“The truth is, I like an unforgiving climate where if you make mistakes you suffer for it. That’s what turns me on. It’s like the difference between windsurfing on Lake Como in the summer and off the coast of Maine in winter. One is a challenge, the other is a soft option, something you do at weekends when you want to have a good time. But every year you need to flush out your system and do a bit of suffering. It does you a power of good. I think it’s because there is always a question mark about how you would perform. You have an idea of yourself and it can be quite a shock when you don’t come up to your own expectations. If you just tootle along you can think you’re a pretty slick bloke until things go wrong and you find you’re nothing like what you imagine yourself to be. But if you deliberately put yourself in difficult situations, then you get a pretty good idea of how you are going. That’s why I like feeding the rat. It’s a sort of annual check-up on myself. The rat is you, really. It’s the other you, and it’s being fed by the you that you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that’s smashing, that is. Then the rat’s had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It’s a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute, just for your own peace of mind. And even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn’t be that great unknown. But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, I can’t think of anything sadder than that.”
— Mo Anthoine
Alvarez, A., “Feeding the Rat”, © 2001, Adrenaline Classics, p. 138.
This quote, as cited above, comes from the book Feeding the Rat, written by Al Alvarez. I got myself one new copy of the book to keep nice and save for a rainy day, and one used copy that’s already been well-loved to carry around with me so I’m not upset, nor will I notice, when it gets scuffed up a bit more during my travels. The reason I like this quote so much is that it resonates with me. It speaks to me and describes what I have never been able to about the difficulties of life and why climbing soothes me as it does.