Fall. Fall now. Fall hard. Fall long. Fall so long and so hard and so far that the force of your falling mass – the dead weight that is you attached to the end of your rope – catapults your belayer and all your fears into the sky. You are the counterpoise of the trebuchet that is your life – only you can cast off the load that is weighing you down. Fear, uncertainty, insecurity – it all weighs heavily on your shoulders. Cast it off. Everything. You don’t need it.

Fall. Fall now. Fall hard. Fall long. Fall so long and so hard and so far that you rip gear from the wall. That tiny, finger-sized piece. Yeah, the one you’d slivered into the crack with shaking legs and shaking arms. The one you’d told yourself was good (or good enough, anyway) and clipped it to the rope. Or maybe it was that big cam. That same piece that you thought could anchor a battleship to a bundok… Fall on it. Rip it from the wall. Make a twenty-foot whipper out of the one you’d hoped would stop at ten. Ready your mind and savour the plunge and slam hard against the wall and feel what it’s like to fail. Feel, so you can remember, what it’s like when the gear fails.

Yeah. The system doesn’t always work the way you were hoping. The tiniest perturbation in the system – an arbitrarily small change – can make a shambles of your plans. Mathematicians call this “sensitivity to initial conditions”. Chaos ensues, inevitably. Maybe the perturbation was one you’d failed to notice – a cam lobe wasn’t seated properly behind a jutting crystal inside the crack. Maybe the perturbation was one you couldn’t have noticed – the biotite minerals inside this particular section of granite are heavily hydrolysed and the feldspar crystals have become powdery and rotten – friable rock. The cam was always going to rip, a chemist would say. After the fact, of course.

Regardless, this is what it feels like to fall. To fail. This is what it feels like to be run out far above that last piece and then to blow it. To not be good enough at the right moment in time. This is what it feels like to be flipped upside down by the rope when it wraps itself behind your leg (your fault, that). This is what it feels like to be re-oriented, eyeballs pointed earthward, and to watch the ground rushing towards you. You, the climber, the one who’s just made the transition to bungee jumper.

After the fall, and after you hit the wall, and flail around at the end of the rope, whooping at your friends about the big whipper you just took, you will realise that the fall was nothing, that the whipper doesn’t even matter, that you were wrong to be afraid in the first place, because even though your gear ripped you are still fine, totally fine, and your fear of falling was totally irrational. Right?


The fall doesn’t matter. It never did.

It doesn’t matter.

You will come to this realisation while you are falling. That it – everything that is – doesn’t actually matter. In end. In the midst of the act of falling though, it’s not the fall itself that doesn’t matter, but the you that doesn’t matter. What happens to you next is out of your control. And in allowing yourself to fall you have come to terms with the meaning of you. The ontology of you. The body that is hurtling through space.

Finally, you have come to the realization that you are not invulnerable – that this climb was just too hard for the you at this particular moment in time. And regardless of whether you are alive or dead at the end of this fall, it simply doesn’t matter. What happens happens. Live. Die. Break your foot. Whatever. What will ensue in the fullness of chaos will ensue. And you don’t matter.

So fall. Fall now. Release yourself from the wall. Take the whipper. Log some air time. Admit to yourself that you have failed. Come to terms with it. Be content with it so that you can throw yourself at the feet of failure again and again in the future. Failure is the only thing that is certain to repeat itself in the future. Success, though gratifying, is only fleeting. If you succeed at something you might never succeed again. Defeat, ultimately, is the only constant. Don’t let the snake-oil salesmen and self-help mystics tell you otherwise. In the gym, you’d “train to failure” wouldn’t you? So accept it. Embrace it.

And fall. Be the guillotine – the one that is crashing down upon your own ego – that same ego that brought you up here in the first place. Maybe then, you will learn something.

bluies 2

The author climbing in the Blue Mountains. (Photo: John Price)

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