As a third part to the series of posts I’ve started about what makes things what they are, here, finally, we arrive at climbing. In my opening post on this subject, I wrote, “Thinking about a thing – forming an inevitable perception of a thing – is what makes things what they are. Otherwise, things are what they are, and remain so – unnoticed, mind you.” After reading the introductory post with the example of the snowstorm, then the second post with the scenario of the soldier, we now find ourselves on the subject of climbing with this idea.
Let’s begin with what climbing is, bare bones. Climbing is “to draw or pull oneself up, over, or to the top of by using hands and feet” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary © 2018). This would be the unnoticed state of climbing, which simply is what it is. Nobody would think of this as anything but neutral and would have no perception of it – nobody except a climber, that is. A climber, by definition, engages in this act and therefore has not only thinking to form their perception of climbing with, but also the experience of it. The experience helps a climber form a powerful perception of climbing, which makes it both what it is and what it isn’t to each individual climber. In climbing, experience is crucial to that perception!
“But, wait a minute,” you’re saying, “I thought you said that one had only to think about a thing to form a perception of it and that’s what makes things what they are. Now you’re throwing experience in. What’s the deal?” In climbing, the experience of being on the wall and not thinking about what you’re doing, but instead allowing your body to move across the rock and your mind to be in the present moment, is the highest and most meaningful perception one can hope for from the experience of climbing. It is something a climber must be aware of but not attempt to grasp, because if the climber attempts to make it happen, that guarantees that it won’t. Those moments and the experience of pure movement across the rock in the present moment are what every climber who has ever experienced it seeks, but cannot force to or make happen. The perception is fleeting, but worth years of training and climbing to experience for those few brief moments to a climber. In this case, not thinking about the very thing that you seek is the key to perceiving and experiencing it.
So what’s the answer? Climbing is a very unique experience in itself. The thought that goes into the visualization of ascending a route on the rock offers part of the perception that makes it what it is just as much as actually feeling the texture and temperature of the holds, the weight of your body hanging from your fingers and toes, which grasp the holds of the rock, the aches and pains or lack thereof that you feel while reaching for the next hold, and the focus on the next hold required to press onward – upward – toward your goal… But what is your goal? That is part of the perception as well. Your goal may actually influence your experience more than anything. And that goal is a thought that you have in the back of your mind that steers all perception. It is your focus. You may just be climbing laps to train power-endurance for a different climbing project completely, but then, during that oxygen-deprived moment of freedom, you experience that pure movement in the present moment while only focusing on the next hold, and that is what makes things what they are. It has gone unnoticed until now. And now that you have it, you focus upon it and it’s gone. Was it real, or was it a delusion? You lie there after you’ve either made your ascent or once you’ve descended, thinking about it, trying to form a perception of it and wrap your head around it, but you can’t because it’s always just beyond your grasp, and that is what makes things what they are.