Bouldering Longing

“With every step you take, you arrive”.

Paulo Coelho

Yossi was not a climber. But he was always going up. Moving towards something. Passionately, with confidence. Surrounded by people, he was always somehow alone. A wide and beautiful smile masking internal conflict and struggle.

He would dance away the frustrations of integrating into a new way of life. He was an immigrant like me. Blindly walking a new path lit only by hope. Turning the corner from the illuminated road of the known and familiar. He walked the darkness of nightlife, a new culture, language and friends.

Camus wrote that the only choice free humans really have is the choice between life and death.

I will never know why Yossi chose death. But his choice steered my journey. It made me look outside, reach out to his friends and never again ignore signs of distress. It made me look inside – there was nothing but a desperate attempt to fit into a narrative created by others.

To find my voice, my identity was to come to terms with the reality of being able to follow my dreams. The sense of accomplishment deprived me of the drive for a meaningful challenge. Confidence and pride made it harder to recognise and learn from my mistakes. Material reward and validation messed up my expectations.

When all my dreams came true – there was a brief moment of unimaginably beautiful view.

But the view from the road was lost. The journey seems to have ended with no clear resolution and nowhere to go.

In a desperate plea to find meaning I went to the bouldering gym. Watching at first, it seemed friendly enough – there was no competition, just personal goals. Small groups, cheering climbers on. Faces young and old motivated to get on the wall. Bouldering routes are often short and there are no ropes attached. Within up to ten moves one can get to the top. It gives greater significance to every step.

Balance, breathing, flexibility. Focus on the ability to switch off everything and purely think of the next move. At the top, there’s only a dusty ledge and a fleeting sense of victory followed by the challenge of the way down.

Do you jump? Do you slowly climb down?

The crowd can often only see your back. Which leaves you alone with your own fears and hopes. What is at risk?

“With every step you take you arrive”

Climbing captures the essence of journey, music and dance all at once.

With song, one first learns the melody and chords, followed by transitions and finally – playing in time. Embody the rhythm of song, the tempo of movements and synchronisation of breath. There are no winners in music – some like to do it fast but playing fast or hard is no indication for quality.

Smooth and timely transitions from chord to chord are more rewarding than completing the performance of a song.

At the end of the song, all the noise is gone.

At the top of the wall, a few deep breaths.

Time to reflect, to listen, to respect, rest.

And do it all over again. Better.

The lovely people at Northside Boulders Brunswick have given me reasons to smile since 2016.

It is not possible to soak in their humble grace at the time of a plague, so I am left with my guitars on a rainy night recording Improvised music full of inconsequential mistakes, enjoying a journey of sounds.

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