A film of weariness enveloped everything. Events passed in slow motion, and thoughts became so confused I lost all sense of time passing. When I stopped I would make an excuse for it, so as not to feel guilty. My frostbitten fingers became the most common excuse. I had to take my mitts and inner gloves off to check that they were not getting worse. Ten minutes late the voice would jolt me back to reality, and I would pull on the glove I had only half managed to remove and tug my mitt over it, and crawl. My hands were always deep in the snow as I crawled, and when they had gone numb I would stop again and stare at them. I meant to massage them, or remove the gloves and heat them in the sun, but I just stared at them until the voice called me.
- Joe Simpson, Touching the Void
* * *
The voice, the voice, where does the voice come from, the italicized voice, the one that is separate from the day in and day out voice always running through our head, that internal dialog of bits of song, catch phrases and the testing out of ideas? The daily voice, the common voice, the voice of our meandering minds is just us having a conversation with ourselves. It is no worry. It is part of how we think. As I type I hear each word and listen for patterns and what comes next. I hear my voice. But the voice, the one outside of time, the one that is separate from the mundanities of habit and daily life, the one Joe Simpson had to italicize to make you know it was different, where does that voice come from? Dare we listen to it? Viewed quickly, it smacks of a disconnect with reality. But this isn't the horror of schizophrenia. No, this is its opposite. If your life is fucked, if it has ever been fucked, you have heard this voice. To be sure, it is part of you, but it is larger than you and you know it. That's why you pay attention. That's how it can save you.
* * *
Joe Simpson and Simon Yates had just ascended a 21,000 foot peak in the Andes and were on their descent when Simpson fell off an ice ledge, breaking his leg. Yates rigged a system of ropes to get Simpson down the side of the mountain when a blizzard struck. The rigged ropes became entangled and in the howling wind both would have been pulled off the mountain to their deaths. Yates cut the rope to save himself and Simpson plummeted to his certain death. Except he didn't die. For the next three days and nights he crawled, hand over hand off that mountain and was rescued by Yates, who racked by an oppressive guilt stayed behind in hopes of recovering the body.
In the 1920's when Air France began the first mail service over the Andes, a pilot, one Guillaumet, crashed and was given up for dead. He, too, walked off the mountain. He, too, as he made his way out of the ice and snow would lose track of time, would pull his gloves off to stare at his hands and then suddenly remember to move. He later said, "What saves a man is to take a step. It is always the same step, but you must take it."
* * *
To be fucked, to have your life fucked is to be alone. No matter how many people you know, who know your story, who want to help, who truly, truly, truly are there for you, the overwhelming sense of being alone is its marker and signifier. Perhaps guilt isolates you, as in, "I did this to myself"; or it is the loneliness of being a victim: "This was done to me." Maybe it is simply the stunned silence of recognizing the wheels have come off - for whatever reason - and you can't imagine how it ever gets moving again, can't imagine where to begin to re-assemble the parts. Outside forces well beyond your control can compound this feeling. The blizzard struck Yates and Simpson. Guilaumet's engine failed. The Recession began right at the time of your divorce. These outside events act as a multiplier in your isolation, your sense of being lost and it washes over you and you lose track of time, of what you meant to be doing and are solely occupied with your predicament.
And then you hear that voice. And for five minutes you move again until you lose track of what you were doing and remember how alone you are. You think to warm your hands in the sun, but can only stare at your hands. And then you hear that voice. In time, over time, if you pay attention, you learn to trust this voice, so different from the voice of your woe, your losses, your fuckedness. You are able to move a bit more each day and then one day you find yourself near base camp and the sense of being alone is swamped by the realization that others have been there all the time, looking for you, waiting for you to come back.
What is this voice that kept you alive? What is this voice that brought you out of sleep and brought you back?
It is both of you and beyond you.
God? Nature? Spirit? Science? I can only tell you this: it is sum of all life as filtered through you. It is the inaudible thrum of all life, of all transformation as realized in this very moment by you.
The isolation we feel when things are all jacked up is born out of a preponderance of ego: we are kings of fuckitude and lonely is the crown. Yes, you have helped make this mess, but no, the mea culpa is just more ego and is useless here. Somewhere you know that, but won't act on it. Somewhere you know to put one foot in front of the other, but refuse it because the pain is great, the isolation pure. You stare at your hands until, in your fatigue, the voice makes it through. It is the voice of life insisting on itself, insisting on change and transformation: out of the darkness, light. From nothing, something.
Viktor Frankl wrote, "What is to give light, must endure burning."
That voice is the sound of all life expressing itself through you. It needs you to take a step so we all can discover what comes next, because, listen love, we're all on the mountain.
* * *
I wish you well.