An Argument For Suffering

I watched as this man did something no one else had done. Not even the best had done it. People said it couldn’t be done and then he did it. And he did it with one less finger than everyone else has.

And fingers are super important in rock climbing. Especially on the sheer face of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. That climber’s resilience, and that of his climbing partner, which was chronicled in the Netflix documentary The Dawn Wall, was unbelievable.

dawn wall
Literally nothing to hold. I have no idea how they did this. 

Not only did they deal with the unforgiving elements, they dealt with physical limitations and mental obstacles – and they persevered, all the while sleeping on a port-o-ledge, eating dehydrated food, praying their fingers would heal before the next day, and clinging to a slab of granite that wanted no one to cling to it.

dawn wall 2
Where they slept. And lived, when they weren’t climbing.

It made me think about my kids. Not because they are rock climbers – I mean, they could be if they wanted to. But because a good portion of the story focuses on this climber’s childhood with his father, and how his father intentionally introduced him to situations that would induce suffering.

rock climbers
Hi! We’re total rock climbers!

Not anything bad. Or too extreme. But he made him feel the cold and adjust to it when skiing. He made him feel and overcome fear. He took him to heights that may be a little iffy for some people. He endured the outdoors for a specific life purpose – to build a resiliency.

Because life isn’t easy. The world doesn’t care about a person’s fears or troubles. It keeps going if you fall behind, even if you have a valid reason.

And I tried to think of any way that our kids experience that. The only one I could come up with is while we’re outdoors, although most of the times we are outside, we’re so dang prepared. They suffer very little.  So we may need to adjust that as they age.

But day to day? The science project they don’t want to do. The Slurpee they want but can’t have. The vegetables they have to eat but don’t want to.  It’s hardly suffering. But I do think it builds modest resilience – in baby steps.  They endure a few things they’d rather not.

road trip photo
A WiFi-less road trip, as we do. They look like they’re in agony.

We’ll build on that. Because it’s important for them to be able to bounce back, to wiggle out and know they can do something that seems impossible before life forces it on them.

Not that I plan to send them to Kyrgyzstan, get them held hostage, and have them lose a finger on a table saw as the climber in The Dawn Wall endured, but I’d really love for them to be ready to endure the worst in case life gives them that.