Learning to Suffer

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by sekihiker » Mon Jan 18, 2021 9:28 am

Amen, Teresa.
Those of us who come from a background of distance running or other athletic endeavors that require intense, sustained effort, probably look at suffering differently than those who haven't had those experiences. There is no fear of suffering or the feeling of the need to avoid it, so it is easier to incorporate it into any activities where suffering occurs.








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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 18, 2021 9:48 am

There is a continuum from "having fun" to discomfort to "pain" or "suffering". Certainly if I were to quit backpacking at every point I stop "having fun" then I probably would not even be backpacking! "Grit" is just the ability to put up with discomfort and pain; in some activities a positive attribute and necessary, in others quite stupid because it leads to injury and safety issues. Even those with good mental "grit" need to know when to say stop. I read a lot of PCT journals and I am most impressed with those who complete the journey with minimum "suffering". Those of us who are still backpacking well into out 70's are playing the long game, trying to preserve our ability to backpack even if that is seen as lacking "grit". There is that saying, "there are bold mountaineers, and then there are old mountaineers". I want to be in that latter bunch.

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Jimr » Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:26 am

If you want to learn to suffer, try marrying a rage-a-holic. Now that's an endurance sport!
“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

-John Adams

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Teresa Gergen » Mon Jan 18, 2021 5:24 pm

Grit is far more than just the ability to put up with discomfort and pain. And of course you need to quit "in the moment" when conditions, experience, good judgment, or just the plain fact that you're not feeling it that day dictates that you do so. I didn't mean "you don't quit" because you have summit fever. I meant, you don't quit on your goal, because it means everything. And in fact, learning to quit in the moment in order to come back to finish the goal is an element of developing grit.

I stand by what I wrote, and I believe when you read it, you will either understand immediately, or you will never understand. And I mean no judgment whatsoever about whether people who have, or do not have, this kind of drive for a goal are better or worse than others. People are motivated by different things, and that's good.

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by balzaccom » Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:41 pm

Teresa Gergen wrote:
Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:11 am
I'm not sure most of the responses here even understand the point of the article. A better word than "suffer" is "grit." You cannot achieve great goals that require intense physical activity without having a ton of grit, and, if you have grit, you can achieve great physical goals even if you are not an elite athlete - that's her point. And it's spot-on. People do whatever they do outdoors for any number of reasons. The vast majority of those people are not doing those things to achieve goals that mean everything to them. Those people are not going to want to suffer, and are going to want to stop if they're not having fun. That's totally fine. But if you are very goal-oriented and your goals involve intense physical activity, you will develop grit or you will give up.
As a cyclist who has ridden centuries and literally tens of thousands of miles on a bike. I know what you mean about grit, Teresa. And I think the author chose her words poorly. As you suggest, grit is probably a better word.

But that's not why I backpack...and while I understand that I don't speak for all backpackers, it looks like most of the comments here agree with me.

You are right Teresa. We should all hike our own hike and have our own motivations. But if you write an article that purports to address the larger audience of backpackers, you are going to miss the mark if you focus on suffering, grit, and determination. As most here have said, joy, beauty, and fun are more likely to be our focus.
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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by balzaccom » Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:58 pm

BTW, the website that first published that article tends to lean towards what Tim Cahill has called the "jaguars ripped my flesh" school--a rather sensationalist approach. I remember one recent article when the author arrived at a pass to look over the ridge into a large and mainly trackless wilderness, and said that the overwhelming emotion of the moment was fear.

Really? Fear? I don't think most of us hike in that mindset...
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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by dougieb » Wed Feb 10, 2021 9:32 am

This is a good conversation, I appreciate everyone's perspectives here. I don't seek "suffering" in anything I do, but the most rewarding times and activities in my life do tend to involve going beyond my comfort zone and experiencing some amount of challenge, exhaustion and fear. If we focus less on the word suffering and instead replace it with grit, discomfort, or other similar term - I think the article has value and certainly resonates with me. Aside from the deeply significant experience of being immersed in the natural world, one of the main reasons I love getting into the Sierra is to confront and overcome my fears, learn new skills and get stronger mentally and physically through those experiences - all of which takes some discomfort. Some of my greatest experiences and memories certainly involve discomfort - lightning storms on high passes, poor camp sites flooding, strange snorting sounds in the night, spooky winds howling through the trees, spending my first nights alone, scrambling over crumbling rocks to get just a bit farther after a long day, hiking too far on the last day to answer the call of a cheeseburger at the end of the trail. All scary, uncomfortable and yet amazing experiences. Too many of my friends will never feel these joys of the mountains not because they can't handle discomfort but because their fear of discomfort means they will never try in the first place.

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by sekihiker » Wed Feb 10, 2021 9:50 am

Well said, dougieb. Thanks for sharing this.

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Feb 11, 2021 10:07 am

Fortunately, our "comfort level" expands as we become more fit and acclimated. I do suffer the first trip or so each year! Then subsequent trips become easier. It is amazing how adaptable humans really are if you just give your body and mind a chance.

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Re: Learning to Suffer

Post by Jimr » Thu Feb 11, 2021 9:45 pm

The only time I felt I was truly suffering is when I drank my own piss and my son asked me if I would share my piss with him. Well, there was another time where we hiked out of Simpson Meadow over the Byatch and forgot to dump our alcohol laden toddies and only realize our folly when we were committed, but it pales in comparison.
“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

-John Adams

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