Books: Dichotomy of Reading and the Split Life

September 18th, 2009

Seattle Public Library shipped a copy of  “The Slave Next Door” to my local branch. About the same time, Steve House finished his book “Beyond the Mountain” and announced on Facebook he had a few boxes left at his house he’d sign. I don’t know Steve all that well, though as climbers do I’ve slept on his floor and he mine, but I wanted to read about his explorations into the “why” of climbing. Plus, at this point I think I can truly imagine the effort authoring a book requires; I have respect for the undertaking.

I realized one recent afternoon during lunch, as I switched from reading one book to the other, that the extreme difference in subject matter was quite representative of my disparate interests. I feel one, the climbing, is a personal exploration of the world and the mind. It develops the ability to focus and perform in the face potentially fatal failure; this excerpt from Andy Kirkpatrick’s new book, “Psycho Vertical,” is a good example. The other, journalism and human trafficking, are more about social consciousness and affecting change (we could certainly argue these points). To be wholly committed here requires a similar focus.

I laughed at myself. I’ve stood with one foot in the climbing world, one foot in journalism, for quite some time. I have had trouble wholly committing to one or the other. I could certainly climb harder–I love the mountains and I’ve touched that edge. And I could certainly take greater risks in the world of photojournalism. These two seemingly different subjects are similar in their demands; they are a lifestyle choice, they require drive and conviction, they require a certain self awareness and ability to reach deep into one’s self for discipline and the ability to suffer.

As I look at my to-do list, and realize what I’ve spent the last months doing, I see the climbing has slipped even further. I am now part of a family and have less time for things purely “me.” When the need to realign priorities became apparent, I guess I finally quit straddling the line. Pushing aside the concept of jobs vs. recreation–something I refuse to acknowledge–and looking deeper into passions and commitment, I see that journalism is what remains.

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