Alan Honnold is famously known for free-soloing some of the most difficult terrains on this planet. In his acclaimed documentary, ‘Free Solo’, there is a clip in which he engages in a candid conversation with another free-solo climber, Peter Croft. During their exchange, Alan asks him about his most challenging climb and the number of times he attempted it. Almost casually, Peter replied that he had scaled the Astroman a few times and the Rostrum around 50-60 times. Out of curiosity, I googled these mighty rocks of Yosemite. If he had scaled a rock those many times, I was expecting to see a rather demure-looking hilltop. The kind you lumber along so that you can enjoy a picnic and a half-decent view at the top. These rocks were anything but that. Just looking at these unforgiving beasts of nature sent a shiver down my spine. However, what was even more intriguing was the fact that Peter had turned down several offers to be filmed while climbing the Rostrum. He could have been as famous as Alan, basked in the warmth of fame and glory. Peter, being more adept with his hands and legs than the gift of gab, mumbled that this was something he did only for himself.
He reached the top not once, not twice but so many times that he lost count. He brushed aside the idea of capturing what was probably the biggest achievement of his life. At the core of his being he knew that he had tasted the pinnacle of success. All that his faculties could deliver… they had. What a profoundly beautiful paradox- to be able to create something that you can truly call your own, you have to resist the temptation of documenting and freezing that moment in time. The most delightful moments of my life were never preserved and how grateful I am for it. The beautiful painting from ninth grade that I drew over two weeks? Not laminated. Made it’s way to the kabadiwala that probably got recycled and is perhaps now page 3 of a sleezy tabloid magazine. In fact, none of my truly rewarding experiences have seen the light of day.
Everyone deserves this moment of complete intimacy – to combine the five elements in a way one knows best, to create something beautiful – a poem, a song, a sketch, a souffle… and then exercise the freedom to simply walk away. Because you can… When you look back, you’ll realise that you missed the chance to convert the intangible to tangible but you chose to shrug it off and walk away, unabated. Because you could…
When these moments are no longer tethered to us, can no longer be traced back to us, it is then that they truly belong to us.