Monday, April 15, 2013

The Climber's Place

     In his book The White Spider, Heinrich Harrer answers, as Deandra points out, many of the issues that have plagued our class this semester, such as "Why Climb?" and "Why write?"  He also addresses the recklessness (foolishness?) many accuse climbers of:

        "And are we to think less of the man who exposes himself to nature's forces than of him who just           delights in looking at her, safe from dangers and tempests? Even those ridiculous earthworms know that an icicle can 'sneeze'; but they have learned by observation when and where it happens, and will do their best to avoid the danger with that clear-eyed alertness which they ow to their own daring.  They are not deaf; they too hear the might voice of the mountains, but they understand and interpret it in a different way from those who enjoy it so passively and with such self-satisfaction" (Harrer 71)

In this passage, Harrer casts the climber in a role we have not previously seen: as the "worm" the lowliest (from our anthropocentric viewpoint) creature on earth, instead of as a warrior or a conqueror.  This humble pose has the ironic consequence of making Harrer and the climbers he s writing about seem more advanced than writers/climbers like Herzog.  By flipping the climber's place on the "Great Chain of Being," Harrer is better able to engage even the most skeptical of armchair adventurers (like myself).

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