Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Aron Ralston returns to the canyon where an 800-pound boulder pinned his arm for five days, until he finally escaped by amputating it with a dull penknife.
He's on book tour so he's been all over the media, but on Monday night we went to see Aron Ralston at the Boulder Book Store. He was promoting his new book about the experience, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which is both a horrible cliche and a perfect name. We had watched the Dateline special so I wasn't sure I was up for his graphic description of self-amputation (turns out, I wasn't really up for it, but I listened all the same), but seeing Aron in person added greatly to the experience.
Not so much because the core story was different, because it wasn't really, but because Aron talks a lot more about the real reason he wrote his book. He feels it's his mission to share his story with as many people as possible, in the hopes of inspiring others. I've heard other people say similar things after going through terrible tragedies -- that the experience was worth it because of the sense of purpose they now have. Aron went so far as to say that if he had to go through the whole thing again, he would. I'm not sure he would really make that choice in the unlikely event a divine being lands in front of him and offers it to him, but it's still something to say that after spending five days and five horrible, freezing, sleepless nights alone in the desert, stuck under a rock, waiting to die, he would do it all again.
"It was the greatest divine interaction that anyone could ask for," Aron said. "To inspire people, to be a messenger of faith and courage. I am proud to be contributing a very positive message to the world." As opposed to other books currently on the New York Times bestseller list, where his book entered this week at number eight--he's sandwiched between Confessions of an Heiress by Paris Hilton and How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jamison.
During the Q&A, I asked him something simple: "Do you miss your real arm? Are you already used to your new arm?" Somehow in the course of answering, he shared that since his story has come out, he has gotten five letters from people who were seriously contemplating suicide but decided against it once they learned of his ordeal.
"If I had only gotten one of those letters, this would all be worth it," he said. And then he thanked me for asking that question, although it really had nothing to do with what he ultimately said. He doesn't miss his arm, by the way.
Last month, Aron ran a 100-mile race. By comparison, I'm having problems getting through a one-hour Tai Bo tape. (Billy Blanks swears to me that if I can do the whole workout, I will get everything I want. So I'm waiting.)
In any case, when your life sucks, and you are late for work, and your boss is yelling at you and you just spilled coffee all over your new white pants (why you ever wear white anyway is anybody's guess), take a moment to say a little prayer thanking God for what you do have. Chances are, it's a lot.