Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ignore the Elitists and enjoy your climb: Imagine....

yes, imagine you were a reader who viewed your reading like many elitist alpinists view climbing.  You might consider yourself a reader who has dared to read what others would never dream to undertake.  You tackle James Joyce as "light reading" before you delve into the likes of Hegel or Woolf (see this list for some others).  Your struggles through these tough reads empowers you to criticise others who dare crack open Joyce with the crutch of a reader guide.  Those aided excursions into Joyce are not true to the author's intent; the true reader must struggle alone to get through the books.  Your struggles must include a depth of misery and thoughtful reflection the authors intended you to endure.  You are no reader if you cannot handle these tasks.  Stop reading if you fail to live up to these standards.

Sounds silly, no?  Well, elitist alpinists think like this imaginary elitist reader.  Note, I use the term elitist rather than elite because there are many elite climbers (alpinists, mountaineers, adventurers, etc.) who do not hold this elitist perspective.  It is the elitist I am talking about here and I wanted to take a moment today to reflect on why I think elitism is bad for any activity.  Note: Earlier this year, I posted a bit on elitism in sport.   The current post is a bit of an extension of those ideas. 


"Consciousness of being or belonging to an elite"
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

What makes a person hold an elitist view?  I have no clue.  Well, perhaps a few clues.  Perhaps these views come from some strong need to be unique and assert your uniqueness to others.  Social dominance orientation (SDO; Pratto et. al 1994) may explain why some feel the need to be different and, more importantly better than others.  Another explanation may be simply an individual's narcissism that drives them to this sense of superiority.  I also understand the need to be appreciated.  When an individual's orientation, personality, or need lead others to disengage in perfectly reasonable activities, I think it is time to call out the culprits.  Today, I call them out for the sake of all those who enjoy climbing at any level.  Do not let elitists ruin your time in the hills.  Climb and enjoy the experience.  Find others who enjoy climbing and share your experiences - ignore the elitists.  

Why say something today?

A recent set of articles published by Forbes (start reading this link if you feel the need) really struck a nerve or several in me.  Perhaps today's post represents a strong reaction to an individual and maybe my generalizations go beyond the vast majority but I witnessed sufficient evidence over the last year to warrant this post.  The great Reinhold Messner compared Everest expeditions to Kindergarten.  Perhaps the analogy is warranted given his extreme alpine expeditions but we all rely on some form of support in areas of our lives.  

I arrived at this point after reading many books written by (perhaps for?) and interviews of elitist climbers.  Not all climbers espouse these views but there are some parade examples from recent publications.  I find these elitist perspectives troubling.  Why should we all hold ourselves to the same standards they set?  

Elitism in other sports

Running, cycling, and triathlons all experienced and continue to experience elitists and their continued criticism of those who choose to endure rather than race.  Why bother doing these events if you cannot win?  Well, there is a great benefit.  Training for these events helps you improve your fitness, health, and well-being.  Sure, some take it a bit too far but most people get more positives out of the preparation than those who remain firmly affixed to their couches and remote controls.  Training develops discipline and good time-management skills.  Again, there are some who get obsessive about workouts and often let personal obligations slide in favor of a workout.  Don't let these exceptions cloud your view of the positive benefits.  We all benefit from participation.

Enjoy your time in the mountains

My primary point of this post is to emphasize that we all derive some benefit from being outdoors and being in the mountains.  Would the elitists prefer none go outdoors to claim some benefit?  Some people require more assistance than others but their experience is no less rewarding or challenging - to that person or even those who cheer them on - than any other's experience.  We all make do with what we have and the extent that an expedition challenges us probably has more to do with what we were born with and where we grew up.  In short, luck played a huge role in how hard these challenges are and there is no need to crow about luck.  Forget celebrating luck, genes, and good fortune.  Celebrate and support those who try to the best of their abilities.  

So climb and do not apologize for any assistance you seek out or rely upon.  Know full well that many others admire your drive to get off the couch.

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