Monday, February 14, 2011

Recommended read: 127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

What makes the human brain respond to death with reflection? I always figured people saw images of their family as a way of saying goodbye, but considering what the memories have done for me -- giving me a surge of positive energy, smiling, feeling happy -- I ruminate over an ulterior purpose. Perhaps the whole life's highlights reel thing is a survival instinct, something ingrained in our subconscious, the brain's final trick in the bag to continue its own existence. I imagine that once adrenaline has failed to engage a successful fight-or-flight impulse, the flash of memories acts as a secondary reflex, motivating us to keep fighting even when we don't think there's any fight left in us.
- Aron Ralston
Ralston tells his incredibly true story of being trapped by a boulder in Blue John Canyon in Utah from April 26-May 1, 2003, and how he eventually was able to escape by amputating his arm. With his right hand crushed between the canyon wall and the boulder, Ralston is not successful in his attempts to move the boulder to release his arm, and although he sees amputation as a possible solution, he initially pushes it to the back of his mind when he figures he does not have the proper tools for the procedure. Ralston has very little water and food and endures cold temperatures every night; he looks forward to the ten minutes of sunlight that reaches his location in the canyon each morning. He occasionally brings out his video camera, both to record the details of his situation and to say goodbye to his family and friends, remembering their good times together. At the time of his entrapment, Ralston was nearing the end of a five-day vacation from his job at an outdoor gear store in Aspen, Colorado, where he lived. Because Ralston himself was not sure about his exact itinerary, he left no information on his whereabouts for his roommates or friends when he left. He figures that by the time his friends or employer notice his absence and begin the search process, he will be dead.

Chapters alternate between Ralston's time stuck in the canyon and his other trips, both solo and with friends. Although the main draw of this book for me was reading about how he survived his entrapment, I became quite mesmerized by Ralston's writing style and his observations about nature and life, and found it just as interesting to read about his adventures through the years, including one time where he was stalked by a bear and another when he came close to drowning in the Colorado River.

This book was first published in 2004 (under the title Between a Rock and a Hard Place), but I hadn't read it until recently, after I saw the Danny Boyle-directed film 127 Hours starring James Franco, now nominated for 6 Oscars. I highly recommend you read this book, whether or not you've seen the movie. This is a very moving and inspirational account about a person finding the will to live when he already accepted the grim reality that he was at the cusp of death.

by Aron Ralston
In the News -- 796.5223 RAL
Find it in the catalog!