We are soft sitting in front of computers and flat screen televisions. Yet the idea of rugged individualism remains with us. Americans pushed the frontier. Pioneers moved forward on the frontier after landing in the East at the edge of the Atlantic with settlements like Jamestown during the 17th Century. Americans kept going, moving, crossing the Mississippi River until reaching the wall, California and the Pacific Ocean.
What does this have to do with 127 Hours? Hold on. The movie recounts the harrowing and true story of Aaron Ralston, lover of the great outdoors. As he rushes out the door leaving behind a message from his mother, civilization, he hurdles towards the frontier.
Aaron drives his car in the middle of the night headed to Utah. He arrives at a dry barren startling vista barreling off on his bike for some time spent bouldering, the cousin or variation of rock climbing.
He’s alone, he’s the rugged individual who would have been comfortable in the world described in Frederick Jackson Turner’s in “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”(1893). Ralston is much like a mythologized figure described by Jackson: “Daniel Boone, the great backwoodsman, who combined the occupations of hunter, trader, cattle-raiser, farmer, and surveyor-learning, probably from the traders, of the fertility of the lands of the upper Yadkin, where the traders were wont to rest as they took their way to the Indians, left his Pennsylvania home with his father, and passed down the Great Valley road to that stream.” (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/TURNER/)
Being a rugged individual comes at a high cost. Most went to the movie aware of the harrowing dénouement: Aaron’s arm gets caught between boulders and after a grueling 127 hours, he amputates that arm himself.
During the 1990s, I went hiking alone all the time. I’m no rugged individual but I do love having church by myself under the trees. No talking. No distractions from someone moving along beside or behind me. Alone. I gave it up because my mother and brother asked me to. Sigh. I go to a local state park alone of late. Many people are on the more active trail. And I let someone know I’m out there. I also keep my phone with the number of the park ranger. And I don’t forget my red whistle.
See the film for the love the outdoors, beautiful vistas, and the morality tale of checking in before hiking or bouldering. The latter is a critical point.