Growing up antifragile: Dragon slaying for beginners

Growing up antifragile: Dragon slaying for beginners

Ocean lead climbing

Ocean lead climbing on Tryfan, in fine weather!


Ocean and I spent the last 4 days camping, and climbing in North Wales. An awesome time was had, but intially things were a little more exciting than planned.

On arrival, the weather was more iffy than expected... low cloud and drizzle had soaked the rock, so we were forced to abondon our main objective - climbing on the Idwal Slabs, and instead move to plan B... do a bit of scrambling where the weather makes for a bit of atmosphere.

I decided we would brave the weather and take a quick jaunt accross Crib Goch on the Snowden massif. This is the most difficult route up the mountain and requires a fairly strenuous knifedge ridgeline scramble with alot of exposure on both sides. I had done this route literally dozens of times over the years, mostly in good conditions and despite Ocean being a wee lad, I was sure he would hack through it and we would have a solid day out.

Alas, as we climbed into the gloom above, the winds started to pick up, 50-60 mph gusts came on and visibility dropped substantially to about 10m. On the route you cannot simply get down, there is a degree of commitment on crib goch unlike other mountain routes. The only way to get off, is to continue going. Things got little better as we continued along the ridgeline. Ocean became increasingly anxious about getting blown off the mountain and worried about losing his footing. Fortunately I was familiar with the route and moved us through the difficult sections despite the poor weather.

We came accross a group of 6 others who were quite battered and on the edge of being dangerously scared - they were far out of thier depth: wet, cold, inexperienced...and lost in high winds with low visibility. Even experienced people have lost thier lives on this ridge in similar circumstances. We helped guide them through the remaining rock formations and then down the side of the mountain eventually meeting the PYG track (the normal tourist walking route). They were overwhelmed to get back to a little piece of civilisation!

Ocean did fantastically well. He was scared. He was physically and emotionally put into a difficult situation, with very real danger. Despite this - no, because of this danger - we both gained from the day we spent together, but Ocean gained immeasurably.

At 13 years old you are too old to be a child, and too young to be a man. Growing into a man requires you to have experience of looking at a chaotic situation, moving into it, navigating it and then bringing it under control. This is what the dragon represents in mythology, both Eastern and Western.

In the West the dragon is something to be slayed or conquered, but it has a hidden outcome - dragons love treasure. Killling the dragon gets you the treasure. In the East the Dragon is a lucky creature and respresents change, opportunity and fortune.

In a society that is grossly over parented, we are developing increasingly strange retarded young people, never given the opportunity to learn how to slay dragons. Everything is manufactured. There is no cost if you fail. There is no responsbility if things dont go your way.

Inevitably, the world moves and shit happens. When it happens to kids, or the adults they turn into - having had litle experience of real risk they will simply fall apart and break. They are literally eaten alive by the world. Consumed by thier failure to rise to the challenge.

We have a culture that encourages massive stacking of risk for youngsters, under the guise of protecting them and keeping them safe. By doing this we simply make them fragile and brittle. They are unable to cope outside the thin walls of the zoo we live in. We tell ourselves that the walls will always be there, but every adult knows in thier guts that we are closer to chaos then we let on. Things fall apart.

Its classic naive interventionism.

james and ocean

We are grossly underpreparing our children to build a better world by removing  the opportunity for them to become fully adult and learn critical life skills that can only be gained through genuine challenge and managing real risk.

After all, any fool can be happy and manage when things are going well. But real value has and always will be created when things are going wrong and successfully managed. And things will always go wrong.

Courage, judgement, boldness and the confidence that comes from experience are necessary for all of us to have a good life, and I am glad that Ocean got a little bit of an upgrade, learning about himself, the raw power of nature and the risk of not being able to control your emotions (rule No. 1: Dont Panic!) as well as the real cost of developing valuable skill, enabling us to grow to help others when the SHTF.





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