A ringside seat at the end of the world: 127 Hours



I found myself LITERALLY on the edge of my ringside seat, watching Danny Boyle’s film, 127 Hours. James Franco stars in the fact-based story of Aron Ralston, whom most of you know as the adventurer who found himself trapped under a boulder while climbing alone in Moab, Utah.

I recall well the story when it happened in real life, and paid some attention to the developments as Ralston’s story reached mainstream media, now in the ultimate anointed form, a major motion picture by one of the world’s finest directors.

What I did not anticipate was that I would need therapy upon emerging from the movie theater.

Is there anything you don’t know about this story? His right hand is smashed under a boulder; Ralston suffers through over 5 days of unrelenting hell before he has to cut it off to escape. While some movie-goers have turned away from the scene where he must remove his arm, I could barely watch the film, period.

I have some claustrophobia issues, so if you climate skeptics want to freak me out, just show me a pillow.

The entire film was emotionally wrenching, as it slowly dawns on Ralston (Franco) the true horror of his plight. There’s fear, rage, panic, humor, self-analysis and even passages of lovely reverie as he loses consciousness.

Once I worked through the trauma of having watched this film, I began to think of its larger, metaphoric aspects. For those of you who thought there’d be some respite from the theme of this column, sorry!

Ralston is somewhat of a Peter Pan loner, afraid of commitment, doing whatever the heck he wants, whenever he wants, never telling anyone where he’s going (a key theme of the film). Meanwhile, there’s a comeuppance to his arrogance in the form of the accident, and Ralston has to do something inconceivable to survive.

Now consider the USA in terms of our hero’s predicament: four percent of the world population, burning 25% of its energy, going it alone in its nascent, Peter Pan stages as a nation, and there’s the ongoing accident called climate change. The country is going about its business (business, first!) and even under a we-can-change Obama administration, climate change policy has been put on the back, increasingly hot burner as we turn our attention to more immediate needs.

I’m saying there is no more immediate need that addressing climate change. I also happen to believe that it’s the way out of our mess, if we would only show the courage to survive that Ralston displays.

We are trapped beneath the boulder of our profligate, consumption-oriented behavior. Our politics are stuck, our fear is high, and we, as consumers, are confined to our ability to visualize only the next paycheck coming in — and for many, no paycheck at all.

We’ve painted ourselves into a corner we can’t figure out how to escape — instead, we just hope that things can return to normal, back to when a flat screen TV was just a credit card purchase away.

It ain’t happening, folks, or it may happen, but only for a little while. Moving toward a slower, more mindful economy, using less fossil fuel energy, is the only way to get out from under this boulder. It will be as difficult to do as cutting off our arm.

Would Danny Boyle flinch at my interpretation of my film? I doubt it. After all, this is the guy who made Slumdog Millionaire. See, we’re the only country on the planet still playing make-believe about global warming. Also, Boyle made 28 Days Later, one of the best zombie films ever, and Sunshine, about a dying planet, as well as The Beach, about a paradise ruined. And remember, Danny Boyle burst on to the cultural radar screen with Trainspotting, so he knows full well how hard it is to break an addiction, because that’s all this buy-and-throw-away-behavior is: an addiction.

I contend Boyle knows full well the shit-storm that awaits us, heading straight for the fan. The good news here is that Ralston does what he has to do to get out of his imbroglio.

Will we?

Go see 127 Hours for a glimpse of what it’s going to take to survive.


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