Going Ropeless

Editorial note: I started writing this in 2013 after seeing an episode of ‘Human Planet’. I didn’t really want to publish it until I had the full quote, which I managed to acquire this week. I think it’s still relevant.

All sorts of things are ‘speaking’ to me at the moment about life.

Last night we did a bit of TV catchup and saw the jungle episode of the BBC’s brilliant ‘Human Planet’. And while the programme as a whole was extraordinary what got me was the little ‘the making of’ documentary at the end.

For those that missed it they’d done a section on a tribe of people who, with primitive tools, had built a tree house…in a 35m-high tree!! The tribesmen climbed to the treetops using not more than sticks and vines and strength and stamina. Yet, in the making-of we see the BBC crew all safety-harnessed up with lines and backup lines, helmets, etc.

At the end they interviewed one of the crew. What had he learned from his visit?

“I find I judge my own inadequacies against their expertise and knowledge. You know, you come here and you’ve got boots on in case of snake bites, you’ve got sun cream on because of the sun. You know, you’ve got twin safety ropes to make sure if one fails you’re caught on the other one. And these guys? OK, maybe they have a higher mortality rate, but they’re much freer in their lifestyle. You know, they’ll shimmy up and down these trees. I think I’d much rather lead a fuller, shorter life like they do out here.”

The impact of a simpler, freer life is clear. How much do we miss out on experiences because of caution, rules, expectations.

Perhaps, sometimes, the risk of ‘going ropeless’ is worth it.