Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saying Yes to Cracks

Today, Tom and I spent a bit of time wandering the back packer/rock climber/snow skier paradise that is REI. Recreational Equipment, Inc. (or REI) is the first place we head when looking for camping accessories, gear, equipment, or survival supplies. It’s a pretty awesome store, to be sure.

We strolled around, measured me for a backpack, and then looked at rock climbing paraphernalia.

“I’ve always wanted to rock-climb”, said Tom. Okay, this news surprises me.

“Really? Since when?”

“Since always. In fact, I’m gonna set a goal for myself, and make it happen.” And I think he will.

I started looking—really looking at the special equipment needed to climb a sheer face of granite and not die. One needs the right shoes, ropes, aluminum rings (carbiners), and monolithic protection.

Then I saw the Spring-Loaded Camming Device, or SLCD. The idea of this ingenious little mechanism is to hook into the cracks of the rock to secure the climber and give him something to hold on to as he pulls himself up ever higher.

When placing an SLCD, the climber pulls a mechanism to retract the cams, places it in a crack with the stem pointing down, and releases the mechanism, allowing the cams to spring back against the rock. When the SLCD is pulled downward (say, because of a fall), the spiral-shaped cams are forced harder against the rock, making it more secure. – Stephen Edwards, rock climber

Although some rock faces are considered “sheer”, there are always cracks—some are crazy tiny and some are deep and wide. Without the cracks there’d be nothing to grab hold of and therefore the rock would be impossible to climb.

I love the movie, “Pretty Woman”. Edward (played by Richard Gere) is afraid of heights. He occupies the penthouse suite, which is on the roof of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. He won’t even step out onto the terrace to look out over the city because he’s too scared. Why then, if he’s so afraid of heights, does he stay up there? “Because it’s the best.”

That’s the very reason people give when asked why they climb mountains. “Because it’s the best.” They love the view, the air, the adrenaline rush, and the feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes with overcoming great obstacles and making it to the top.

If we are to reach our full potential and climb to the top of life, we’ve got to face our fears, get and use the right equipment, and summon all our strength and courage to tackle the challenge. But (and this is important), if life is smooth and without cracks, we won’t have anything to hook onto and pull ourselves up. The crevices, cracks, and crannies are necessary imperfections that help us in our climb.

So, next time you hear someone bragging about how smooth life is and how lucky he or she is to have never encountered any breaks in their perfect life, think about the rock climber. Those people might miss out on the experience of standing high up on a challenging mountain of trials and knowing the thrill of surviving—of making it to the top.

You know…I like the fact that my fissures and fractures have been exposed. They’ve given me the footing I needed to climb up over the obstacles and ugly hurdles. And let me tell you, the view from up here is awesome!

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