Wednesday, March 16, 2005

softly softly catchee monkey

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Icy Night, Alfred Stieglitz, 1892

I’ve been really fascinated by survival stories lately. It started with a vague change in inclination from fiction to non, and it really picked up when I picked up, completely by chance, a book about an ill-fated Arctic expedition in 1913 (it’s called The Ice Masters) a few years ago. I recently finished Into the Wild, a book about a promising young man who started life pretty much where I did, but finished it frozen, starved, and utterly alone in a handmade sleeping bag, in an abandoned bus, in Alaska.

This past weekend, I saw the unforgettable, humbling, gripping (no more relevant adjectives come to mind) Touching the Void, a semi-documentary film about two British alpinists who amazingly survive(d) a disastrous climb (actually, the descent is where everything goes wrong) in Peru. This film reminded me of Open Water, another real life horror film almost impossible to sit through, and equally impossible to be done with.

I wonder why these stories are so compelling, not only to those who are drawn into experiencing them first hand, but also to people who would never dream of taking such risks on forbidding mountains or icy poles, people like me. I did have a friend in high school who vanished on one such venture. Completely disappeared. And of course, he was and still is assumed dead. For a time, I also lived on a frozen tundra where every day (not only in winter) I triumphed in my ability to survive. Maybe it’s as simple as that. We all seek challenges, great or small, that call into question our very existence, because simply existing doesn't suffice.

4 Comments:

Blogger vague tourist said...

Που να σας λέω κι εγώ ιστορίες επιβίωσης, για εκείνα τα μαρτυρικά 79 λεπτά του «Open water»...

Και δώστου να κωλοβαρούν και να τσαλαβουτούν τα σκυλόψαρα και δαγκωνιά να μη δίνουν! «Γιατί, καλά μου, δε τους κάνετε μια χαψιά να φεύγουμε;», μονολογούσα καθώς σκεφτόμουν να πυρπολήσω το Ιντεάλ. Τι στο διάολο ήθελαν αυτοί οι καρχαρίες και το καθυστερούσαν μια μέρα; Ποπ-κορν;

12:48 am EET  
Blogger mezizany said...

I've always had a morbid fascination with morbidity. But recently, I'm embracing the notion that life is long, too long, dull and monotonous. Perhaps these adventurer types recognized this early enough to escape the leisurely heaven-like boring life. Sure, some call it suicidal tendencies, others see it as embracing a high at living on the extreme. For no real reason, I tend to think both are unified by the phenomenona of our being, the foundation of explanation laid down by Heidegger, augmented by me in the following mouthful I've been trying to perfect for years now. This is my latest incantation...

The being of the entity whose being is an issue for itself, thrown in the historicity of the world, simultaneously falling towards finite possibilities (including the ultimate possibility of negation i.e. death), who caringly (in an immediate authentically concernful circumspection) dwells unified in the present-at-hand spatiality (public and private) amongst Others always already equipping and equipped in the ready-at-hand negational violence of meaning (language), empowered on the margins of the enframing phallologocentric teleological natural weltanschuaang, intentionally deconstructing the priority of the ontological difference (aka the question of the being of the being whose being is an issue for itself), dis-covering an a priori existential phenomenological ontology.

That's it, folks, the meaning of life in one breath. and I think that sums up why we go to extreme adventures, risking and losing our being... simply put, because that is what being is.

5:28 am EET  
Blogger dystropoppygus said...

U-zizany: pheeew, mate! Imagine, I got this in the mail just yesterday:
"We all seek challenges, great or small, that call into question our
very existence, because simply existing doesn't suffice." I felt really happy and smiled. Maybe there's some cloning taking place after all.

On the other tentacle, can anyone do away with historicity? I guess that would mean the end of irony, thus the end of religion. Can you hear me Doctor Wu?

Oh, I just love popcorn.

8:55 am EET  
Blogger Steph said...

OK, you're starting to give me an inferiority complex here. Apparently I am about as sharp as a bowling bowl, 'cause I gotta read your posts 3 times to get half of the stuff in them...

Anyhow, here's my own near-death experience: I once climbed up a steep cliff overlooking the sea with a friend of mine, at the age of 10 or something, and we were racing each other up, until one of us turned to look down and we realized we probably wouldn't live to be 11. We froze for about an hour, until my dad came to the rescue. By that time several goats had gathered around us , staring in curiosity at our stupidity.

It was kinda cool, in hindsight :-)

PS. To make my contribution more in tune with your blog's intellectual level, let me finish with a random philosophical quote: "Words are like leaves, and where the most abound, much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found" (this was actually printed on the back cover of all our notebooks at high-school)
PPS. Don't take any of this seriously...PPPS. You guessed it, I am big big Foghorn Leghorn fan (oops, there goes the intellectual level again, I should look for another quote fast! :-)

12:32 pm EET  

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