127 Hours: The Movie

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.

Book Review – The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

Where do you stand with Michael Vick pleading guilty to charges of interstate dog fighting? Without having done a formal survey, I think people fall along the lines of African Americans/football fans and animal lovers.

I empathize with both Vick and the dogs. Why? Consider the broader context: African American men have some of the highest rates of incarceration and the longest jail-times in the United States. You can now count Vick among those numbers, whether you consider him guilty or not guilty. In addition, dog fighting has long been part of male culture, including African American men, and was not condemned like the Vick case until the early twentieth century. Vick like other men was probably introduced to the fighting through family or by his peers. So there might have been a history there too At the same time, I am also horrified about animals abused around the world. This includes cock and dog fights. I love animals and don’t like to see them abused, caged, or encased in Plexiglas.

In The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption, Jim Gorant recounts the events that led up to Vick’s charges and conviction, followed by rescuing the dogs and finding them homes. Gorant is clearly an animal lover, often telling the story through fictional vignettes based on what might have happened to the dogs:

“Sometimes men come and take a few of the dogs away. Sometimes those dogs come back tired and panting from running and running. Sometimes the dogs come back scarred and limping. Sometimes they come back looking the same, but acting completely different. Sometimes they don’t come back at all, as if they’ve simply disappeared.”

Many people found homes for the dogs to my relief; I love animals. People rehabilitated the dogs, many of them pit bulls, new kinder owners. Some even live with children. Redemption!

Vick has experienced some redemption too as the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

So where do you stand?