It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.
-Soren Kierkegaard, Journals (1841)
When I think back, about the “best” trip of 2011, two stand out among the many candidates. And when I think back to the times in the past 12 months when I was the most scared, which is to say viscerally alive in terror rather than pondering my many insecurities and paranoias, I also think of two occasions only.
These two brief periods of my life are the same. As Kierkegaard has told me many times over, this is not a coincidence.
It might seem inconceivable that the Wilderness Classic would not be the best trip of the year. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of, in the strongest fetishizing and aspirational sense, for almost a decade. Since the Classic first appeared on the internet, really. It ranks with getting married and graduating college as one of the top three accomplishments of my life thus far. Sitting under a tree, soaked and shivering uncontrollably, further from human civilization than I’d ever been with a packrafting day trips and extra food worth of gear, was a test of that central impulse which underlies and motivates all outdoor adventure: can I differentiate between legitimate fear for my safety, and the less-objective fear of having to perform above my mundane limits? And yet, I keep coming back to a certain weekend in May. The Classic was more remote, longer, and lacking entirely in trails. The Bob is in my backyard, I was solo, had camping gear, and the snow made things quite potentially dangerous. They were very different trips, but the biased equalizer that is memory holds them very close together on its shelves.
What these two trips had in common, and what 2011 was in general most strongly characterized by, was coming to an ever more exact understanding of what dangers were a threat to my life, and what fears had primarily to do with self-demanding that I rise to the occasion. The brilliantly nasty paradox here is that the better you become acquainted with your capacities, the more you’ll have to demand of yourself. Which is to say that once I start getting back into shape next month, things will start hurting. If I could manage to find my way out of Big Salmon Creek, over Browns Pass in June, and across the Hayes Range only napping, a whole range of fears which in the past would have presented themselves as compelling prudence will in 2012 have suddenly become excuses only. To quote Kierkegaard again: “Every person, if he so wills, can become a paradigmatic human being, not by brushing off his accidental qualities, but by remaining in them and ennobling them. He ennobles them by choosing them.” (Either/Or, p. 262)
So then, my goal for 2012 is to continue to become a paradigmatic human being, by further crystallizing my potential with the lens of wilderness races. In other words, to try my hardest to win the Wilderness Classic. And then be able to even better explain this, here, next year.
My other goals are to do lots of snow camping, get in the best shape of my life, catch lots of fish come summer, and take my writing here and elsewhere to new levels. M bought me a domain name yesterday as a holiday gift, and I have exciting plans for my writing here and several projects currently in the works for BPL. M and I will soon be off in the mountains for our own holiday retreat, so things will be quiet here until the new year.
Best wishes to everyone, and thank you for reading.