Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Power of Youth

I've been paddling and climbing more than normally with youth of late. I've also been watching videos, reading blogs, and somehow "exposed" to a lot more youth than normal (not counting the two-year old that normally terrorizes my house).

And you know what? I like 'em, especially in contrast to some of my generation. My generation was too dark, too pissy, too steeped in nonsensical holdover Victorian ideals, and over-read in Nietzsche and Sartre (plus a few others). I'm going to write more on this 'cause I think it's time to take a hard look at the dark motivations of so many climbers and paddlers in my generation.

I'm going to give one example to illustrate the point: When we ran class V back in the 80s we ran the drop once, and called it done. We would never have enough to run it again, why bother? We had survived, we had triumphed, we had overcome our fears, and running it again would mean maybe it wasn't so bad-ass. Kids today? They run laps on class hard V drops just for grins. They set good safety that might actually do something, and they take the drops seriously, but they go up and run stuff again and again. Because it's fun. And that is the difference between light and dark, running out of fear and running for the joy of paddling moving water. Cool, the kids are better than alright, they're inspiring the hell out of me.

Ah, one more example. My generation starved ourselves to climb hard. Today's kids smoke (not all, and not Nicotine), eat organic burgers, drink microbrews and send way harder than we ever did. Who do you think is having more fun? Yeah, I'm going to bet Sharma has had a hell of a lot more fun than Karn (no disrespect to Jim--I modeled a large amount of my early climbing life off of him, surely the greatest compliment one can give, and still think of his climbing regularly).

Now I gotta go train, 'cause I'm not a kid, and 'cause I like it. Hell, I'm going to do an extra set just for the sheer joy of it. Bring it. The lightness of youth.

Dave Thomson

I went to Dave Thomson's memorial last night. I was surprised as I looked around the room at how diverse the people in attendance were; old, young, strong, fading, all walks of life, genders, just a total mix. I'm going to write about Dave for my Explore column next month as I feel his life and death really warrant recording. He was born into a place that might define normal if it weren't so over-the-top normal, and died in a most extraordinary way by his own hand. Most of the people I know who die do so in accidents. Dave went out on his own terms, which makes the death both odd and somehow socially difficult to understand. If you die in an avalanche it's a tragedy. Take your own life and it's somehow wrong. The result is the same, why does it matter how it happened? Except that in Dave's case it does, as his death was very consistent with his super-independent life.

I'm still figuring this one out; one of the reasons I have a hard time writing for "serious" publication is that it I often over-write by about a factor of 10:1. To fit Dave into roughly 800 words I'll write 8,000 then chop it down. In Dave's case the nature of his life and death deserve a book, an anthology, a movie series. Sometimes I see kids on street corners with loads of ink, piercings, whacked out clothes and so on. Dave looked kinda normal, but he may have been the most genuine, way out-there guy I ever knew. I always said I was going to write a big feature on him, and I never did. It's too late now maybe, but I'm about 3,000 words into an 800-word piece so that feature is in there... I'll let the Explore piece do the talking on Dave, but I just wanted to note the end of his physical life here.