I’ve never climbed a mountain. I’ve hiked – perhaps – part of mountain or at least what might pass for a very tall hill. But I’m not a mountain climber. Nor am I necessarily a fan of mountain climbing books or movies. I’ve just never considered myself all that into extreme activities and the cultures that feed into it.
But then again, sometimes I am. Consider the recent climbing documentary Meru. This film is an intimate (the footage is shot by two men on the three person team) account of two attempts to reach the 21 000 foot “Shark’s Fin” peak on Mount Meru. Located in the Indian Himalayas, Mount Meru had – until this climbing team – pushed back every attempt to reach the top. Meru requires an expert level skills in technical, mixed snow, ice, and big wall rock climbing – all within -20 degrees weather.
Daniel Ellsberg was born during the Great Depression and is a hero to aging progressive baby boomers. He is best known to them as a highly placed analyst in the RAND Corporation, a policy think tank closely associated with the United States Department of Defense. In 1971, Ellsberg, moved by his conscience, leaked a top secret history of American involvement in Vietnam, commonly known as The Pentagon Papers. This document revealed that the US Government was lying to its citizens about the nature of its involvement in Vietnam, and had done so consistently under four presidents from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson. Ellsberg saw that the lies were continuing under a fifth president, Richard Nixon, and felt something had to be done.
Edward Snowden can best be described by those fond of labeling the generations, as a Millennial, one who came of age at or around the turn of the new millennium. Snowden is a computer professional who had been employed by Dell and the CIA before being hired by Booz Allen Hamilton, a contractor to the National Security Agency (NSA). In 2013, alarmed by the reach of the domestic and global surveillance apparatus, Snowden leaked classified information to the media regarding the extent to which the movements of Americans as well as foreign citizens were being tracked by the NSA.
Following these brave acts their lives took very different paths. Both were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, against which it is virtually impossible to mount a defense. Through government incompetence and bad behavior, all charges against Ellsberg were dismissed. He is a free man and a high-profile anti-war activist. There is little prospect of this for Snowden. While Ellsberg is revered as a hero whose actions helped to bring down the hated Richard Nixon, Snowden, in the post-9/11 surveillance state, is widely reviled by lawmakers as a traitor and a spy and is living in exile in Russia. President Barack Obama, who so disappointed Snowden, can barely be distinguished from Nixon in his words and actions regarding this revelation.
I’m a firm believer that you need to actively seek out inspiration on a regular basis if you want to stay: (insert desired adjective/adverb) 1) sane, 2) vibrant, 3) awesome, 4) healthy, 5) interesting, 6) curious, 7) young.
What does inspiration do to your soul? Does it fire it up? Does it numb or dumb it down? Does it crack it open wide? Does it provide mindless reprieve?
All effects may be useful to you, depending on your circumstances and your immediate needs. We can’t all go around giddy with delight all the time, now can we? What would that do to the economy, after all? It would be positively exhausting to inhabit the heights day in and day out. Who would do the grunt work and remember the laundry lists?
Aside from these very legitimate concerns, we need to respect our need to breathe fire, if only on rare occasions. Desert Runners allows you to breathe a little spark without getting burnt.
Desert Runners follows a handful of people as they make their way across four ultramarathons, each run spanning a different desert. What motivates these people, what gives them the gumption to keep going? In this movie you can step inside the minds of these runners at some of their darkest moments and cheer them on when their courage wavers.
I was looking forward to seeing this movie for a while, knowing the camera work was done by Sevan Matossian, the same Sevan who does most of the ‘behind the scenes’ segments for the Crossfit community. In one of the extra segments on the DVD, Sevan talks about how his physical training and preparedness were essential for dealing with the gruelling conditions on this film shoot.
A definite shot of sharp inspiration, Desert Runners will have you ruminating on the characters that make these runs, those who film them doing so, and what it is they find along the way.