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It’s not a tight rope, its a slack line.
A few days ago, a friend set up a slack line between two trees in my backyard. I’ve tried these in the past, but never seriously. Walking around the school or biking downtown I’ve stopped momentarily to watch bare-footed individuals walking gracefully on a suspended line of webbing pulled tight between two trees by well secured climbing gear.
Those times weren’t so good, I goofily stepped next to the line and hopped on, maybe had a fleeting second or two of wobbly bouncing before falling off, then to chuckle and say, “damn this is weird.” So I never really excelled, never understood, never even considered the secret. Needless to say, I’m well coordinated, I do a lot of physical activity that requires precise movements. So the challenge of the slackline seemed daunting without the instant understanding that I expect from most physical activity.
Proximity was the answer, with the line in my backyard, I feel a responsibility towards it. I’ve also had the excellent support of a few close friends who have made great strides (literally) with the slackline. I started to devise a process, a method, a doctrine of my own, and I’ve made a few steps.
Here is a couple basic rules I’ve found.
1. Don’t look at your feet. While these may be your center of balance, the downward perspective threw me off so much. The best place to focus your eyes is on the tree or the end of the slackline in front of you. Keeping your eyes fixed here keeps your body upright and hips square with the line.
2. 3 points of balance. Much like when riding a horse or climbing a ladder, where you need 3 points of contact to stay as stable as possible while moving. The slackline requires 3 points of balance in each of your hands and your other foot. Distributing your weight evenly through these three points makes them perfect exit points for the upward resistance of the line.
After those little bits, the rest of the technique to walking the slackline is within you.
The use of “slack” in the name is lightly contradictory. The line is actually pulled between two trees so the slack is actually the flexible tension of the webbing. Unlike a tightrope wire, which almost completely lacks give or stretch.
The first time you step on it, you shake, the line wobbles from side to side, and you fall. It almost feels like your foot is trembling, like you’re shaking uncontrollably, while you are actually just being bounced and vibrated very abruptly by the tension of the line. Your foot is completely out of tune with the frequency of the line.
After a while, you tune to the vibration. Your leg muscles begin to react with fluidity to the tension of the line below you, they flex and release with each push and pull of the line. It’s more than balance, this is a reaction to yourself, to your impact on the line. Nobody masters the line, they master themselves. The line has no power until someone steps on it and it reacts to them.
You zone out, it’s surreal, its vivid. If you think about anything else, if you think at all, you fall. All you can think about is your focus on the tree in front of you, and that central point of balance at the most basic cellular level, on the smallest singularity at the base of your foot.
Once you take your first real, solid step, it all changes. You feel your own energy come back off the line, up your leg, through your torso, to the tips of your fingers and and to the top of your head.
I never felt my own energy before. I’m sure that sounds weird. We all know that we have energy, the force that compels us to move, and act. But I don’t think I ever felt it like this before, moving through my body, my cells, It’s calming, grounding, it reinforces the passion I have for everything.
What I feel when the slackline is beneath my feet is one that has been void from my life for what feels like ages. I don’t know if I have ever felt it before. One of balance, one of inner contentedness and peace. The only thing on the slackline is you. If your problems, worries, fears, burdens, desires, or regrets are on it too, they will push you off.
Hey, little kids dont follow these dopes
Heres a rule for the non cool… your life, dont drool
Dont be a fool like those that dont go to school
Get ahead… and accomplish things
Prof. Randy Roth is a baller for coming all the way out to bumblefuck Grand Junction to teach me and eleven other kids about violence in humanity, in three short weeks, and for bringing Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature as a reference.
Neonaticide is the killing of a newborn child.
Genocide is often fueled by utopian ideology.
The five roots of violence in humans are: Predation, Dominance, Revenge, Sadism, and Ideology.
Some violence that grows from certain roots is more morally justifiable than violence that grows from others.
I think that at some point or another we are going to express a feeling through violence.
People should be ready for that from themselves and others.
A lot of stuff about abortion.
There are very similar roots to avoiding violence that there are to causing it.
When out of wedlock pregnancy is more socially acceptable, infanticide and neonaticide rates usually go down.
Less violent people are more interested in the topic of violence.
There’s nothing like having a lighthearted discussion about child murder.
I won’t type an account of the worst murder I’ve ever heard because I don’t want to ruin your day, it involves semen.
Knowing some of the worst things human beings can do to each-other will make you hug your loved ones harder.
I recently re-watched the film Malcolm X. It’s a favorite of mine; it brings up a lot of my internal thoughts concerning religion, racism, politics, and the way I look at my life.
I’m not religious, I was raised a Christian, baptized Episcopalian, and sent to a Catholic private school until fourth grade. My religious perspective was shaken a tad when I was thirteen, and my mother found out that she was of Jewish descent. After the shocks of being a non-catholic in a catholic school, I was shaken to find out that I was a descendent of a Hebrew tribe.
In middle and high school, my family attended the non-denominational Vineyard church in Grand Junction. I became a devout Christian during this period of time. I prayed every day, I advocated a Christian philosophy in my daily life, I volunteered with my church, and aimed to take an active role as a Christian in society. I thought I was saved, I thought I had found some kind of true purpose in my life.
After my mother died, I prayed. I thought that God would offer the consolation and answers that my friends and family couldn’t, but I didn’t really get what I was looking for from God. I found those answers when I went to a psychologist.
Instead of telling me what to feel, or even what I was feeling. She just asked me questions, and I answered them. I found that the consolation and answers were inside me all along. I don’t know if this was when I stopped believing in God, but I found what I thought he would give me within myself. I started to wonder if all that time I was praying, God might not have been showing me the right path, and that I was just finding it.
I think about the scene in Malcolm X when Malcolm was preparing for the last speech he would ever give, one he would only say a few words of before being assassinated. He dismissed his bodyguards; he knew he was going to die soon. He wasn’t scared of death anymore, after all the pain and pleasure in his life, and revelations he had on his pilgrimage to Mecca, he was at peace with himself.
This is true salvation, being content with yourself and your contributions to humanity, and the contributions humanity has made to you. You don’t need religion, but if that is what helps you find this peace, then more power to you. I like to think that Malcolm had this revelation soon before his death.
Why do we have to cling to such rigid doctrines to find our own peace? Why do we have to commit to some kind of imaginary contract with a metaphysical being to be satisfied with life, and content with death? Can’t we make that same contract with ourselves?
I’m okay with God not being real; I’m okay with his power being within me. I’m tired of people telling other people that they are going to hell. I’m tired of them clinging to their own doctrines. If you want to bring your religion to my school, or my government, that’s fine, but you damn well better let me bring mine, and everyone else bring theirs.
I think about where I was one year ago. I remember my problems, my goals. They changed, I changed. 2011 was a most magical year for me, it feels nice to look back.
I was working the kiddie lift at Powderhorn, a ski instructor came through my line, she asked me if I wanted a kitten. I met with her daughter a few days later, she found that her and her daughter were allergic to cats soon after adopting Huxley (who I suspect is a Maine-Coon mix) from Claws, a local cat shelter. Huxley fit in very well once he found his new home at 420 Teller. He is a rambunctious little creature who seems to get bigger every day. My 11 year-old cat Bandit has been his usual anti-social self in his adjusting to Huxley’s presence, but they seem to tolerate each other. I was so happy to see him adapt so quick to the lifestyle in our home. He definitely channels Smokey when he interacts with people, licking and playing. I’ve always been a cat person, and Huxley is a wonderful addition to the ongoing processes of 420 Teller.
In the Spring, my dad moved back to Pittsburgh to marry his fiance’. We moved as a family to Grand Junction when I was four. After 16 years, I am now the only Linko in Colorado. It’s an odd situation, my dad moved out of the house around the same time that I would have normally been moving out to live on my own. Instead of moving into my own place, somewhere else, I moved across the house to the vacant master bedroom. I have found a newfound respect for the home that I grew up in, because I continue to grow in it.
In June I flew down to Tulsa, OK to buy my uncle’s Nissan Pathfinder from him. I needed a new car, and I couldn’t pass up the offer. My Dad didn’t take very much stuff with him when he moved out, and 420 Teller was in desperate need of some upkeep. So my grandmother met me in Tulsa and we drove the Pathfinder back to Grand Junction together. Over the rest of the summer, her and I sorted, trashed, cleaned, and re-organized the house, so that I could soon move some of my friends in as roommates.
The end of summer brought a lot of new, wonderful experiences to me. I met someone very special. We only got to spend a couple weeks with each-other before she went back to school in Washington, but we have shared in some very fun times.
Around this same time, I left my usual summer job at City Market for a new one at the Pita Pit. I would always have to leave City Market to go back to school due to the large amount of hours that they wanted me to work, and the Pita Pit has been extremely helpful in working with my school hours. I have made some great friends since I have started working there.
After all the improvements to the pad were completed, my friends Nick and Ben moved in. We have been friends for a long time and its nice to finally live with a couple of guys my own age. Our lifestyles suit each-other very well, and our house is always alive with good food, activities and music. It has been a crazy transition from the home I grew up with my parents in, to the one I now party with my friends in.
In October I went on a Rafting trip through Desolation and Grey canyons on the Green River with the CMU Outdoor Program. I learned a lot of new skills from my experiences both on the river and on the shore at camp. The trip was full of good food, fun people, and some of the most pristine nature I have ever had the chance to witness. Returning to civilization after 5 days with the same eight people was sort of a culture shock. I forgot about cars, money, and waking up to an alarm every morning. Not that those things are bad, but it was fun to escape their restraints for a brief period of time.
I was the great Bob Ross for Halloween. A quote of his that I read in research for my costume stuck in my head pretty deep.
“We don’t make mistakes in our world, as you know. All we have are happy little accidents, so the worst thing that can happen here is wonderful.”
In November I flew up to Washington to visit Sarah. I had never been to the West Coast before, and it was also the first time I flew anywhere for my own reasons. It was wonderful to be somewhere new, see someone special, and meet all the new people and experience all the things I did while I was up there.
I had sort of a nature shock. I’m so used to rocks and snow. The abundance of plant life was super fascinating. I found myself geeking out on patches of moss, mushrooms, and the scientific miracle of condensation.
The 2011 Holiday season was a new one for me. I elected to stay in Grand Junction rather than go visit family. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Nick’s family, and an equally wonderful Christmas with Sarah’s in Gateway, CO. While it was unusual not being around my family for this part of the year, It was nice to experience the love and generosity that others have to offer. I was worried that I might feel isolated not being around the people that I usually spend the holidays with, but I never felt so connected with others.
2011 was a year of connections and changes. If the Mayans were right and the world does end in 2012, then I’m happy I made these connections when I did. If not, then I hope they continue to grow, and new ones emerge. Happy New Year.