Perspective Through Climbing: Truth

In life we talk of many truths.  The truth of the situation.  The truth of the business world.  The truth of the way society operates.  The truth of politics.  The partial truths we all tell ourselves to deflect the authenticity of our actions.  In this age of consideration of feelings and political correctness, I’ve noticed a change in the use of the word truth.  The preface, “The truth is…”, has become common place in avoiding just that.

I recently had to take a step back from my normal day to day life and interactions to search for the truth in a situation.  Confused by vagueness and contradictions I struggled to probe into the truth of it all and spent a lot of time alone climbing at a local bouldering area.  Hunter’s Rocks is far enough away and expansive enough that it is possible to spend an entire day there and not run into another person.  And the climbing.  The climbing is wonderfully varied and challenging.  Ranging from both easy and powerful problems with only a few moves and long seemingly endless circuits, to 40′-50′ highballs at their tallest.  Two days ago I found myself wandering through the boulders searching for that wall of rock that would help me gain insight.  I eventually found myself  in front of my favorite short slab.  As I stood in front of it staring blankly, I was thinking more of the wall in the corner of my eye, at the end of the corridor instead of this place I wanted to be.  This comfortable zone of existence.  I’ve looked at this wall a lot.  I’ve walked up to it and even played around with the holds at the bottom on occasion but I eventually walk away every time, telling myself one or more of a myriad of reasons for not climbing it.  “It is too damp right now.  My feet will slip and I will fall.  It is too hot right now.  My hands are sweaty and I will slip and fall.  I’m not strong enough to make those moves and I will fall”.  It is not a tall rock, topping out around 15′-20′, but it is ominous to me.  The foot placements thin out.  The wall starts to pitch and looms over me instilling doubt.
But as I stood there, my mind preoccupied with trying to answer questions that are not mine to answer, I found myself in a familiar state.  It was too hot and I was sweating.  It had recently rained and the rock was damp.  I was tired.  “The truth is…”.  Ha.  The truth.  The truth of it at this time was as it had been every other instance I looked at this climb.  I was simply afraid.  It was easier to look at the conditions and use them to make myself feel better about walking away instead of facing the truth.  So here I stand.  Alone.  Facing this inauspicious problem.

I touch the rock and it is cold and damp.  I breathe with purpose.  Inhaling the honesty of where I am and how I feel, while trying to exhale the fear and inhibitions that glazed over the truth of it so many times before.  My first foot placement slips.  “It is damp.  You are going to fall.”  I re-position my foot on the rock and step up leaving the safety and comfort of the ground.  As I move higher the holds are not what I want them to be.  They are not ideal.  A little slick.  Too small.  The wrong angle.  All partial truths.  My body is tense and I become aware of my mind concentrating more on what has happened in the past and a manufactured future than where I am in this moment.  “That was a different time and place.  This rock is different.  I am different.”  I do not want to face this thing I am afraid of but I can not live a lie hiding behind the half truths of my discomfort.  This is where I am.  This is what is in front of me.  I close my eyes trying to concentrate on breathing and emptying my mind.  Trying to accept this place I am in.  I am still afraid but a very simple choice has to be made.  Do I allow this fear to take hold and cause me to fall or not?  No longer trembling, the irrevocable decision to climb this rock, face this truth, steadied my shaking spirit.  Every hand and foot placement from then on is precise.  Every movement fluid.  It is not because I am no longer afraid.  I am so very afraid.  It is instead because I am resolute in facing that truth of fear.  As I climb over the lip of the wall the anxiety and tension inside escapes in a bellowing echo along the corridors of rock, spilling over the hillside and dissipating into the expanse of the forest.  Standing atop a pinnacle above the canopy I can see all that surrounds me.  There is nothing to my left and nothing to my right.  Nothing to lean on.  Nothing to hold. I spread my arms wide and welcome everything that is in front of me while leaving behind the charade of circumstantial truth.

It is easy to live in comfort.  That is why we all lie in some way, either to others or ourselves.  Running away from the truth because it is hard.  Avoiding the thing in the corner our eye, our minds that would just be easier not to acknowledge.

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