Truly the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. FDR had his heart in the right place. And as he faced a country in the grips of the great depression he took the podium and gave a speech meant to be heard by all Americans. During the campaign Roosevelt was criticized for not divulging his plans for the country that he was aiming to lead. Not many of his close working relationships, aside from his wife, even knew him that well. His speeches were buoyant and optimistic, yet solemn as the economic doldrums affected the national demographic. It seems that these characteristics would have worked against FDR, yet he still triumphed the challenges before succumbing to illness. Many great things came about from his presidency.
First off, FDR was the only president to serve more than two terms, acting as president for four consecutive terms, though his poor health decided his fate early in his fourth term. During these terms he created the New Deal, and its vast array of programs, and dealt with World War II. Legacies such as the Social Security System, the SEC, the FDIC and the National Labor Review Board are the signs of his time spent leading the nation. His presidency was monumental to say the least.
Today we find ourselves facing a world of eternal challenge and have faithfully elected a president who is capable of greatness. However, Barack Obama is more often compared to JFK than FDR. This association is likely due to his energetic and youthful nature, air of sincerity and sense of responsibility that has brought the people together in a time when a leader was desperately needed. Anyone can be a decider, but few can be a leader. With the dismal economy and the constant war on terror, Obama seems aligned to take steps that coincide more with the absolute and enduring impact that FDR had on our country. Assuming all goes well maybe we will get lucky and Obama will have a chance at more than two terms.
To bring this thought on course, it is the lack of fear that Barack shows towards an agenda that has nothing but daunting tasks in its lineup. The thought alone of what he faces in his daily planner is daunting: stabilize the economy, create 3 million jobs, rekindle respect for the US, nurture the national hope, broker some peace in the world and raise to daughters in an urban environment. Though, going on a first couple weeks impression, it suggests the right man was chosen for the hardest job in the world and his outlook appears to be that the man is at least as great as the task. Thus, the only thing that Barack fears, is fear itself. And maybe another crackberry crash.
Now, to lower the bar to a human level, yet keep with the theme, I look back at some of the situations I have put myself into and the fear I faced. Now I wonder if it was really just fear. The first on that list of fearful situations is when I climbed the Nose Route on El Capitan in Yosemite with my friends, Tim Kemple and Dave Hume. It was twenty three and a half hours of jugging and climbing. The two rope guns definitely took the lion’s share of the sharp end, but I got my fill as well. Aiding the Great Roof and bounding through the joyous laybacking of the pancake flake had to be some of the most fun big walling on granite I have ever encountered. Yet waiting just a handful of pitches above was the last jumar to top out.
Cutting loose from the last belay there is over 3,000 feet of air underneath you that drops away and comes back as up drafts, one of which stole my chalk bag a few pitches earlier. I felt the knot slide off as I was lay-backing and I watched the bag rise from behind me and get carried off on a breeze. I never did find it and was entranced by the sack as it danced away on a cloud of its own chalk. When I saw the movie, American Beauty, the video of the plastic bag dancing brought me right back to that moment in time, the blur of Middle Cathedral standing in the background.
As my hand left the final belay and I started to swing out, a host of thoughts bombarded my mind. First I thought to close my eyes, but my eyes would not close. Instead they just stared down and around at the abyss that could swallow me at any second. Then, all of the falls and abuse that the little pink PMI rope ever took catalogued themselves in my brain; I should not be using this cord. Knowing that over-thinking never solves a situation I just set my feet and started jugging.
Every heave on the rope created a new and stomach twisting creak. After each upstroke I caught myself staring at the taut rope as it pointed straight up and went over the edge of the capstone above. Each jerky movement of that free-hanging jumar made the rope drag side to side on the rough granite above. Was that a core shot I could see or a figment of my glycogen deprived brain. Honestly I probably should have puked my fear right out and into the void below. Yet the idea of someone getting killed by a vomit rocket at terminal velocity did not sit well with me. Also that we had run out of food and water about 10,000 burnt calories before, I doubt anything would have arisen anyway. To my great relief, the cord held and I made it over the top and then endured one of the most epic walkoffs ever, but that is a whole other story.
So, as you know, I am still here to relay the story. That must mean that the fear, of real and present danger, is still just fear. If finishing off that route was so inevitably fatal then no one would endeavor to take on equal or greater gauntlets. When we find ourselves in front of a demanding task that seems greater than ourselves for one reason or another, one only needs to slow down and acknowledge a couple simple truths:
- We probably would not be there if we could not handle the situation and succeed at the task.
- Confidence and calmness will aide you as you ready the necessary tools and engage yourself.
- There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.
As for that little pink cord, that was its last journey. Not a bad way to finish. If you are ever in Yosemite, follow the Merced river down to El Portal. A little past the post office there is a pull out on the left for a great swimming hole. The rope swing on the tree across the river is where that mighty pink rope makes its last stand. How it got up there was a whole other story as well, but fear not and go swing on it.