A Postmortem on Dan Brown's "Inferno," and What's That Aron Ralston Dude Up to Now?

So apparently Aron Ralston—the solo rock climber who cut his own arm off when trapped by a boulder, as portrayed in James Franco’s 127 Hours (2010)—has run afoul of the law, to the tune of “domestic violence,” which hopefully did not involve any Swiss Army knives or anything else threatening, Lord Help Us. (For the details, click here.) Is there a moral to the story? Probably not. All stories don’t necessarily have morals. And a moral without a story sounds like a rule to be broken. But as an ex-to-occasional rock-climber, I’ve been fascinated by Ralston’s story, not always supportive of it. One of the mantras of the rock climbing world is “Don’t climb alone,” for the various and obvious reasons that there’s danger involved, always, and you risk too much by not having someone there to help when the proverbial shit hits the fan. I’m a member of the Custer Count Search & Rescue team, and doing that you learn a lot of statistics for mountain climbing accidents, one of them being many deaths involve slightly older climbers (that’s me, though it depends on how you define “slightly”) climbing solo, getting into situations from which they can’t extract themselves. Ralston was young when he got trapped with that boulder, and here’s where I sympathize with him: It’s not always easy to find a partner when you have the time and energy to go climbing. I’ve backpacked solo, and done some bouldering alone, but I never felt like I was putting my life at risk. I guess I feel the way Jon Krakauer felt about Christopher McCandless, the subject of his book Into the Wild (1996). We’ve all done risky things, but in some cases, that risk proved fatal. Now Ralston’s charged with domestic violence, his risks might be altogether different, the kind associated with living and interacting with other people in a complex world, with being a good person. That’s also something that demands you not go it alone.
I should also report that I force-finished my reading of Dan Brown’s Inferno, which is not the worst book ever written, no. It was a fun read, if silly and repetitive at times. In the backstory you could say it’s “about” overpopulation, which is a serious threat to our world, and our consumption of resources, but mostly it involves a long, complicated chase scene through Italy, ending in London. And it includes the sinister Bertrand Zobrist. “You didn’t say Bertrand Zobrist, did you! My god, he’s a genius, and a madman!” Imagine reading that for several hundred pages. Plus a lot of art history text from the hero, Robert Langdon: a Harvard professor who wears tweed jackets and a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. And is apparently famous throughout the world, the lucky duck.

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