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”Free as Can Be” and the Power of Magnificent Failures

Only paradoxes can contain the power and magnitude of the universe and its truth. Ideologues and activists seek to advance their reductionist views of politics, life, art, and sport but all their attempts inevitably come up short. Ordinary ideas are easily contradicted, while profoundly true ideas are balanced by their opposites, which are often just as true as well. The preference for simplicity means sacrificing being open to mysterious complexity of it all.

In climbing, paradoxes abound. Wanting to do a route more than anything else is often the very thing that pushes you further from ever doing it. And failure can be more meaningful and valuable than reaching summits or sending.

The paradox of the “magnificent failure” was introduced to me by a wise old friend, younger than me but now gone, who defined it as a climber or climbing team, strung out and threadbare, gunning for some grand ambition that has long transfixed their spirit, fully committing to the process of achieving it though ultimately coming up short.

The concept of the magnificent failure has long fascinated me, and in many ways inspired me even more than the cutting-edge achievements of our time. T.S. Elliot famously once wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” But those manage to cross the threshold of goal and succeed have, by definition, not risked going too far. There’s further still to go. Harder routes to do and bigger risks to take. The magnificent failure, by contrast, is the experience of finding that exact limit, of reaching that agonizing precipice and fearlessly accepting the understanding that you can go no farther.

“Free as Can Be” is a new film documenting Mark Hudon’s yearlong effort to free climb El Capitan, an audacious concept that he essentially invented in the 1970s with Max Jones, a decade before it was realized by Paul Piana and Todd Skinner. Now in his 60s, Mark returns to El Cap with the help of an unlikely companion, a young Jordan Cannon, who spends a year training and climbing with Mark in advance his fateful ascent.

I don’t think I am giving much away in revealing that Mark comes up just shy of his goal, as the title of the film suggests, but I would be remiss not to underline what a magnificent failure his ascent is—one for the ages. This is a truly wonderful story and a film that brought tears, laughs, and lots of inspiration. How can it be that in Mark’s failure to achieve his goal that so much more is ultimately gained? It speaks only to the wondrous complexity of climbing and its community, as mysterious and profound as life itself.

Congrats to Sam Crossley, the director and filmmaker, for this feature, and hats off to the editor Mary Jeanes for her gifted storytelling sensibilities. This is really a wonderful story that captures the very best of our climbing community. Click this link to register for a live Q&A with the team on Friday August, 28 at 1 P.M. PST.

The post ”Free as Can Be” and the Power of Magnificent Failures appeared first on Evening Sends.

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Originally posted 2020-08-26 15:40:33.

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