Thursday, July 30, 2009

Such Great Heights

Night of the insomniacs. I am flanked by two creatures who are snoring absurdly, one canine and the other human. It seems impossible to distinguish the two by audible clues. I am on Coke, the beverage not the drug, although it is atypical for me to consume either. The vile liquid that I usually avoid seems to do me good, however, since I am irretrievably lost in reverie instead of hopelessly numbed in dreamlessness. So deep into the hours of the night, I mean early into the hours of the morning, I put on my metaphorical glasses and begin. I am a geek avid for documentaries, that is what I am, and there is no point in me hiding this any longer. I emerge from the ideological closet and lock the door behind me.

A pleasant surprise I had in watching one of those marvelous documentaries that leave me positively drooling. Cold Fusion. Not a story, not an informative slap in the face. Devoid of anything political or outrageous. Unlikely to attract a substantial audience, I surmise. This is about people skiing, snowboarding and flying with Promethean passion. Scarlet-cheeked and wide-smiled zealots starved for snow, air and speed. Some people obsess about misplaced plates and unvacuumed carpets, others over “pitch” and “pipe” and “powder puff.” Microcosms versus macrocosms, both up for grabs and the choice is ours. To each his own.

Watching these gods committing suicide over and over in the most secluded places on the planet I muse over these borderline attempts by humans to tempt nature. A challenge that is either infantile or demented or terribly beautiful: kill me or embrace me. Kill me or embrace me, snow. Kill me or embrace me, gravity. Kill me or embrace me, bottomless pit. Parachute. Bungee cord. Dangerous precipice. Flysuit. Climbers cannot stay away from heights because they need – a peremptory need this is – to be closer to the heavens. And once arrived there they jump into white abyss looking right into the camera. It is not like in the movies, I suspect, where the jumper watches his life flashing before his eyes and, cowering at the last minute, makes grimaces of horror and howls like a rabid wolf. These people lay back and enjoy the ride, a 41-second fall, without gratuitous sentimental wrappers.

What is it that they are thinking? “This is it, I’m falling. Feels pretty cool. What if the parachute doesn’t open?” No, strike this last one – I am sure that they are free of such quandaries. This is what true passion is all about. Now they show a straw-haired, blue-eyed, bright-smiled prettyboy who says that he lives every day as if it were his last. A formulaic comment you offered, prettyboy, but in your case it is as true as it gets. What is more borderline than living on the very edge, the edge of your board, the edge of a cliff, the edge of the world, and to fall and glide from there, trickle down like meaningless matter until the very bottom, then climb back up and start again. I take my hat off before these birdmen who comb the Earth with their feet.

It dawned on me as I was watching this that the slopes are where people are truly honest. When they are mummified in those fluffy outfits, with shields across all their tender parts, they are more naked than ever. It is all about what you do over there, not about what you say, and all you can do is whatever comes to you in the moment, without preparation, like an impromptu speech. How truistic of me to say this. Well it is precisely because the slope inhibits organs that have worn out their welcome, like the treacherous tongue, and impel others that are primordial and more authentic, like instinct and courage, which lie behind the caution tape that society wraps around us to make us more tractable. When it is just you and the snow, all that matters is what you want and where your limits are. All the skills that society deems a well-rounded man should have are irrelevant on the slope. You could be a savage, a peasant, a king, a savant, it would not matter. The slope asks one to return to level one, when The Dream was to conquer the behemoths of nature and nothing more, to conquer not with spitefulness but with reverence. To tempt nature with such audacity is simply that – reverence.

This movie injected me a fresh dose of lust to wander. I only hope that I will not be too old by the time I learn how to do all these hallucinating snow things.

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