127 Hours, loss, and tequila bar wisdom


photo: Chris Applegate 

I saw the film 127 hours last week. It made a big impact on me. (I liked it a lot more than Social Network. It’s a very interior film and will take you as well as a virtual thing can, to a place of feeling what matters about being alive to you. Log line: a climber cuts off his own arm to survive. Spoiler below).


I was in a bar last night and found myself talking with someone very tall visiting Toronto from Vancouver. Did I mention that this bar’s specialty was serving just tequila and making mid-town professionals comfortable on a night off? It wasn’t really my scene.


I mentioned the film. This woman sharply zeroed in her energy and delivered the pinnacle scene to me: “I made that boulder. I made this moment. This boulder has waited it’s entire life for me…” She hasn’t seen the film but a friend did and he told her about it. This friend saw the film a few days after this happened to him:


He’s someone who she’s known to always have chronic sinus congestion. He is always sneezing and his voice sounds dulled by all the fullness. She saw him recently and he sounded clear. Completely different. No congestion and he told her he hadn’t sneezed in two weeks. What happened?


He ran into this homeless man he would often chat with and the man turned to him and said: you’re dying.


And he realized he was right. he remembered that he’d told himself since he was young that he wouldn’t live past 35: what’s the point. And here he was 35.


Of course it’s someone unexpected, a homeless man, a fool or someone else often dismissed that delivers what we feel as prophecy. Without the contrast with our expectations, how do we learn?


It shook him up and he realized he had a choice to make. And he made it. He wanted to live. Inexplicably the congestion and sneezing went away. He saw 127 hours and he realized he too had made his boulder and it had come in the shape of what reached him.


And the woman telling me this story said that he sounded different. Now you could hear his voice so clearly. And some of it was a clear head and some of it was something else. A kind of presence. He was completely there and he wanted to be.


I lost the use of a bit of my left hand after an accident in 2006 and ended up a very reluctant plaintiff in close to instant karma as I explore in my current show in development The Law Project. That show had been entirely focussed on how bad law school and law suits are. Then the accident happened. My jokes were analysed by lawyers. I was not allowed to blog or videoblog or tweet about it because it could all be used against me in the suit (brought to pay my medical bills). I was forced to contain the entire experience. And in some other profound ways, the experience changed my life dramatically for the better. Among the thing’s I learned: I never wanted to be hurt again to take care of myself. I’ll share more of the lessons as The Law Project is unveiled.


I’m once again dealing with loss, wondering about the learning.


And if Ralston can climb with one arm, I can find a way to try to do it again with 8.5 fingers.


What loss did you create in your own life?
Did it teach you anything? How?



more on Aron Ralston
great interview with Ralston post film