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“suffer gloriously.” [merely-a-thought monday]

suffer gloriously

when you watch extreme mountain climbing videos every night you are bound to find morsels of wisdom and inspiration.  chris, one of the denali climbers, tossed us this one:   “i think it’s important to learn how to suffer gloriously.”  he added he “tries to put a positive spin on all his suffering.”  chosen suffering, that is, for who would doubt that there would be suffering on a climb up the highest peak on the continent.  alternatively, his suffering yields reward, a summit, or, at the least, an attempted summit, traversing in elevations few have scaled.

in the early 1980s i taught music in the poorest school of a small county in florida.  z was one of my students – he was in first grade.  i know he suffered.  his home was not far from the school campus with buildings attached by covered walkways, my music shed tucked into a swampy corner, complete with 3″ banana spiders.

z was a student who needed a lot of extra attention.  he craved it.  given his grave family situation, i know his heart had to be heavy, but his smile was light-itself and he loved hugs and music class.  in that school, tucked into the middle of an impoverished neighborhood, where people spent days sitting on rotting porches waiting for the next day, there was much agonizing.  and, clearly, a hell of a lot of surrendered acceptance.  it was deeply inspiring to see children being glorious, even in the midst of hurting.

i heard somewhere along the passing years that z was in prison.  i shudder to think of all who might say it was inevitable.  he was truly stuck in a system that allowed very few to escape.  the ‘subs’, as the area was called, was a breeding ground for glorious suffering, proud faces lined with sweat and worry, ponderous minds sorting for ways to survive.

we went back there about five years ago, drove to what-is-now a fenced-in complex and no longer a neighborhood school so i could stare for a few minutes at the old shed in the swamp.  we drove around the neighborhood and stopped and got out to talk to a couple people rocking on a porch.  we talked about the old school and, with shining faces, they spoke with pride about attending it.  glorious faces.

when we pulled away, they went back to the chairs on the porch, under the collapsing portico away from the steamy sun and tucked into trees covered with spanish moss and yards of dry dusty dirt.  still suffering.

we drove away, a few moments of silence as i took it all in.  in my mind i hugged the little boy z used to be and wished for something better for him.  for a summit.

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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“it’s either joy or pre-joy.” [not-so-flawed wednesday]

pre joy joy

a fine line.  the place between pre-joy and joy.  for mike libecki there is no space on the continuum between the two.  it is merely one or the other.  pre-joy or joy.

mike is a mountain climber.  because i am an obsessive mountain-climbing-video-documentary-movie-watcher, we watched him and cory richards in their national geographic antarctic mountain climb to summits not reached before.  it was brutal.  the wind.  the weather.  the elements of the climb.  agonizingly difficult.

but mike was adamant, stating above the furious wind again and again, “it’s either joy or pre-joy.” any moment of torturous climbing or bearing the effects of the weather was a moment of ‘pre-joy’.  all other moments were ‘joy’.  it’s an amazing way to look at things.  an amazing way to look at life.  everything leads to joy.  you are always in joy or on your way there.

in what we would describe as a watershed time, this short quote is a lesson in staying grounded.  in sentiment i have heard before, but never as succinctly shorthand, a reminder to look always to the light, the horizon, not backwards, not at the dark, not measuring in the negative.  re-group, re-center, re-evaluate, re-perspective-arrange and move through pre-joy to joy.  a cup always with something in it, never empty.  always a portion waiting for you to add to it, make the best assumptions, hope, appreciate, carry the jug to the next waterhole for it is there.  “we must live sweet,” mike says.

we carry the torch so often for the negative.  we moan and complain and gossip and pick fights.  in this roller coaster of life, what about carrying the torch for joy?  what about lighting the way for yourself, for others, helping to find the light, the joy?  believe that we are only an ice-pick or a few carabiners or a length of rope away.  we are on the mountain.  all of us.

i would like to try to remember this “it’s either pre-joy or joy” and live and work and play by it.

because i believe in joy and the sheer power, potential of joy; it’s a force.  i just need remember to believe that all roads lead there.  one day is joy.  the next is pre-joy.  it is all on the same continuum.  it is all the same life.  we all share the same possibility.  all paths summit.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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the summit. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

don't worry

not being a real true climber, i’m not sure if the above statement is really true.  what about the “hit. climb.  hit. climb.” of ice-picking your way up?  what about crampons?  what about ropes and aluminum ladders perched against the icy pitch?

i do, however, know this quote has good intentions.

we are hikers.  trekkers.   i/we have never used a rope or crampons or ladders or ice picks to get from point a to point b.  and watching a mountainload of everest and k2 videos, documentaries and movies hardly makes us experts in the area of climbing.  we are not even novices.

but, in terms of the metaphor of this quote, i can relate.

surely, climbing a mountain with nothing to grip onto would be nearly impossible.  all organic.  all analog.  i’m sure alex honnold would agree that if there is nothing at all to hold, with either his hand or his foot, that would make free-climbing such a face a feat of the imagination.  there has to be something.  some overlap.  some crevice.  some tiny blip of rock.  something.

so.  enter the rough.  or, in the case of the metaphoric quote, rough times.  how would we ever get to the top without them?  would we actually recognize the top?  would we appreciate the top?  would we scale the uphill were it smooth?  could we?

or did some smart-ass mountaineer quote this just to mess with us?

clearly, the men and women who have climbed everest with all its personality traits, its twists and turns, its icefalls and crevasses, its sharp ridges and its deep snow have dealt with all of it.  they have not turned away as it was too smooth.  they have not turned away as it was too rough.  they have persisted.

and maybe that there is the point.  despite the rough, the smooth, the easy, the hard, the oxygenated, the death zone, the chilling cold, the sun heating the seracs, the avalanches, the perilous altitudinal affects, the glorious summit stands ready.

the mountaintop.  it’s there for anyone who just keeps on going.  through it all.

and isn’t that all of us?

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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the icefall. [two artists tuesday]

ice castle 1 copy

the icefall was in front of us.  we had our crampons on and the ropes were secured.  ladders were stretched across the crevasses and we had weighty backpacks filled with dehydrated food, protein bars and water.  we were ready.

ha!  in our dreams.

we climb mount everest regularly.  now, don’t get all particular about whether this is literal or not.  i am a giant fan of all-things-everest so we lose our breath watching others climb on video clips, movies, in books.  we are soooo there.  but, no, not really THERE.

i can’t imagine climbing everest actually.  the perils, the training, the cold, the cost, the crowds (!) all point to the fact that i won’t be climbing everest.  but we can climb other mountains, literal and figurative, and stand at the summit shooting selfies with a triumphant expression, realizing a dream.  on our way back down we pass others on the way up; some linger on the ropes, unable to move.  we offer encouraging words, but, in our conquest, we have already forgotten what it felt like to hang, even momentarily, on the rope, paralyzed.

we all have icefalls in front of us.  they are insurmountable.  they are surmountable.   perhaps some crampons, ropes, ladders and a backpack filled with food and water will help.  believing we can realize a dream, overcome an obstacle is the first step.

and, even more,  remembering that bit of humility toward others, vulnerable on their way up while we are on our victorious way back down.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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