Controlling the field

Photo courtesy of Eric Perlman

What do you actually see when you watch proximity flyers gliding with top speed around trees and rocks? What makes the solo climbers look that impressive – is it the fear they might die any moment, or is it the performance itself? I doubt it. Pondering the topic, I’ve realized that I feel the same thing every time I watch racing cars furiously taking turn after turn, when I follow the precise steps of the tightrope walker balancing between the skyscrapers… Some of the best spectacles I’ve witnessed during my lifetime, things that make me feel good about humanity, are related with a phenomenon I decided to call “controlling the field.”

When I was a young teenage climber I saw the classic movie Masters of stone V. It all looked cool and impressive but one part caught my attention the most. A baldheaded, tough looking guy was running towards El Capitan, gear dangling on his harness, but no partner was in sight. He approached the base of the Nose and in the next frame, he was already creeping up a crack. That was the young Dean Potter on his speed-solo ascent of the famous route. Some amazing things happened in the next nine minutes, things that made me re-watch the scene over and over again for years. He was ready to fight, so exposed on the rock face – arms, feet solid on their place, determination in the eyes. Absolute control over the situation. Every time I watched in awe!

Many things are coming to mind when I think of inspiring climbing media but Potters ascent featured in MOS V is the best example I have to cover my thesis here. Great demonstration of confidence, power and workmanship. One needs, especially if he/she aspires to be great, to find his/her field, examine its elements and then master all the challenges till everything comes together, and all that with high level of artistry.

One of these past days I was watching a tennis game when the commentator started analyzing the world-class players. “Lately, he improved his fitness significantly,” the commentator said. “That, combined with his perfect technique is visibly making him solid on the field.”

Aha! Now I knew why watching this tennis player dominating the court was so pleasant for me, the one who doesn’t like tennis in particular. It has the same impact on me as the surfer riding a huge wall-like wave, as the footage of alpinists progressing through a blizzard – these were all people controlling the field. It is the same thing with the appearance of the heroes of every area. If we want to be like them, I’m now thinking, we need to learn how to control the field of climbing, that of writing, etc. Same logic everywhere!

All I’m saying here are just examples of people being good at what they do, because this is what “controlling the field” means. That’s enjoying life through the effort; creating beauty and style out of your personal endeavor. Now, one year after the loss of such person as Dean Potter I think I know why he’s gone. My early year’s idol died trying to gain even better control over his field.

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