Friday, March 8, 2013

You do not talk about Fight Club.

In the 1999 movie, Fight Club, the protagonist (played by Edward Norton) is befriended by a charismatic bare-knuckles fist fighter (Brad Pitt). Through this association he is brought into the secretive world of gentlemen's brawling. I say gentlemen because they have rules. The first two are these: 1. You do not talk about Fight Club.  2. You do not talk about Fight Club. I found myself reflecting on this after a recent series of emails with a good friend. He has summited Everest and had this advice for me; "When you arrive at Kathmandu and at Basecamp don't talk too much about the days ahead. Just walk away from those conversations." In other words, You do not talk about Fight Club. 

This probably sounds strange to non-climbers. Is it even possible to not talk about the days ahead after waiting and dreaming of this climb for years? For some, no. As well, we will be surrounded by Trekkers, outnumbering climbers by 4 to 1. Won't they be eager to talk about the climb? Probably. But still, it is best to walk away. 

Those of us climbing Everest will be immersed in the process for many weeks. The mental fatigue of this can easily outstrip the physical wear. Climbers must be careful to not burn out on the topic. They must create a space for retreat from it. In a lifestyle that one climber described as "interminable boredom punctuated by moments of shear terror" it will be essential to find balance. 

You could also think of summiting Everest as being an enormous pay check. But there is something about discussing it that amounts to a draw against that payday. It feels great when people ask about what you are doing and say nice things.  But if you have already basked in the public glow of being an Everest Mountaineer there may not be enough pay left in that check to keep you going when things get tough. 

In the end of Fight Club we learn that Brad Pitt's character is really just the alter ego of Edward Norton's character, created through his own psychosis. His presence, influence and vitality remain concealed and safe long as they do not talk about Fight Club.