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How to See and Act in the Face of Fear: Advice From A Blind Rock Climber by Hasan Bhatti

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  • This is a retelling of a story, first 'told' to me by a young blind girl through her movement and action days after the election. I hope it's passing on to you brings you that same powerful sense of wonder, meaning, drive and strength it brought to me as we navigate the divisions that are sizzling across our country.

    Here’s to the deep movement we are to create in the months and years that follow.

    Saturday 11/12/16, 1:46 PM, Sportrock Climbing Centers--

    Two parents approach me with their nine year old daughter, Mary**. I am about to work a birthday party shift as a belayer, or the person who holds the rope while the party-goers climb. Mary**'s parents explain to me that Mary** cannot see and that this is her first time climbing. As I take some milliseconds to figure out how I will go about handling this situation, Mary** is two steps ahead of me, already feeling the climbing wall, calling me to answer the moment a bit more quickly than I was with a: "Ok how do I do this?"

    And so I answer: I introduce myself and quickly run through the works, allowing extra time for her to feel/touch everything I'm explaining so I direct her hands toward the rope that can support 1,800+ pounds and the carabiners/harness that will keep her safe in combination with the rope and the other side of the rope/device I will use to keep her in the air and the starting holds and she says "ok I'm ready" and I say "Ok" back and a final "I guess I am/need to be ready too" to myself and so she's on the wall and I'm supporting her and there's no more time to think only being and acting now

    because Mary** is climbing a 5.7 and the rope won't support itself;

    At first her parents and I tell her where the holds are, and she reaches out slowly and cautiously with the closest arm or leg towards it. Soon, though, her slow cautious movement becomes a calculated rhythm. It becomes apparent that she understands and feels everything she needs to, and just needs the time and space. We weren't needed. We stop giving directions, and begin to watch.

    It is at this point that the loud noise and music of the climbing gym falls away, and the world becomes silent. Life now is only Mary** moving in the slow, methodical way a wind moves between the branches in darkness. Her parents and I watch and the rest of the party-goers do as well. She’s becoming stronger as she climbs and then she’s 2/3 of the way there, and we are all shouting encouragements as she goes up and she keeps her methodical pace and then suddenly she is at the top

    and the whole world watching
    (party, parents, workers, me)

    Erupts in celebration.


    As I let her down (and start to feel the deep happiness and love for this moment), I begin to piece together the immense gravity of what just happened. A person that cannot see reached into the unknown beyond her fears and beyond barriers that life or others may have ordinarily told her were not possible to overcome. She made her barrier a strength. She felt what she needed to feel, tested what she needed to test, and moved to where she needed to go.

    She made the future the present and the present the future and the past both important and irrelevant; she create a place where the world moved forward in time, all at the same time.

    And all it took was for a few to take the time to see, invest, support, and encourage this already flowing wind into deeper movement.

    Many of my friends and others around the net have addressed to me how the election/governments we have had over the past 8 years affected you in some of the most raw and authentic ways. This is coming from people all over the political and rural/urban spectrum. I am with you. And I have been hanging out in these reflection pools too.

    Many have also talked about the injustice of certain systems that are within this country from all across the political spectrum (enter any -isms/-ics of oppression, the liberal elitism/smug liberal style, the electoral college, blind ideology, disenfranchisement, etc.). I absolutely agree that these need to be addressed, understood, and examined in depth.

    What Mary** showed that day is that all people implicated by systems or perceptions of ‘what they appear to be’ (including the ones holding power) that feel/touch the multiplicity of realities that are associated with a challenge can become a slow wind in the darkness together, reaching out slowly with intentional conviction toward another, learning what needs to be learned to reach out further, becoming a connector to the many trees and forests that require this air for life and movement, empowering/moving the entire community together, leaving no one out + addressing everyone who struggles, focusing on their innate ability and right to thrive in this world, no matter your identity or past.

    And when we, in this wind, begin to see, reach, and breathe life into trees that grow both nearest and furthest away from ourselves and our reality without attempting to blow them over or cut them down, we might be able to see them together in a mix so vast, powerful and far-reaching that the challenge becomes our strength

    because that wind has been able to touch every root.

    Thank you again Mary**,

    For re-teaching us who were with you to see and feel that fear and uncertainty is a blessing to be followed;

    For pushing us toward continued dedication, connection and engagement no matter the (systemic/institutional/cultural/etc.) divide/violence between us as the barriers/violence (individual, institutional, systemic, cultural, etc.) fear and hate built up within us seek to break and divide us;

    For reminding us of the work we must do to create a world/governing system that will embrace/protect/enhance as many realities and needs as possible without exclusion, hate, impatience or dismissal;

    For reminding us that we cannot continue to ignore people who are locked in place by structural, cultural, and direct violence, that we must see hear and empower them according to how they need/want it;

    and that this tender movement in supporting/empowering/integrating all of these individual, communal, national, environmental, and Earth-wide realities together in the face of complete fear and uncertainty

    will be our deepest, and strongest, hope;

    **name changed to preserve privacy
    Photo from http://www.thunderworldclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/sebastian-meyer-iraq-rock-climbing-091.jpg
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