Cultural Crevasse

A friend forwarded the following to me in an email:

“mt hood has always felt like an extra room in my house – a great big
playroom – intimate, familiar…home. i feel as if a crime has now
happened inside my demense – a murder, a rape, an unspeakable act of
violence – i fear that it will be a long time before i will be able to
walk on that hill i love so much without seeing the ghastly fingerprints
of the tragedy. i want to go back now very soon – as soon as the
mountain clears again i will return, if only to excorcise the demon that
has temporarily claimed it. i don’t need to look like some voyoeur on
the crime scene. i need to forgive the mountain, and try too to forgive
myself for the things i am inexorably drawn to do to those who love me.

perhaps it’s best not to anthropomorphize the mountain? – it is afterall
only an immense piece of frozen lava thrust high up into the rarified
and stormy pacific airflow – it doesn’t care about me or you or anyone –
it has no sense of self, no spirit – it is rather for we humans,
especially we climbers, to infuse that lifeless mass of rock and snow
with the charity and warmth of human endeavor, with a soul of memories
from countless excursions up its graceful flanks – undboutedly that glow
will dim for awhile, but it will not die – as long as men and women feel
the nebolous desire to test themselves in tempestous places it will be a
home – i hope for all of us, most particurarily the families of the lost
(a band of the bereaved that includes many more than just the families
from this most recent tragedy), that the seasons will renew in us the
love of nature that was our birth-right, that time will erase the
memories of the horror and confusion and agony of this terrible theft,
and leave us in the end with only the cherished memories of happier
times and the people we shared them with, when the fate that hangs over
all our heads was not known to us, when it seemed that the smiles could
never die.

the mountain will live longer than all of us. longer than our children.
longer than our race. it will last longer than any tombstone. it is
therefore a fitting and appropriate memorial for all who have left their
lives there. please don’t look towards it with hate. let that go. go
there again soon, with me if you want, or alone which is often much
better – go there and look up from timberline, or make tracks up the
long slope – go there and remember it is a place of dreams, even if
sometimes they turn to nightmares – in the morning we will all wake and
it will better – believe it.” -ivan

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that mountains, and other places, can have great spiritual significance. In some places you can feel the presence of Grace.

What offends me is a man (I assume he’s a man with the name “Ivan”) writing a crybaby missive like some jilted girl. He was correct to criticize himself for anthropomorphizing the mountain. He is also worthy of criticism for making the death of the climbers some great personal tragedy. It is a tragedy, but not his. It is a tragedy for the climbers and their families. It is not some great sin committed by the mountain for which the mountain must seek forgiveness – forgiveness that Ivan appears to be prepared to offer, after much wringing of his hankie.

I know what you’re thinking, “Dang Sammy! You’re really going off on the guy!” Well, not really, I don’t know “Ivan”. I do know that the sort of self-absorbed emotionalism on display in his note exemplifies a type of cultural decline. It’s quite bad, for the individual and society at large, to have no higher purpose, no vision, and little awareness beyond his own emotional roller coaster.

In another time, the families would be supported by those close to them, while the climbing community would learn as much as possible about the tragedy, in the hope that a similar event might be avoided in the future. That’s it, no more, no less.

Look, I don’t intend to criticize Ivan personally. I’m sure that he’s a regular guy and doesn’t watch “The View” while having his nails done, or anything like that.

1 thought on “Cultural Crevasse

  1. Yo Ivan…take up stamp collecting. Danger is part of the game. That’s part of the attraction. Not to admit that is just not being honest. Any cool, worthy endevour has with it the distinct possibility of getting chopped: climbing, bluewater sailing, rodeo rough stock riding (all right…personal preferences!). To blame nature is to betray the covenant you made when you signed up. You’re pissing on the rule book. You don’t deserve the mountain.

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