Chairlift Conversations

Tuesday afternoon skiing was one of the Top 10 best ever! Conditions were flawless! After a first stiff run, I loosened up and hit it! Loose hips, carving thru slight moguls, joyous adventure! Bright sunshine, sunny blue sky, warm but not too warm—just right for perfect snow.  

Each chairlift ride was fun meeting different types of people. 

Rode with a set of older gals, one a long-time regular to Mammoth; she told about eating lunch with an 83 year-old woman from Boston who had skied the world but fell in love with Mammoth, bought a condo and comes out west for 3-4 weeks at a time to ski.          

Met another older couple on the chairlift, husband-wife, retired from Thousand Oaks, CA. She was snooty, persnickety. She reluctantly complimented my red ski jacket and queried, “Are you an employee?”      

“Yes, but not for Mammoth.”      

“Then where did you get your jacket?” implying ‘Surly no one of your lowly stature could  secure one independently.’     

“It’s on loan– I’m an honorary member of the Good Looking club.” 

Her husband snickered, but she was unamused and proceeded to snoot-monologue.      

“We’re retired. I never thought I’d join so many ‘clubs’.”      


“Yes, ‘clubs’. Bridge clubs, country clubs, ski clubs, knitting clubs. It’s all so boring.”     

  “Good for you!” I said, unwilling to go grumpy, “I’ll never retire, I’ll just move onto the next thing.” 

Today I also saw the most horrific crash—a guy near the summit on the steeps, slow-motion crashed through the rocks. Everyone on the chairlift pointed and moaned. Limited view from the chair inhibited seeing where he landed. Off the chair, I got around the mound, looked up—his skis were lodged in the rocks, but he was not amongst the rocks. Scanning the slopes, —and there he was, some 200 yards down the hill, stand/sitting, gazing up, appeared unhurt.  

  Saw some great skiers. One guy, down from the summit, hopped off a cornice onto a very steep, mogul-filled headwall. He slowly tick-tock, hip-hopped his way down, calm, relaxed, steady pace, hop turns like a metronome, with little sprays on each turn, hop, hop, hop to the bottom, an exquisite display of mastery and control. 

Philosophical remnants:    

Met a guy in his mid-30’s, married with no kids. 

“My wife and I decided not to have any.”

“Why not?”

“We’re too selfish.”        

“Too selfish?”        

“Yes. We want the freedom to do what we want to do, when we want to, without constraints or responsibilities. We love our lifestyle, our ski trips—and our nieces and nephews. We’re good.”

I thought of Tim Ferris interviewing Navy Seal Jocko Willink.     As a human-interest factoid, Tim asked Jocko,  “If you could have one billboard, what it would say?”    

Jocko replied, “It would say, ‘Discipline yourself. There is freedom in discipline.’ The more disciplined you are, the more free you will be.”

Jocko’s comment led Tim to reflect on how his big goal had been ‘total freedom’—meaning financial freedom with no constraints or obligations. Tim said he achieved it and has lived it for several months.

“I’m miserable. I can’t stand the options, the wide-open nothingness. I’m stressed out, not sure what to do. I actually hate it.” 

What a remarkable learning, what candor. 

Those kidless kids may be headed for a world of hurt.

Selfishness provides only short-lived joys; there is no lifespan, no long-term fulfillment to living for ‘me, me, me.’        

If I built my whole life around this hobby, this sport—as you see some have done, some grizzled mountain men–not all, but some…you can tell. Some are family men, working men, squeezing in sport with unbounded joy. Others are ski bums, single, self-centric; maybe great skiers, but you can sense the loneliness, the shallowness of their selfish, unrewarding lifestyles.

Many, I suspect, pursued their gut instincts for self-fulfillment and found them wanting.         

Scripture says Seek wisdom, but wisdom makes no sense to them. It’s counter-intuitive.         

And so they chase their gut-instincts, their selves, their sensuality—ski, food, drink, one-night stands. Alone they wander, shallow, seeking happiness in fits & starts, haunted in the echoes of their loneliness…silent loneliness— No silence, please. Please: no silence. TV, music, satellite radio, voices of the moment, distractions,—turn it on and keep it on. Tinder that flashes brightly but holds no heat. 

Wisdom stands at the crosswalks, calls out in the streets; but for whatever reasons, they choose to ignore her, go their own ways.     

Men like Tim Ferris honestly admit their status, and seek wisdom from other wisdom-seekers like Jocko Willink.   

Discipline equals freedom.   

Seek wisdom. 

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