Mortal Mastery

He went. I couldn’t bear to go.

It was all about almost dying. And the end of that story seems to always end without the almost that last time.

Dying does come for us all.

Chris wanted to see the movie Free Solo, about Alex Honnold who is set on climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope. No safety equipment and all alone.

He was compelled to do this thing, this thing that if he made a single mistake would cost him his life.

This life, this only life we’ve got–he decided to gamble it for the goal is conquering this cliff of rock.

Homer’s Iliad tells us of Achilles, the son of the immortal Thetis and Peleus, the very mortal king.

Achilles’ fate was mortal. He was a giant among heroes, with fantastic strength and skill at fighting, and he knew he would die.

The story of the Iliad is his struggle with his mortality. He was unsure how to spend his one life.

He calls his immortal mother to ask her what can be done. She cant’ help him; it’s his fate.

But the immortals of Greek mythology are not so very admirable. They are known for causing mischief and holding grudges for a ridiculously long time. There is nothing noble for them in their eternity.

But for Achilles? This is what Homer writes:
“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

So if this moment is the lovliest thing we have, what shall we do with it? Alex Honnold threw his whole self into mastering the sheer rock.

I’m not willing to do that.

But I understand his compulsion. If this is our life, we must make redeem the gift by stretching ourselves against some challenge.

Homer says it again: Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing

That’s part of why Free Solo is so unbearably compelling. We all feel that. The drive to see what we are capable of. He’s the hero we’d all like to be.