My father-in-law and I were discussing the value of gold (he lives in a former gold-mining town in Idaho). He’s the mayor, and I call him Mayor Greg.
Mayor Greg explained the process of modern mining – which a few people in his town are pursuing. Dredges. Sluice boxes. Filters. Etc. It was complicated.
Then I started thinking about the arbitrary value of gold (I know, this is not a new argument). As my friend Ben LeRoy says, You can’t eat it.
A corollary thought is the arbitrary value of diamonds (as exposed in many documentaries and multiple Hollywood movies).
Other jewels too (although some are actually more rare than others).
But what else is arbitrary?
The color of clothing. The color of glasses. The color of a trampoline.
Artificial flavors in diet, caffeine-free sodas.
The smell chosen to be added to propane. Wouldn’t a flowery perfume smell be as pungent?
But specifically relating to me, athletic pursuits and sports’ rules are mostly arbitrary.
Dunking a basketball is two points.
Throw to first to get a force out.
Over-the-line is a penalty.
But what about the argument that sports mirror real life:
Football is a substitute for war?
That argument gets weak every time a late hit penalty is assessed. Imagine that happening in war. “Oh, sorry. You’re all going to have to back up fifteen yards because clearly that part of the battle was over before you chopped his head off.”
What about climbing = successfully evading a wild animal?
Last I checked, both bears and big cats could climb better than humans. And, in Yosemite, I watched a 35-pound bobcat leap eight feet straight up without any apparent effort. So if I was climbing to evade, I’d get eaten.
I like sports. Or pursuits. Or endeavors. Whatever you want to call them. But I have to admit that they are arbitrary.
So to honor the arbitrary nature of my climbing, I went out yesterday and tried to do the entire Low Down Low Boulder Traverse. The boulder measures five and a half feet at its highest point, and none of the traverse moves are that tall. To circumnavigate the boulder, a climber must complete thirty or so difficult moves while climbing no higher than four feet off the ground.
Completely arbitrary and glorious.