September 18, 2023

“I ran deep into the Rocky Mountains while on 24-hour fasts, used exhaustion (as well as some mind-altering drugs) to loosen the grip of reality."

"I put myself in front of the most gorgeous places on earth. I climbed frozen waterfalls and remote desert towers. I ran at night, during hurricanes, and bobbed face up, in the middle of lakes, in the middle of the night, in my birthday suit. I was searching and searching — for what, I did not know — and in the process I was failing and failing, powerless to pry the lid and taste nature’s mysterium tremendum."

Wrote Francis Sanzaro, a year ago, in "The Next Walk You Take Could Change Your Life" (NYT).

I'm reading that today because it was a suggested link at the bottom of a new op-ed, also by Francis Sanzaro, "When I Stopped Trying to Self-Optimize, I Got Better." That newer piece quotes Antoine de Saint-Exupéry — in his book "Wind, Sand and Stars" — "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness."

One thing I liked about the older piece is in the comments section, by someone in San Jose named Hasan R Rahim:
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the Bengali Nobel Laureate in literature (1913), wrote (my translation from Bengali): -- 
Covered vast distances, spent much money,
For a glimpse of faraway wonders
Of imposing mountains and endless sea.
Yet I have not seen with open eyes
Only a few feet beyond my front door
A dewdrop glistening
At the tip of a rice stem. 
-- Once we learn to pay attention, the natural world, and life, become miraculous, and the seemingly ordinary turns transcendent.


mikee said...

The seemingly ordinary is usually not. We choose what to assign importance, usually, and ignore the rest of the universe. Otherwise we would be overwhelmed by everything, all the time.

Kate said...

I would say that it's not just an ability to pay attention. It's the willingness to credit God with the view. Sanzaro sounds like he interposed himself on the scene, blocking out the wonder.

Paul said...

Sanzaro will one day become a Darwin Award winner...

rehajm said...

I ran at night, during hurricanes, and bobbed face up, in the middle of lakes, in the middle of the night, in my birthday suit.

My level of approval is directly proportional to his distance from a paved road. I mean, is he at Snowmass Lake on a Tuesday night in March or in the lake in front of East Boulder Community Center in front of the Tuesday morning barre class??

Mark O said...


Big Mike said...

What Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote is echoed by Albert Einstein:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

And in a roundabout way by computer scientist Alan Perlis, first winner of the Turing Award:

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.

The Crack Emcee said...

The idea, that you know something I don't - without evidence - is totally NewAge, and gets pretty old.

Original Mike said...

"I would say that it's not just an ability to pay attention. It's the willingness to credit God with the view."

I am utterly in awe of the universe, even though I don't believe in God. (Not looking for an argument, just offering another perspective.)

I will be spending another all nighter under the stars tonight (after having done so just 5 days ago). Spending the night under the vault of the heavens leaves me awe-struck.

Rich said...

Obsessive MTB, road bike and Nordic and downhill skier here. The worlds that people build for themselves are an open book to their lives—people build what they never had, but always wanted. Everyone is the same that way.

Wilbur said...

"I ran at night, during hurricanes"

That's the stupidest thing I've read in a long time. And I don't believe it.

Owen said...

The self-absorption is strong in this one.

gilbar said...

people NEED to just embrace suicide. Forget "risks" Forget "daring" Just END It!

jim said...

Yes, Thanks.

I'm a long term trail/mountain runner. The long unreasonable runs are when you're most alive, and their the ones that stick in your mind. I suppose there's something spiritual going on, but that's of no meaning to me (which is probable some kind advanced zen state who-the-hell-knows.)

I hope to get a Darwin for my efforts.

Blastfax Kudos said...

Fasting is very underrated as a health strategy. I started intermittently fasting 5 years ago and I've been very impressed with the results.

Richard Dolan said...

It's an odd pairing -- new-age, drug-aided pantheism with Rudolf Otto's Idea of the Holy. Otto came up with the phrase "mysterium tremendum" to convey the feeling of terror (and fascination) when in the presence of the divine Other -- a being wholly incommensurate and beyond our experience. So, more Moses in the presence of the burning bush or receiving the tablets than looking at a pretty landscape. The experience of the beauties of nature can be inspiring, perhaps overpowering at times. But it's not what Otto was talking about.

Virgil Hilts said...

I've been to 15 countries. Most moving thing I've seen was a tree in the snow just off hw 89 (NE of Flagstaff, maybe 20 miles out), where some farmer wrapped white lights around it before xmas. Driving at midnight to Colorado, noone else around, cloudy and dark, and this lit up tree in the snow in the middle of nowhere.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

This makes me feel like quoting Alanis, the mysterious and mystical one:
The moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How 'bout no longer being masochistic?
How 'bout remembering your divinity?
How 'bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out?
How 'bout not equating death with stopping?

Alas, a bit elliptical and ambiguous, but the journey is worth more than the destination.

PM said...

One July I hiked down Bright Angel to the Colorado and back in tight-fitting cowboy boots. That exacerbated my grip of reality.

traditionalguy said...

Good contrast between our Life as accepting the beauty of creation as a free gift, as opposed to working your self to near death as a drug.

This guy needs to see his 20 to 40 year segment of life as the hard work years and enjoy the rest. Enjoying them with well earned grandchildren

Lem the misspeller said...

YouTube: No mind consciousness the state of being fully present in the moment.

This video unveils Mivamoto Musashi's philosophy of Emptiness and No-Mind as well as its application in martial arts and daily life.

0:00 Introduction the philosophy
1:31 The application of Emptiness and No-Mind in martial arts
2:18 The dual with archery master
3:44 The application of Emptiness and No-Mind in daily life
4:50 8 ways to practice
7:53 Summary

MadTownGuy said...

"The next skinny-dip you take could take your life."

gadfly said...

I hope that Mr. Sanzaro, a certified mountain climber, did not float in exposed water in the Rocky Mountains in the middle of a cold night without protective clothing and gear.

Below 40F (4.5C), water is so painfully cold that it often feels like it’s burning your skin. For many people, the notorious “ice cream headache” can be triggered simply by water touching your face. And if the water is 40F, the outside air is likely much colder. Under 32F, frostbite numbness and damage to extremities begin to set in. So staying afloat will become impossible and guess what, you will drown.

Fredrick said...

"Wind, Sand and Stars" is a wonderful book, though I suspect it has even more subtleties in French than in the English translation I read.

Kate said...

No worries, @Original Mike. It's all good.

Larry J said...

"The Next Walk You Take Could Change Your Life"

And if you’re stupid, it could end it.

Mom said...

Virgil Hilts: Thank you.

crisper said...

The beauty of nature attracts my attention, the beauty of a flower or a tree or a sunrise. I see no evolutionary purpose to beauty, no reason why nature would be beautiful to us. The beauty simply is. So I see the beauty as vestigium dei, a trace of the divine.

re Pete said...

“If a man's imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.”

― Edward Abbey

Tina Trent said...

There is more evidence of the numinous in a grocery store than in any congressional hall or modern university.

iowan2 said...

all I come up with are old sayings repeated by grandma.

stop and smell the roses

less is more

playing with the baby is more important than washing the dishes

its the simple things in life

keep your head where your hands are.

Our families are too fractured, to pass on wisdom that comes with age.