Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"127 Hours" and other Strangely Ironic Tales of Success


      It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the legendary story of Aron Ralston was made into a film. Although the story is now quite well known, Aron Ralston was made famous by his incredible story of survival from a canyoneering accident near Moab, Utah. While climbing alone, a large boulder fell on his arm, pinning him inside a tight canyon with no way of getting out. In an incredible demonstration of the power of will, Ralston cut off his own arm with a small pocketknife, somehow repelled out of the canyon and hiked several miles before finding help. The book and movie are destined to become classics and have already received great reviews.

      Its strangely and beautifully ironic, isn't it? I do not mean to appear insensitive or sadistic by this, only to point out the final results of such an ordeal. A man has a ghastly and gruesome encounter with death, is forced to do the unthinkable, and comes out a successful motivational speaker, climber and businessman. Not only that, but many other survivors of harrowing experiences have had similar success as writers, motivational speakers and businessmen.

      Take for example, the story of Joe Simpson, who's story is every bit as unimaginable as Ralston's. Joe Simpson was the "Aron Ralston" of the 80's. For sake of time, the simplified account of his story is this; Joe and his climbing partner Simon Yates summit the previously unclimbed west route of Siula Grande, a 20,000ft mountain in the Andes. After just barely starting their descent Simpson breaks his leg, which, with the route and elevation, is a death sentence. Both Simpson and Yates continue at a snail's pace until another disaster happens. Essentially, Yates lowers Simpson to the end of the rope, leaving him stranded mid-air over a deep crevasse. Yates is forced to cut the rope sending Simpson plunging deep into this crevasse. Not only does he survive this fall, Simpson is able to climb out of the crevasse and crawl his way down the technical route without any water or food. He was quite literally dying when he reached base camp.
      After such a harrowing experience, Simpson wrote a famous book, Touching the Void, which became one of the greatest mountaineering books ever written. It was subsequently turned into a documentary and Simpson is now a famous motivational speaker. He recounts the irony of the situation in a true and humorous manner. "Almost dying on Siula Grande... has made me a successful businessman, which I find odd". The list goes on. The Worst Journey in the World, Alive, Into Thin Air, and many of our favorite stories of the power of human will all seem to have propelled the writer into timeless stardom.

     I hope that I do not appear as if I believe these amazing and factual stories do not deserve attention. On the contrary, I truly enjoy them and have the highest respect for those who have survived the most unthinkable situations. If anything, they provide more support to ideas that we consider cliche or take for granted: the importance of optimism, the power of attitude and how even the worst of situations can turn out for the better. Perhaps the real question I would ask our survival heroes is, "Knowing how it would all turn out, would you still have stopped yourself from going on what would become a terrifying survival experience?"

     In conclusion, in order to get my little blog to take off, I am considering putting myself through an incredible near death experience.



(just kidding)

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