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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Crisis

I interrupt the sequence of my Colorado experience, a tale that I am taking way too long to tell, to announce the event of my birthday which took place last Tuesday, even on this subject I am behind. Bear with me. And maybe I will get back to my hiking in the Rockies and maybe I won't. We'll see.
I must admit the trial that I am undergoing for it is in every way related to the extra year that has been added on to my age. But first let me walk you into my current plight. On one of the more civilized days of my sojourn in Colorado, I happened to visit a bookstore. There among the tall shelves my eyes scanned across the title of a book entitled, "Dealing with One's Quarter-life Crisis". My first response was a smirk and the critical thought, "Quarter-life Crisis? There's a subscribed crisis and disorder for everything these days! Pretty soon we're going to be drawing federal aid for the poor guy who sits around and has the debilitating crisis of breathing too much air through his lungs." But then after a few moments of reflection, I started to feel the utter confusion of my current situation in life. Everyone reading this has felt or is already beginning to feel the pressure from the monumental questions. What I should be? To what I should devote the prime years of my life towards? How I should go about doing the very thing that I desire to devote my life towards? When should I consider marriage as an actual forthcoming event? You know, the big questions. What am I to do with myself? I'm not getting any younger. The clock keeps ticking away. The horrible realization crossed my mind that one day I was going to look in the mirror and my hair would no longer be golden. I wasn't going to be young anymore. And the things...all the wonderful things that I was to do with my life, and yes, accomplish...(a word that I am not all that familiar with) accomplish something...all these opportunities may pass before my eyes all because I already deemed my life grand because I've travelled to more countries and did the jitterbug at more weddings than the average citizen has. And because I deemed myself smart because I read huge books that require appendices to understand what the author's saying. Is that what I want etched on my slab of granite when it is laid in that green grass. So, without any further pondering I pronounce that I am indeed going through something of a quarter-life crisis or to be more numerically correct, a 1/3rd-life crisis. No, no...don't expect me to pass around the kleenex box around on this one. I'm not whining exactly. Ok....maybe just a little.
This quarter-life crisis is very similiar to the mid-life crisis, minus the affair-with-the-secretary part. Intense questioning. Long musings. "Is this what life is supposed to be like?" and my favorite,"When shall I finally arrive?" Which I must comment, "Arrive at what?" However, it is very different than the mid-life crisis in several ways. The mid-life crisis is caused by a life that hits the stagnate waters of a monotonous life. The person has done all that he should do to excel. Went to college, got a degree, married someone, got a job, had kids, sat in church pews, paid bills, cut grass, and so on. Then the person finally wakes up and wonders if that was all that life is about. That there is something missing. So that person becomes rather wreckless, and makes a desperate grab at that very something he or she's missing. Doing completely spontaneous and unexpected things. This person may begin to do any of the following: skydiving, streaking, trekking through the Himalayas, becoming a missionary, being the limelight of dancefloors, (and my favorite), writing anonymous love poems to beautiful women they don't even know and then stalking them in large, furry bison costumes, making out with Polish girls ontop of roofs, wild road trips, crashing Hindu wedding receptions, camel-back riding in Egypt, conversing and dancing with Tibetan monks, and so on. Yes, the person is tired of the dull life and wants to do something exhilirating, for once. And then this person is all the while reading ponderous books with deep subject matter, wondering all the while, "Why?" He or she is soul-searching.
The quarter-life crisis person is quite different. In fact, it's the complete reversal. Instead of starting off doing everything that society has taught him. He starts off doing the spontaneous, unexpected things to begin with. (see list above). And even before he can get to mid-life, if he has any true contemplation about him, he begins to feel as though he is missing out on something that everyone else has. As though his grand role in life is to grow up a little become someone's eccentric uncle. Yes ironically, the midlife crisis person and the quarter-life crisis person both are looking for what the other has. And that one thing is in truth called "Significance." Though both are completely confused and mask it for something else. So what I'm trying to say is that maybe after I finish college I settle down a little bit. Get a permanent job at a bank or shoe store or something. You know, become a normal citizen for once. Watch sports like most guys my age, even golf. Heck, wear a watch. Maybe save up my money and buy a luxurious car or start dating girls who have the imagination and depth of a parakeet. We could marry, have kids, join PTO, and become steadfast advocates of prime time television and rook night. I could talk politics, cars, and college football down at Ruby Tuesday's every Thursday nights with the boys. What do you, my readers, think? Should the growth of an indivindual strive to exceed beyond the known bounds of his own personality in order to truly experience both growth and full potential? Or should one continue down the same path he's always known?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On Mountain Hiking

If any of you have ever happened to flippantly flip through Dante's immortal piece, "The Divine Comedy," past everyone's favorite part through hell or the Inferno into the lesser known stage of what is called the Purgatorio or what the Catholics refer to as Purgatory, you may be able to fathom what climbing a mountain is all about. For in this fine piece of literature, everyone in Purgatory is climbing a mountain; A brutal, gut-wrenching, breath-robbing, muscle-throbbing monster of a mountain. Everyone in Purgatory is ascending. Some take this mountain in stages. Some even in single steps. While others attempt to rush up it torturing every particle of their spirit's fiber. But all seek to climb above the less glorious place that they had fallen into. And so bear momentarily the consequences of their own sins only to emerge into the glory of their own belief. Some of you may or may not agree with the theology there, but regardless of dogma, my illustration is just merely to depict what a serious and naturally sacred concept mountian climbing can be.
Why a mountain? I tell you that within each of our lives we are ever ascending or descending. A person is never really stagnate. Though it, without a doubt, appears that we are. Most of our lives are wrapped up in such trivial ideologies, mundane concepts, and empty actions that we would seem as though lodged in concrete. In fact, half this world's ambitions is to make us feel as though we are as stationary as concrete. All the years of my schooling are dedicated to me finding a job, a career, a concrete pool to plant myself in. All the nation's education is designed for this concretism. To wrap something safe around oneself to make one feel secure. Real learning is something less stable. But most of us do not have the guts for that kind of discovery. So we shroud ourselves in the job, the spouse, the house, our peers, or our regular sitcom shows, really wondering if we are really getting anywhere at all. The most tempting lie to believe and the easiest that I find myself being fooled by is that there is really no such thing as change in this world. We are who we are and that's final. Such a belief both the cynic and the skeptic rally together and hail as their motto.
But upon seeing a mountain....something special, if not altogether magical occurs to the viewer. Especially, if he be man. For in this brief moment where the eye meets the pinnacle of the peak, the viewer can feel the tug of something moving, something striving within the veins of his own flowing blood. He becomes aware of the movement of everything around him and in him and he wishes to take part in this striving. And to actually, for once, feel as though he is getting somewhere. And not go dizzily around in circles, what he is used to, but upwards further and further into the sky. He wants to know that such a thing is possible. Regardless of the toil, the sweat, and the blood. What man has not looked at a mountain and said to oneself, "I will climb that mountain. I will know what the land looks like from the top. I will get as close as I can to the clouds." And so he embarks towards the top.
As did I huffing up the first 7 miles of Pike's Peak with my backpack strapped to my back. Thinking about all those dead souls that Dante wrote about climbing through every hardship over that mountain towards Paradiso and closer to God. Why, would I think such somber thoughts? But it's about the only thoughts my brain could produce with no one there to talk to and sweat pouring out of me. I did not wait very long to be acclimated, for after only one night at 6,000 ft, the present altitude of Colorado Springs; waking up that morning with a slight head ache, I rushed up the first slopes of the mountain anyways. I reached the halfway point early that afternoon. And found a little cabin where a nice couple lived who pretty much ran the little cabin for hikers such as myself. They gave information, leased mattresses and sold food and drink for those passing through going up or down the mountain. I stopped only to find out that they were serving all-you-can eat spaghetti that night, so it didn't take much to convince me to stay around this cabin for the evening. I set up my tent in a nearby little meadow where the fir trees split up and allowed one to see the moon at night. Besides I was now at an altitude of 10,000 ft and I wasn't in any hurry. I needed more time to acclimate correctly. And now a few words on altitude. The highest point in my home state of Alabama is slightly over a trifling 2,000ft above the sea level. For some reasons we in Alabama consider it okay to call such a mole hill a mountain. As we do, we call it Mt. Cheaha. Now shifting over to the west and towards the Rockies. Just the town that I was in prior to hitting this trail, Colorado Springs, is already 3 times the height of our highest point in Alabama, and that's not even a mountain, but a town. There are 54 peaks that are above 14,000 ft in Colorado. Pike's Peak was one of these and the most famous. Now, you can probably guess that the air is going to be a bit different in Colorado than in Alabama. And that a person coming from such a low-lying area to a high one could have quite a change in their breathing rate for the air is much thinner in CO and we from the south have an abundance of thickness in the air. Because of the transition, altitude sickness is a comman plight in Colorado. Especially in tourist seasons when bus loads of lowlanders come soaring up mountain sides expecting their lungs to work the same here than back home. They emerge from their buses, cars, and planes, dizzy and staggering wondering what in the world they ate. Now, for those of us hikers, such an epidemic can be very dangerous. Mainly because you go a little bit higher than most tourists and you use your lungs to get there. My brother had it pretty bad in Tibet. The both of us hiked through the Himalayas towards the base camp of Mt. Everest. Of course, we were passing through ground that was over 18,000ft. An altitude of land that the average American has never seen with their eyes much less stood on top of. Needless, to say my brother threw up most of his food and water for a day but was then over it. We both had headaches and we both found it hard to sleep and a little difficult to breath. But these are completely normal at such an altitude. All in all, I think that i am one of the best at adjusting to high altitude. I also have climbed Mt. Olympus in Greece which meant a steep 9,000 foot climb from sea level to the top and not many hikes are that fast ascending which is a great opportunity for altitude sickness to linger. I climbed it even without the slightest headache. So, I took it that like sea-sickness, some people get it and some people don't. I was one of the fortunate there, and after this trek, I still believe the same. Because some folks are so afflicted with it that they begin to hallucinate and see things. And if you are a lone hiker such an occurance can prove fatal.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Part That Is About as Flat and Dry as the Land Around Us

Soren Ten showed up in Nashville from West Virginia a few days later. Soren Ten is a good friend of mine from Harding. He had the magnificent zeal for the Muslim world, especially Uzbekistan. A month ago, he visited this nation. He plans on being a full-time missionary to the Uzbekistan people. Anyways, Soren was on his way to Colorado Springs for a Muslim Missions Meeting. I was going to catch a ride with him out there. We left on a Saturday afternoon and arrived that very evening in the Middle-Of-Nowhere, Missouri, where Soren's roommate Kevin lived. Kevin was busy getting ready for his wedding 2 weeks in the future, but his family took us in anyways. The next morning we were off across the plains of Kansas. We stopped in the ole Abilene city where Wyatt Earp used to uphold the law before his days in Tombstone, AZ. It was in this small town that we witnessed what supposed to be a re-enactment of a Western gunfight, but ended up being the dumbest, worst perfomance I believe that I've ever seen accompanied to the sound of gunshots.
Then after miles and miles of endless horizon we reached the "Colorado Welcomes You" Sign. And after still more flatness we reached Colorado Springs after the night had fallen. We got a hotel room and a stab at a good night's sleep for the events of the next day. The next morning Soren drove me to the trailhead and we parted ways and I haven't seen him since.