Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ray Mears

Monday 29th of October 2007

Today I met one of my heroes.
Ray Mears was in town holding a lecture. The gorgeous old and venerable Leeds Grand Theatre was packed till the last seat.

Today we travel out into the “wild” with tools of the city. Titanium stoves, nylon tents and Gore-Tex. It’s adding an extra layer on top of the user interface between us and the nature we travel in. Ray Mears is one of, if not the most outstanding expert in the world on removing that layer and bringing us close to the nature around us, on nature’s own premises. May I add, on God’s premises, who made the laws of physics onto where we apply our knowledge. Ray Mears know how to live with nature, not just in nature to a level few ever reaches.

I know and have known several outstanding mountaineers through my life. Some can take your breath away with how fast they can walk on skis (literally if you try to follow them), how fast and under how appalling circumstances they can get a fire going and how well they can judge snow conditions for camp spotting and for foreseeing potential avalanches. But what is probably most notable with Mr. Mears is his humbleness. Not only for nature, but for the people living in it. And that he sees his work as important preservation of skills and culture. With our high tech world we have gained a lot, but how many can make a fire without matches or melt ice to drinkable water without a cooking pot in the arctic ice today? As we eat our way through rainforests, cattle gets gene manipulated and all food comes from the shop there are many essential skills, but more so also detailed knowledge about God’s creation that goes lost. And as much as our grandchildren may enjoy sitting under a tree as I have done, or Newton, or someone further back, they may know less about it. Not in terms of chemistry, botanics or Newton’s physics but in knowledge about the simple use and benefit of it, right where it is found. I know at least two different methods of finding South by looking at trees I can find in the woods. They are pretty inaccurate though, but your GPS may not be there when you need it one day.

I was probably 13 or 14 and I saw “The escape through Kalahari.” (Sorry, I’m not sure if it’s the English original title.) It made a huge impact on me. It was one of those moments when I knew that trips and exploration in the future would be more and more my own. Up until then it had mainly been hikes in the woods with my parents. I wrote a whole lot of stuff in my “diary” (or what ever you might call it) afterwards. Without going into detail it was about my determination to explore in the future. But just as much about my commitment to it. It was my first encounter with the African X/N language and I walked around making clicking sounds with my tongue for months afterwards. I remember a guy called Xabo.

Ray Mears showed pictures from some of his trips to Africa tonight and mentioned one of his friends name. It is not common to hear people in the West pronounce that click with the tongue, but guess what his friends name started with?

A circle was drawn, old tracks were crossed. Although I haven’t been much in the outdoors the last two years, it has brought me to new places and into new things that will bring me even further. The writing in that old diary must have been glowing tonight. I’ll find it again some day.

Maybe it’s time to renew those words… (Big smile! -can you hear the sound of my laughter disappearing between the trees at night? :)

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