Because it’s there.
Because you can.
Because no one else has.
I finally got around to watching The Dawn Wall on Netflix this weekend. Tommy Caldwell’s first ascent of El Cap’s Dawn Wall and everything that went into it - decades of trauma, years of preparation, weeks of climbing. I remember watching it unfold in real time a few years ago and figured I had seen everything there was to see - so why bother watching the movie?
Lately, I’m discovering the why doesn’t come until much later. The why is usually buried in the final product - and some products are never final.
The film features lots of huge shots of mountain valleys that look empty. I know they are laced with trails of people looking to accomplish something. In Colorado, the early summer was always marked with an endless stream of people crowding trails. Hikers wanting to bag fourteeners while slowly widening the trails and choking the parking lots full of trash in the process.
Hiking was never much fun in Colorado. Hanging off a big wall on a porta-ledge doesn’t seem like much fun either.
The large shots are broken up by a montage of news clips from all over the country - each with the anchors giving their comments: why bother?
Who in their right mind…?
I couldn’t even imagine.
Me and heights don’t get along.
In my younger days, before the knee injury, I climbed to chase numbers and routes that were already established. They did it, so could I.
Sometimes, though, the reason you do something goes deeper than what you can explain. The Dawn Wall is more than a movie about a really hard climbing route - SO much more. It is a story about why one man wanted to do ONE thing in a way no one else could understand.
The answer is there, but there aren’t words for it. Instead, you find yourself saying stuff like:
because it’s fun
Because I can
Because it’s there.
They are happy with the answer, because even if they don’t get what you are feeling, they at least feel like they understanding something.
Then you go and do what it is you need to do for the reasons only you know. After the final pitch is finished and you wash your hands, after the final product is done and everyone sees the look on your face, then they really get it.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it in the here and now. The why is usually hidden somewhere in the final.