Sunday, December 28, 2014


     According to Darwin, we live our lives under the spell of Adaptation. Adaptation is the process by which we become accustomed to change as it slowly occurs. Our lives evolve slowly day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year.

Adaptation makes us "Slow Blind” we are hardly aware of the changes as they occur. We don't notice the incremental changes.

Many times the meaning of each of the steps which has led up to the future, or the magnitude of some those steps, is not observable in the moment they happened. Our brain weaves them into a seamless whole.

     Only later when we take time to look back at what happened, can we begin to become aware of the steps that led up to the present. Their import only becomes visible on reflection.


     Last August, at 2 in the morning I set out to climb Longs Peak (14,265’) in Colorado. You climb at night in order to summit before 10 a.m. Deadly lightning storms start around noon. I didn’t intend on summiting but aimed to reach Chasm Lake (12,000’+) by dawn (6:30 a.m.)

     I am well adapted to living. I am “slow blind” to death. I rarely think about my own death but am shaken out of my adaptive, slow blind mode when a friend dies. Then, after a while, the day-to-day of life and living seals over our awareness of death and dying.

     The way I am attempting to become more aware of death so I can plan for my own, is to come close to death. Like this climb. This is my third “not dead yet” climb of Longs Peak since I had my heart attack in ’01. This is one way I do something very, very physically challenging, not to die in the process, but to live longer. Believe me, it takes me months of gym work to prep for one day’s climb.

The second thing I do is to spend time reading to my “dear departed.” On this climb I will arrive at dawn, read poetry to my “dear departed” and then read their names aloud to the mountain. Last time I did this, the mountain replied with beautiful colors of dawn.


     We seem to view ourselves as “special” beings that are disconnected from the natural world. While we may be hunters and fishermen that see how animals are connected with and Moon, we believe ourselves to be different entirely separate from one paradigm and immersed in a paradigm totally independent.

     Climbing a mountain at night will erase those kind of thoughts of somehow being “precious.” The trail was steep. I wore a headlamp. I was passed by young “trail runners” who literally ran around me! The temperature plummeted. My joints felt like I was pummeled in a full-contact football game. The altitude had a significant physiological affect – at 12,000’ my breathing was labored, my energy vanished, everything went more slowly, and then slowed again the higher I got.

     I finally got to Chasm Lake, crouched behind a rock and started to freeze while I waited for dawn. It was 40-degrees, showering ice pellets with 60-mph winds – the winds were so strong Rangers would not permit attempts to summit.

     Half-frozen, bruised, exhausted; I stood at dawn and read the poetry for my dead, and then their names, slowly. They seemed somehow near to me and because I was so physically stressed, perhaps I was closer to them because I was flooded with memories.

     Once you revisit memories in a powerful way and you see the good and evil in the path up the mountain of your life, the memories move further away and have less of a power.  If you can rise above the past, of the memories, you may also get free from the spell of Adaptation you have made in order to survive and protect yourself. This gives you the capacity to greet your future in freedom. With the rising of the sun on Longs Peak I made my way down back into my day-to-day life, feeling half-dead, but not dead yet.

© Copyright 2014, Jean W. Yeager
All Rights Reserved

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