As some may have picked up on I’ve been on a bit of a survival kick lately, the climax being my solo camping trip in the freezing forest. Part of this fascination was triggered by the movie 127 Hours. I just completed the book, so today’s post will be both a book review and a further dwelling into survival. Clearly it’s an amazing tale (obviously it is if it’s nominated for so many awards). Just a little back ground on this ultimate test of will to live, for those who may live under a rock (SPOILER: he cuts his arm off). Aron Ralston is an American (he’s actually a Hoosier!) mountaineer/climber. After moving to Colorado as a child and years in the outdoors he up and quits his engineer job to pursue his passions for the great wilderness. Clearly he is a clever guy. But we all know smart people can be in the wrong place at the wrong time too. While going through a slot canyon in a remote part of Utah in 2003, he dislodged a boulder, which conveniently finds a resting spot on his right arm, pinning it to the canyon wall. He then takes you through his array of emotions. From anger at the boulder, which he ferociously chips away at to more rational though that HE did this. You feel his hopelessness as he tries to feebly move the boulder, confined to one space. He runs out of food and water, forcing him to drink his own urine. Which brings up the 1st survival bit, could you drink your own urine? You’re there when the first thought of amputation seems so ludicrous and his 1st attempt doesn’t even break skin. Move next to saying good-bye because clearly you’re not going to make it. So you tape through your feelings on life (that it’s the people you surround yourself with that make life enjoyable) to memories from the past. Eventually signs of dehydration appear and he begins to hallucinate, going into a trance-like state. Imagine your body just shutting down on you! He loses a whopping 40 lbs while he’s trapped by the boulder. On day 5 he has an epiphany and regains some spirit as he realizes he needs to break his forearm bones in order to saw through his arm (with a dull knife, by the way!) Finally he tears through, but has to hike 8 miles out to his truck. Luckily he runs into help and perfect timing by the helicopter get him to a hospital to be rescued. Now that you know the story, that prompts the question: what would you be able to do to live? Would you cut your arm off or let dehydration takes its course? This may seem like an extreme case, which granted it its, but I bet Aron didn’t think this would happen in a million years; but it did. Things happen, but what are you willing to do to? I think this is also important to consider: living. Being stuck allowed Aron to reflect on life. Situations like this make you aware of what you have and how fortunate we really are. To have food, shelter, people who love us, and abundance and opportunity surrounding us. So the next time you’re complaining how bad something is, think how lucky you (it’s not like your trapped in a canyon without food and water!).
Some of my favorite things from the book:
- So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
- Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
- My goal instead was to be open to what that day was giving me and accept it. Expectations generally led to disappointment, but being open to whatever was there for me to discover led to awareness and delight, even when conditions were rough.
I thought the book was excellent, but if you don’t read it I would definitely watch the movie, as it an aspiring tale of survival and will to live.