Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Between a rock and a hard place

I watched '127 Hours' today. And was blown away, to say the least. The movie is based on a true incident that happened to Aron Ralston, who documented it in his book (which inspired the title of this post).
*Spoiler alert! For the next two paragraphs.*
Trapped by a boulder in a canyon while hiking in Utah, with no way out and no chance of being rescued, Aron does the unthinkable. He amputates his own arm with a blunt multi-use knife. Slowly, deliberately, literally painstakingly. And then rapels down a cliff, starving and delirious and finally walks miles to his rescue.
While that in itself is incredible, to me what's more incredible is what follows, captured in a 2-minute post-script in the movie. He keeps going! Even today he's an avid climber, continuing to do the same things he used to before this incident. Moreover, he's apparently learned something about his tendency to be alone and disconnected...he's now married and has a son.
It's such a cliche to talk about 'learning from mistakes' and 'picking oneself back up' and so on, but to see a shining example of this is so inspiring. This movie and this story is exactly what I needed. This movie redefines determination, perseverance and hope for me.
Hopefully when I'm caught between a rock and a hard place next time, I won't be afraid to lose a bit of myself in order to find a new me at the end of the journey.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In defense of angst

I've long maintained that there is beauty in pain that's unparalleled by the gloss of joy. Think about the great forms of creative expression - music, art, film-making...If not for true, deep, searing sorrow or pain or suffering, we wouldn't have several masterpieces.
For us lesser mortals not given to creative expressions at the masterpiece level, pain at the very least, acts as a wake-up call. A symptom that something needs fixing. An inner thermostat if you will. In fact, one of my favorite thinkers, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee) conceptualized anxiety and boredom as opposite, undesirable ends of a spectrum in which the optimal point is what he called 'flow'...being completely involved in an experience and deriving immense satisfaction and enjoyment from it. The corollary is therefore, that anxiety is a signal that there is lack of equilibrium.
Recognizing this is needs to be done to restore equilibrium and bring back flow. From angst comes insight. From confusion will be born clarity. Passing through fire we emerge pure and slightly wiser than before.
The challenge therefore, is in moving ever onward towards greater insight, clarity and wisdom to keep us in a state of flow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What I am

This new year I got a very interesting email from a new friend. After recounting all the things he was grateful for in 2010, he ended by saying he's thankful for learning that "everything I'm not makes me everything I am".
How interesting - that's how I feel exactly! While I'd be hard pressed to describe myself or what I want, I can tell you much quicker what I'm not and what I don't want.
I'm not a fan of adventure sports (or any sports); I don't like country music; I'm not religious; I'm not very good with numbers or languages; I'm not interested in accolades; I don't like the idea of sharing passwords; I'm not very politically savvy and I'm not good at flirting with the right guys.
That makes me a bit of a prissy sissy agnostic dumb wallflower. Right?