I wrote a sermon this morning and I believed it was relevant. I wrote about effort and commitment and how I relate to it, adjusting my emotional state as I progress from an eager, excited and optimistic condition to confrontation with the reality of waning reserves and fear of a negative outcome.
Then I attended a fitness competition where I witnessed the dichotomy of total commitment to an ideal and the commercial exploitation of it. The individual passion and effort outweighed the commerce, at least for me. I understand that each feed off the other, and each is a necessary motivator and facilitator for the evolution of human performance in this context. The physical performance was incredible to witness but it ended there. Without a meaningful emotional or intellectual lesson for me as a spectator.
Driving back to the hotel I stopped at a store to buy dinner. In that parking lot, thousands of miles from home and friends and support, I checked my social media. There I learned that Dean Potter had crashed and burned in Yosemite.
I always knew he would. He was destined for a short but influential life. And it wasn't his individual demise that hit me but the fact that a fellow artist and searcher had completed his trajectory. Did he die too soon? Or had he moved on after having done what he was here to do?
This forced me to ask myself - yet again - if I am doing what I am here to do, what I am obliged to do after having survived when others did not. For fuck's sake I don't want to waste the gift of life after having fought so hard to stay alive.
Dean was a force. Connected to the natural world in a way few others I've known have been. He had vision and the skill to express it. And his relationship to socially mandated rules was similar to mine: do what you want, accept responsibility for your actions. He did. And he did.
I believe we can learn far more from how Dean lived than from what fitness competitors do and say along their personal trajectories. But we are drawn to what we can identify with, and what is accessible to us. A life lived and expressed on mountains and in the natural environment - which my personal bias insists is the greatest teacher - offers more powerful lessons than any artificially created and perpetuated challenges ever could. Still, we do the best we can with what we have. If we are confined to the urban world we learn and express our truth in that environment and it is as relevant as we need it to be. I have lived this for the last three or four years.
Before that I was given the gift of the mountains and a relationship to the natural environment that is unreachable for many. Gym Jones evolved from my experiences up there. I realized after many years that my experiences were human and universal and not confined to the mountains. And that we could apply the lessons learned there in any situation where human beings are present because it is us who universalize experience.
Sure, look out there, and admire and learn from how these concepts are expressed in different places but don't relegate those experiences or lessons to a specific environment or individual. If he or she can do it you can too. Where ever you are. The bonds you have accepted this day need not bind you in the future.
Resist. Fight. Choose your future. Fly. Free.
Rise In Peace, Dean. 051615.