“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life. But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when youʼve got heroin?” - Trainspotting
South African suburbia can be quite a comfortable thing really - six foot high, razor topped imprisoning walls of protection notwithstanding, you have access to an often colonial lifestyle; perhaps a townhouse with space for the dog ; chain stores, boutiques, fancy cars, cocktail bars and night-clubs. Should you be otherwise inclined, there are a plethora of gyms - homogenised pseudo exercise/activity (proving that behind every successful buck, is a fine marketing campaign) leading us to believe that we are truly healthy…or at least part of the
“in”; crowd; there is Dolce, Diesel…and Prada. If you canʼt afford the image, pay later…
If you want a slightly different image, there are a host of tailor made, propaganda-fueled extreme sports "on offer from adventure companies, participation in which will be sure to justify your
talk-the-talk cool image. But will you walk-the walk? If all else fails, buy an SUV…the closest you get to living the advertised life is their incessant, repetitive and invasive spray.
And the price of all of this at-your-fingertips comfort and decadence?
A ball and chain!
"Huh", I hear you ask.
Well every time that you buy into the modern way, you sign a little more control away. The trappings of life are aptly named: to
enjoy your life(style) you are obliged to trade in the Devils currency of the times – money…AKA, work. And the more that you work, the more that you can do, the more that you do, the less you appreciate the simple things. Which means you must work some more, to facilitate other instant gratification, which means you have less (spare) time, but if you buy a faster car (or fly there) you can squeeze that climbing weekend in between the gym on Friday and Monday morning, which is before or after the stress management, which slots in somewhere with relationship counselling…
If that sounds a bit bland, there are magazines, periodicals and coffee-table books (the expensive coffee table is a fine place to tell guests [and yourself] who it is that you
are (or at least want to be) documenting the life as a consummate road-tripper; the dirt-bag boulderer; the compulsive big-waller ; the masochistic winter mountaineer ; or the chic para-skier.
Sign here, here and….here…
I have just finished a book written by a climber. One part personal history, one part psycho-babble about why he climbs, one part climbing. A typical formula, and itʼs always interesting to hear anotherʼs justification for being what they are. For being bold enough to break the mold, for living their dreams and destinies. In some ways it is fortuitous that the ʻcommonʼ individual has neither the means nor the ʻstoryʼ to become an adventure author. Iʼm not convinced that Bed & Breakfast accommodation make as enthralling a read as sleeping in building sites with just your ʻpack. Nor am I convinced that the complexities of assuring themselves and everyone else that their authority (from a squeezed-in climbing ʻcareerʼ) on grades and how it canʼt be such-n-such because THEY canʼt do it, is as captivating as, say, climbing virgin, un-graded terrain.
That said, there could well be some fruit for interesting reading:
Perhaps the common sheep would find a spot of individualism, some creativity after all. How else can you sleep easy knowing that you are living someone elseʼs prescribed life, creating metropolitan and corporate wealth (not yours), fastidiously saving so that you can at least die from that premature stress-induced heart failure with a positive bank-balance and a collection of magazine scrap-books filling the space on your bookshelf labelled
my adventures”, than by living a fictitious adventure. The justification for why so many donʼt break the mold but choose prescribed subservience would make a fascinating read.
“Hi my name is Joe, and Iʼm a sheep. [“hiiii Joe”]. I need society to tell me how to live because…”
Be bold, live your life and rather enjoy the
regular-menu” life via glossy magazines. They are more plentiful and way easier to ʻborrowʼ than climbing magazines – you can read them en route to the checkout counter, or any still-trapped friends place…if all else fails read them at a doctors rooms until you get kicked out.
Ultimately life is short, and the terminus thereof is not always in your hands - I donʼt care what the insurance guy said just before you signed. Write your aspirations down in hard ink, then look yourself in the mirror. Are you a climber? Or do you just climb? What is it, really, that is prohibiting that month in Thailand, that winter in the Buttermilks or the season in Tibet? Why do you get out of bed every morning?
Is the life that you wake up to the one that you want, or is your slavery because The Devil Works You Hada?
Screw the television, screw the career…screw the electrical fucking tin openers!
Choose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when youʼve got climbing?