Art During Crisis
About a month ago I started this email blast. Then I got busy with work and life and the email languished in the draft folder. The last two weeks of news have rendered the original version a barely recognizable relic of simpler times; full of content from internal travel, crazy adventures, and naval gazing about how we impact the world with subtle actions. It now reads as naïve, overly hopeful, and completely ignorant of the global firestorm that had already begun but was yet to reach our collective consciousness.
Since we all might be inside for awhile, instead of sharing all the adventures that I’m so so fortunate to take part in and a bunch of pretty pictures, I’m going to share some of the content that might fill your time with joy while you social-distance and shelter-in-place. (Isn’t it wild how those terms and the ideas they represent are now a ubiquitous part of our lexicon while they would have been meaningless jargon just a few weeks ago!?)
I’ll share a couple favorites every week. And… maybe I’ll share a couple pretty pictures from cool places as well. I just can’t help myself and it’s fun to reminisce.
In upcoming communications I’ll share favorite books, audio books, short films, and other content. If anyone is inspired by any of these suggestions and wants to have a virtual book club… just reach out. I love talking about this stuff.
As the deluge of news and information overfills your feeds and thus your mind, it’s as important as ever to pay attention to attention. What is your mind like from your own point of view? What are the facts of consciousness and what are the illusions, stories, and false constructs you’ve built for yourself? These are questions that you can examine and answer for yourself. The answers have helped me reframe my perspective in all kinds of constructive, pragmatic, and enjoyable ways. Especially in these strange times, I find it to be an invaluable tool and an endlessly interesting journey.
Whether you’re a long time meditator or a neophyte, I fully recommend taking the 50 day introduction course on this app. I had already been at it for almost a decade when I discovered the app and it added new depth and different levels of understanding and ease to my practice.
Home Office Tools
The internet is filled with a glut of information about “the best” way to work from home or to collaborate with your team while distancing. I don’t pretend to have the best answer but I thought I’d share a tool that’s been helpful to me.
I like working in coffee shops. I love the energy of others, the ambient noise, and the proximity of caffeine. While my home espresso doesn’t compare to my favorite baristas, I can get the ambient white noise of human chatter and clinking glasses beamed into my headphones with Coffivity.
I prefer to put it at low volume, maybe 1/3, and then turn on some instrumental music on Spotify. Some of my work favorites are:
Podcasts and audio books are a big part of my life and, like most podcast fans, I have a huge subscription list that I rarely am able to keep up with. Of that overwhelming assemblage, there are only a few titles of which I cannot abide a missed episode.
Among that shortlist is Very Bad Wizards. Very Bad Wizards describe themselves as: a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.
They have been my most trusted source for new reading and viewing material in the past 2 years. Their recommendations never fail to be beautiful, thought provoking, and perspective altering. The added benefit of following their intellectual and artistic breadcrumbs is that you get to hear to witty, insightful, hilarious minds dissect the content. Every time I listen I discover something new and interesting.
The joy these two bring me as they gleefully dive into thoughtful art is hard to describe. They deliver that exhilarating lightning bold of intellectual adrenaline that comes with a novel and unexpected connection of ideas every time (or sometimes just inappropriate dick jokes). Their excitement and passion for good work is utterly contagious.
If this sounds appealing, I recommend starting your journey with either Borges or Chiang.
First Read Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Library of Babel” – a short story about a universe/library that contains every possible book with every possible combination of characters. PDF or Buy Labyrinths
Then listen to Tamler and David get giddy and deep.
If strange labyrinths of thought aren’t as much your thing. These episodes are pretty great too:
Pulp Fiction v. The Big Lebowski – https://verybadwizards.fireside.fm/
A Serious Man by the Cohen Brothers – https://verybadwizards.fireside.fm/183
A Look Back – Pyramid Peak
Even as we simultaneously face the challenges and enjoy the blessings of home and our break from travel and adventure, it’s fun to look back on “life before”. Instead of the glut of adventure travel content I had planned for this post, I’ll just share one of my favorite adventures from 2019.
Much has been said about the inherent selfishness and uselessness of both climbing mountains and skiing. I don’t disagree, but of all the selfish and useless things I put my energy toward, this is the pursuit I question the least. The mountains can certainly be deadly but they also bring joy, heal wounds, build character, and teach us about ourselves, our limits, and our possibilities.
When I look through the list of notable moments from 2019, this peak is one of my proudest. It is something I’ve had my eye on for over a decade but it came together, almost spontaneously, in a matter of days. I had been in recovery mode from my second minor knee surgery last year and hadn’t spent any time on snow (save gimping around for a couple photoshoots). I desperately wanted to get back into the mountains as the Colorado snowpack stabilized and the gravity of life pulled me towards the top of one of the most aesthetic summits in the Rocky Mountains.
Whit, one of my favorite mountain partners throughout the years, and I barely had to exchange words about what we wanted to do before we set our sites on Pyramid began planning the attack.
Pyramid has always loomed large in my mountain consciousness. It is one of the most aesthetic, magnetic, and dangerous of the Colorado 14,000’ peaks. Chris Landry and Michael Kennedy pioneered it in 1978 and in 2006 @steepskiing, @nealbeidleman, and @Tedmahon skied this line for the first time since. Davenport said of the line, “I have been a skier my entire life, and have had the incredible privilege of skiing many great mountain ranges all over the world. With that said, I can honestly claim that today was one of the best runs of my life. This is a run that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, something that I will always be extremely proud of. That face is now part of my soul, and I couldn’t be happier about it!”
Though the majesty of the mountain has not diminished we are definitely standing on the shoulder’s of giants and bow humbly to those innovators before us (one of whom was Neal who we were lucky enough to climb and ski with on this day).
The night before we set our alarm clocks for 1am; 2 scarcely perceptible hours of sleep. We shuffled through the morning motions and checklists, loaded sleds, and pushed up the dark trail until we hit impassable avalanche debris and started our walk: 10 miles and 6,800’ of vertical (including an accidental bonus lap up the Bannana Couloir’s neighbor). We walked under a heart achingly beautiful night sky. We kicked steps up the steep exposed face of one of the most aesthetic peaks in the Rockies. We wallowed through sections of impossible sugar before dropping in on some of the most focused turns of my life.
I plunged my ax into the rotten snow but found no purchase. My feet swam in a granular shifting mess and I groped for a handhold with my wet mittened hand. The thin aluminum of my crampons scratched and scraped against hidden rocks underfoot. I gave a quick glance below to remind myself of the gravity of each adjustment. Directly below, the shadowed rocky North face of Pyramid Peak fell away almost vertically into the valley 4,000 feet below. The hungry void groaned in the back of my mind as I shifted focus. I grappled with the hollow snow and loose rock. An upside-down ski pole plunged into rotten sugar and wedged between rocks, a half-hold on a red fin of choss, and two tiny points of metal extending from my ski boot; the closest I was going to come to three solid points of contact with the mountain. I forced the exposure into the back of my mind and pushed upward.
12 hours of constant motion; some glorious, some painful, some frightening, but all felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be. Skiing: I love you with all my heart and soul. Beyond stoked to have experienced this legendary line with a legendary crew.
Let’s all hope when the world comes back online, we can all get out and push ourselves to follow our dreams in the physical realm
Thanks for following!
I leave you with this little kick in the ass meme.