has Climbing Changed You". I'd like to look around a little deeper and see if we already have one, it's such a no-brainer.
yedi

Trad climber
Stanwood,wa
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
Hey Tarbuster, there is a national org for those of us who still love to race old dirt bikes on courses designed for them. Check out AHRMA. We have organized races all over. Look at AHRMA NW for events N. Cal.up to Canada
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:29pm PT
Took an awful long and meandering trail, though, eh? I'll edit down the excessive drivel. ")

Dontchya dare...I am entranced by your writings!

Susan
hobo_dan

Social climber
Minnesota
Feb 3, 2013 - 04:16pm PT
I got involved with risk sports when I was 17 and started whitewater kayaking. I was pretty good at it and I had zero judgement- which meant i was up for most anything.
My skill level was a solid class IV boater and a good 5.10 trad leader.
I ended up getting a job at the local EMS which then brought me into a group of people who rock climbed.
On and Off to college- I basically failed my way through school but I did graduate (after 8 years--being a freshman really were three of the best years of my life!) I had a bucket list and part of that was to take these long solo hitch hike trips out west to go climbing.
I had very little money and the climbing scene did not require cash so that was a good fit.
Climbing helped me get a lot stronger and definitely took the chip off of my shoulder.
I have never had the nerve to get it up day after day after day- i would always get crushed with a good solid case of Snail Eye.
When I started teaching and got married the need/desire/ability to pursue risk sports tapered off and was replaced with other things.
I'm glad I climbed and I'm glad I was fortunate enough to never have had a bad accident.
I think Bridwell said something to the effect of you won't remember the moves but you'll remember the people you climbed with. I found this to be true- I liked the climbing crowd and the social scene. It felt so hip to be broke, dirty and dedicated to a pointless craft.
The other thing about climbing was it gave me a reason to venture out into the world, and out there nobody gave a shti about what slot you fit into in high school. It was just On Belay and off we go. So nice to have a chance at a clean slate.
nah000

Mountain climber
canuckistan
Feb 3, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
appreciating the contributions you've been making tarbuster. another interesting, worthwhile and, for me personally, timely set of questions. you should get business cards with campfire conversation curator printed on them.

back to the questions: the first fork was away from skiing. but, likely, this was only due to the happenstance of the landscape my formative years were spent on. growing up on the western canadian prairie, there was no climbing within a half days drive [and believe me i checked. i even looked over the geological mapping. there was nothing except a couple of glacial erratics for hundreds of miles in every direction]. so though i climbed trees like a m-f from a very early age, and knew that i wanted to climb rocks after having the good fortune of tagging along with a couple of mountaineers in the canadian rockies, there were no convenient opportunities. otoh, there was a river valley skihill 45 min away. so that is how i spent my weekends and the evenings when nightskiing was available.

when i moved away, i chose where i went to university in large part so i would be close to somewhere i could learn to climb. within a few months i was obsessed with climbing. by the end of the first year i had effectively dropped out because of that obsession. the next few years were centred around road tripping, cragging, and making money to facilitate those adventures.

after this first fork, there have been many more. in retrospect balance has not been my strong suit. haha. i have, in turn, become singularly focused on skiing, climbing, ski touring, construction, etc. by the time i was done each phase i'd be burnt out either physically, emotionally, or psychologically, and i'd turn to the next pursuit. each one of these pursuits would have similar themes, but would also be different enough that i could recover from the aspects of the previous pursuit that had left parts of me drained.

and so as i've been thinking about this question i've been realizing how even the way i've chosen to make a living has really been just an extension of the same core motivations. and to cut to the chase, these pursuits are all centered around the desire [need even?] to be creative, to explore my bodies endurance capabilities, to be either my own boss or in a small team, to be outdoors, and to be, at times, in a martial environment.

and so the short answer is that if i didn't climb, i would have just spent more time on the other activities i've been involved in. because in the end, they are all just extensions of the same drivers.

but this is a bit of a non answer and most of this i already knew about myself. in continuing to think about it i realized that much of who i am has to do with where i happened to be raised. for example, i suspect if i'd been born in an inner city, prior to artificial climbing walls, and far away from natural rock climbing/skiing/etc, i probably would have ended up in the martial arts, even though that is something i have never pursued [my brother otoh, ...].

and so all of this ends up tying back to cowpokes post a bit back. the correlation between genetics [so many of these tendencies and drivers are exhibited by many within my family] and in this case the physical environments that those genetics have been intertwined with.

i once had a dream that i was showing up at a martial arts gym asking for training, because i wanted to fight. the "master" just looked at me laughed and in dream communication said: at your age?

this lifes weaving of paths, landscapes, families, eras, forks... it's a beautiful one, even if it tends towards the brutally short. interesting to think of what might have been as a vehicle to understanding what has become.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
Feb 3, 2013 - 09:43pm PT
None of this would have happened had it not been for climbing.

I would have been an angry working stiff with no means for a means for a better anything.

I was a worker with nothing on my plate. Spending plenty of money on getting stoned and not thinking that I had any kind of future.

I owe everything to the UPS lady who let me know about the gym that was within walking distance to my then apartment/townhouse share.

The short version: I would never have developed into the truly wonderful person I am now without my exposure to climbing.
Cosmiccragsman

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Feb 3, 2013 - 10:38pm PT
A Life without climbing
would be a, No life for me.
Bad Climber

climber
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:23am PT
Wow, a totally different existence--and hard to imagine. I was into hiking and hunting with my dad, so I suppose I would have continued in those activities, perhaps graduating to some sort of extreme big game hunting like Dall sheep in Alaska or something. I've always had an intense, rather romantic view and love of the outdoors, so that would probably have continued. But without climbing? Let's see: I would have married a different woman, and our last 26 years together have been the rock (pun intended) of my life would have been with a different person for sure. We met when I was working outdoor retail and she needed crampons--true story. Had SHE not been a climber, she never would have come into that store.

Like many here, much of my life has been constructed, bent, directed to get me into the mountains and up on the rock. Whatever short detours I've taken have always led me back to where I began, a fifteen year old punk yearning for something bigger, wilder, more committing than life on the flats. The road not taken? I didn't take it.

BAd
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 4, 2013 - 12:39am PT
This thing is really cooking right along ain't it! You are all such swell sports.

Yedi suggested:
there is a national org for those of us who still love to race old dirt bikes on courses designed for them.
Thanks for highlighting that specific organization! I've understood a lot of this retro racing has been going on. If my arms didn't get totally pumped searching through my pack for things like antacids or my bus pass, I'd be all over it. I would own and campaign just these two early 70s bikes: Penton 175 Jackpiner, Maico 250 radial, Bultaco Pursang, Ossa Stiletto, and CZ Falta. (Just those two, no more heh) But/and/also maybe something like a 125 Rickman Zundapp Metisse , or better yet/and/or/probably also a Hindall framed thumper. Yes like that: I'd keep it simple!

Hobo Dan, dropped a perennial favorite! :
--being a freshman really were three of the best years of my life!

nah000 cut to the chase:
in the end, they are all just extensions of the same drivers
these pursuits are all centered around the desire [need even?] to be creative, to explore my bodies endurance capabilities, to be either my own boss or in a small team, to be outdoors, and to be, at times, in a martial environment.
& Also noted something I just got lucky with when composing this junket:
interesting to think of what might have been as a vehicle to understanding what has become.

SCSeagoat said to LilaBiene about downsizing her contribution, and I heartily agree as I read every phrase with rapt attention:
Dontchya dare...I am entranced by your writings!
yedi

Trad climber
Stanwood,wa
Feb 4, 2013 - 11:03am PT
1967 CZ 360 twinport
1967 CZ 360 twinport
Credit: yedi
Tarbuster, most of us are in the same boat. Although the skill level runs from ex-pro to green novice we are all in separate skill classes and motos. The bikes you mentioned are all out there too. Here are 2 of the bikes I rebuilt and have been racing the last few years:[photo
This is 1963 Jawa 350 twinpipe motocrosser. The only one racing in the...
This is 1963 Jawa 350 twinpipe motocrosser. The only one racing in the US at this time.
Credit: yedi
id=288082]

The key to it is just having fun. It took me till I was 45 to actualize the dream I had to race MX when I was 13, never got the chance back then. After 25 some odd years of climbing and not going much I needed the adrenaline jump, the road trips and comradeship that stuff like this involves.
scuffy b

climber
heading slowly NNW
Feb 4, 2013 - 11:29am PT
Tarbuster writes:

'We really could float the question in a separate thread: "How Has Climbing Changed You". I'd like to look around a little deeper and see if we already have one, it's such a no-brainer.'

I'm not certain whether this occurred on this forum or another one, likely
rec.climbing, but Matisse (formerly known as something else) had the show-
stopping response:

"Bigger boobs, smaller ass. YMMV."
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