One of my memorable quotes of Steve Jobs is "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”
In a stoical sense, having a negative visualisation or a flashes of what bad could happen can really jolt you. That jolt can help us live the present moment in a mindful and deeply appreciative manner. We could read reams and reams of papers and books about Stoicism to understand and try to practise it.
If not, you can watch the Oscar winning documentary, Free Solo for a quick crash course on it. Free Soloing is a practice of mountain climbing without any safety harness. Mountaineering itself sounds a crazy act for a lazy bum like me. Free Solo is literally a suicide mission, in my opinion. I try to live by de-risking myself, so I may be fucking boring, but that is not the point.
“Why the fuck someone really risk one’s life to do an act nearing insanity but a great achievement for the human species”. This question has been going in my mind since I started watching the movie. The protagonist, Alex, himself answers it, in response to his girlfriend. “What is the point of living happy and a cozy way? Excellence in life cannot be achieved by being happy”. (BTW, a fun observation for me was the name of his girlfriend Sanni McCandless sounds very similar to Chris McCandless of Into the Wild fame, who also spent life like a maverick)
Climbing a 3200 feet of granite stone without any safety harness puts on thing in your mind. Any small mistake or misstep you do, you are dead. Period. What looks like an act of foolishness to me, is what puts a person like Alex in high state of alertness and mindfulness. He says, he is very alive and extremely aware during a free solo climb.
As a craft, I think, free solo (or in general mountain climbing) is like amping up the “deliberate practise” mentality. You are extremely aware of your movement. You get to consult with experienced climbers on their techniques, tips and tricks, to improve. You get immediate feedback on your movements. If you are doing your thing right, you live and if not, you die.
As a movie, Free Solo, is a fantastic and nail biting experience. I had many heart in my mouth experience. Of course, Alex, is not a normal human being with a regular upbringing. May be that could be a reason for his audacious goals and behaviour. It is very emotional to see the director, Jimmy Chin, a friend of Alex to be in a fix over to screen the possible death of his friend. Above all, we are all given a peek into their vulnerabilities.
It is really a satisfying, humbling as well as thrilling experience. If you get a chance to watch, Free Solo, don’t miss it. It is highly worth your time.