Just come back from watching Touching the Void (also available as a book. It’s a superb film, leaving me exhilirated to be alive. The trailer hadn’t appealed to me, but a friend had told me the whole story in great detail over lunch. She recommended I see it anyhow, and I’m very glad I did. Today of all days, it was good to put things in perspective with a film like this. The human mind is capable of wonderful things, as I know from my practice of tai chi. Observe it all around – circus performers, athletes, scholars – anyone at the peak of their humanity is capable of extending this tapestry of life that much further. Joe did the impossible, hauling his body through unimaginable agony and extremes to survive, in part because of his stubborness and his technique of breaking down the impossible large task into small steps. While the whole seemed impossible, by aiming at a single rock, giving himself 20 minutes to get there, he achieved it.
Although brought up Catholic, Joe had lost his belief, but there were interesting snippets of an awareness of something greater – a voice commanding him to move, the presence of Simon behind him. Similar to the trance awareness of different parts of the mind, the awareness separate from the doer, Joe’s awareness was separate from the voice commanding him, another part of himself. I see an individual as a continuous part of a whole (If you had to pin me down, I’d describe myself as Taoist), our conscious mind providing a limited level of awareness. More developed individuals are more conscious of what is beyond the individual, more empathetic and likely to act when others suffer, or when the system itself is suffering. At the same time, in extremes the consciousness is reduced, as it can get in the way of other forms of awareness. So people in a trance state can have revelations that were drowned out in the everyday conscious chatter. But to get to the point, to me the question whether that voice is part of Joe or not isn’t relevant, as we are all part of Joe. At that point it was separate to the watching mind, but then so are all of our thoughts if we actually had to watch.