A Portrait Of You, Framed By Time
Recently, I went on a camping trip. But that's vague. With my friends Nate Davison and Sam Ruderman, I ventured deep into the Holy Cross Wilderness area of Colorado on an alpine bouldering development escapade.
It went like this:
- I got on Google Earth to look for rocks. I always start by looking in the high alpine canyons with big cliffs that deposit big boulders. They're not exactly hard to find in Colorado.
- I found a potential spot in the Holy Cross Wilderness that appeared to be close to the trail. Nate inspected it for a second opinion. We settled on going there as soon as possible.
- Remembering a B3Bouldering blog post written by Jamie Emerson in 2009 about exploration, I went back and reread it. It didn't seem that Jamie had been there (which we later confirmed in person), but I didn't doubt that others had been.
- Whether or not other boulderers had been there before was irrelevant. We decided to hike in and camp nearby.
- So we hiked in and camped nearby.
Over the course of three days, Nate, Sam, Sam's dog Rusty, and I scrambled around the area, finding a few zones with a lot of climbable rock. We saw no evidence of human climbers there (i.e. chalk, constructed landings, trash, cleaned lines, etc.).
From what I can tell after scanning this USGS Report, what we found was likely a smattering of biotite gneiss, a type of rock that forms from the metamorphosis of ancient sedimentary deposits. It's hard to tell from the reports I've seen – and maybe I'm just out of practice as a researcher – but this rock may be around 1.7 billion years old. 1.7 BILLION YEARS. As I wrote in a FrictionLabs Blog post (that's as of yet unreleased), that's 37% of the total time Planet Earth has existed.
And this puts things in perspective. Everything we do out there in the wilderness is an infinitely small interaction with the unimaginable. As the next 1.7 billion years pass, all of our little human achievements could be lost. Genesis, the climb in the photo above, will probably be buried underground after the Rocky Mountains erode away, reduced to magma, churning and boiling and continuing to metamorphose. Humans will not be humans anymore, long since having forced the next step of our evolution into the mechanical phase, and possibly having left the solar system altogether. I mean, 1.7 billion years ago, life on Earth was composed merely of single-celled organisms; a lot can change in that amount of time. Who cares what some measly humans did in a boulder field in 2016?
But on the other hand, what we do matters. I think of it like this:
- The rocks we climb are statues; physical embodiments of the infinite (in reality, of course, they're dynamic and fluid when perceived on the appropriate time scale). They represent our chance to interact with the concept of the infinite, or what we perceive as the infinite.
- God represents what many of us see as THE INFINITE. I've never believed in the concept of God. I think the parameters humans have set for God through religious dogma are far too narrow for what a "God" could actually be. Given that we (Homo Sapiens) have had only a couple hundred thousand years (of a possible 13.82 billion) to contemplate the nature of a Higher Power, I think from a purely statistical standpoint we've most likely got it wrong.
- I do, however, get the sense that there exists a Cosmic Consciousness. There are multiple definitions and contexts in which to understand this term, none of which I'll go into. What I imply by using the term "Cosmic Consciousness" is simple: the Universe remembers. Considering the opinion I express in the bullet point above, I'm most likely overwhelmingly wrong about this.
- Therefore, when you climb a tiny boulder here on Earth for the first time, and your teeny little ego inflates and feels proud of itself, your accomplishment – nearly meaningless on the grand plane of spacetime – is nonetheless recorded. Remembered. Somewhere, sometime. Whether or not it's assigned any worth is a different question entirely.
The Universe's Self-Conscious Ants
Life is fun. Contemplating life is fun. We're self-conscious: we evolved from the ashes of the universe, and now we're self-aware. We are very small parts of a self-aware universe. Small like ants.
Developing boulders is the universe contributing to itself. We're all part of this shit. I think that the moment we (climbers; humans in general) realize what we are, what we're doing, we might just find that we're a little happier than we were before.
Tune in again soon for more on what we're actually doing in the Holy Cross Wilderness. Climbing photos, videos, more airy words. Leave me comments; let's get deep.