Type A, obsessive-compulsive people mystify me. Living, as I do these days, among thousands of Yuppies I find myself continually surrounded by these fire-breathing go-getters. Anything that can possibly be conceived of to do is turned into some sort of extreme competition by the OC types. Well, almost anything. Being OC about not being OC never happens. Being OC about being relaxed and enjoying life at a slow pace never happens. And being OC about smelling the roses is always verboten.
I opened my morning paper today to be greeted by a front page story entitled "High Speed Trek." The story details the efforts of a fellow by the name of Andrew Hamilton who is endeavoring to establish a new speed record for ascending and descending the 58 Colorado fourteen thousand foot peaks, known collectively as the 14ers. According to the report, if everything goes as planned Hamilton should be running down Long's Peak as I am typing these words. If things do go as planned he will crush the old speed record by climbing all the 14ers in less than 10 days. Good for him.
Hamilton has an entire team of support personnel who are aiding him in his quixotic quest. He is shuttled from trailhead to trailhead in a van driven by other people. While in the van he is given massages and fed specially designed foods. He sleeps when he can, apparently having developed the ability to sleep while walking, just like a zombie. Many of the peaks find him accompanied by another hiker/climber who is apparently there to make sure he does not walk off a cliff while sleep-hiking his way to the top. Thousands of fans of this sort of thing are following along via electronic media, anxiously awaiting news that he has established a new speed record. Good for him if he does.
In an interview prior to embarking upon this project Hamilton described himself as a "ridiculously slow" climber. According to him, his success is not based upon the fact that he is unusually fast but the fact that he is able to climb for days on end without any rest. As he put it, he has developed the ability to suffer at a level unknown to most human beings. Hallucinations are accepted as a part of the journey. Physical exhaustion on a scale unknown to most human beings is the norm. Those who have seen him in recent days describe him as a hollow-faced zombie that is just a mere shell of a human being but who, nevertheless, never stops walking towards his goal. Good for him.
Many of the summits he attains are attained in total darkness. Even those summits that he reaches during daylight hours pass by unnoticed as he plods along in his trance-like state of mind and body. The summer monsoon has descended upon Colorado the past few days so Hamilton has also found himself hiking and climbing in rainy conditions. He crossed the infamous and exciting "knife edge" on Capitol peak in total darkness and in the rain. The wildflowers are coming out in their annual resplendent glory but I doubt Andrew has noticed them. He did manage to climb a good portion of the Sawatch range 14ers in a single day however. Good for him.
Hamilton's obsessive-compulsive nature has been gifted to his children as well. They claim having climbed all of the 14ers by very tender ages. The story described how before reaching their teenage years both of his children had accomplished the "grand slam." They talked about how proud they are of their accomplishment but neither of them said anything about how beautiful the mountains are. Instead, they informed the reporter that they had already told their dad that they want to climb all of Colorado's 13ers in the next couple of years. There are over 600 of them. Good for them.
These OC activities seem to be universally praised by those in the media and the small group of mountaineers in Colorado who attempt them. Everyone seems to be excited by what Hamilton is doing, except me. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for his kids. I feel sorry for everyone who thinks that what he is doing is some sort of amazing accomplishment. It disturbs me that such freakish acts of obsession make the front page of the newspaper. It bothers me that many in society see obsessive-compulsive activities as some sort of major achievement to be praised by all of the rest of us mere mortals. The glorification of OC behavior, whether it be on the mountain tops of Colorado or in the corporate boardroom, is a sign of seriously unstable personal character and massive insecurity in my opinion. Making a concerted effort to become a zombie in order to accomplish a meaningless goal is not a sign of advanced moral character or personal development in my world. To me the entire thing reeks of self-protection and the desire to flee from reality. So I suspect by the time I finish this post Andrew will have accomplished his goal. But, I wonder, did he have any fun?
Update July 16, 2015:
I read a story this morning on the front page of my newspaper about a fellow who just completed the Appalachian Trail in a new record time, under 47 days. The story was about how much he suffered during the 47 days he spent on the trail. He was described as being a mere shell of a man, like someone who had just seen six consecutive months of combat in WWII. The author of the story said the man was inspirational. I don't know about you but I don't aspire to look or feel like an Auschwitz survivor.