Life Questions After Watching 127 Hours

January 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

Umm, Ouch?

I would think most people know the premise of 127 Hours, but just in case, there are some spoilers here.

I was prepared for a gory, queasy and bloody hour and a half when I walked into the theater to see 127 Hours. Instead, I experienced a frenetic, adrenaline-filled 90 minutes with much less blood and a lot more humor than I expected. Sure, the few minutes where Aron Ralston (brilliantly portrayed by James Franco) broke his arm then cut through it, tendons and all, was intense to say the least. (Although I didn’t get light-headed like these people.) But the movie was well worth the price of admission because it forced me to answer the following question.

How far am I willing to go to survive?

Would I cut off my own arm with a dull pocketknife blade like Ralston? Actually, would I even be conscious to make such a decision? Ralston seemed to stay conscious pretty much the whole time and even was able to keep his mood light when speaking into his video camera. I don’t think humor would be an option for me if my arm was pinned by a large boulder. My mood would immediately be inhibited by a severe case of shock, and I doubt it would really change much from there.

I’ve always considered myself mentally tough, especially in physical competitions. I was a four-year cross country runner, the last two of which I was one of the top-40 runners in my class, and as any runner will tell you, running a race requires a ton of mental energy. On the basketball court, soccer field and wherever else, I almost always feel as if I have a mental edge on my opponent.

But being able to outlast a guy in a race or win a 50/50 ball in soccer or dive for a loose ball that you have no business winning in basketball is not life or death, obviously. In fact, 127 Hours helped me realize that, to my knowledge, I’ve never been in a life or death situation. Not even close really. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up with a good family and to avoid any serious injuries and diseases throughout my life. This is a good thing, of course. I’d be an asshole to say otherwise. I never want to have to ration my already limited supply of food over four days, and I certainly never want to drink my own piss like Ralston did.

But I am worried about my survival instinct. How am I possibly supposed to know how calm and rational I would be in Ralston’s situation, or in any survival situation* without actually experiencing it, which I don’t want to do?

*Sample survival situations: Getting diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, suffering a serious injury, fighting in a war, having to go an indefinite amount of time with limited food and water (like Ralston, the Chilean miners, etc.), dealing with the aftermath of Armageddon (unlikely) and fighting off a massive zombie infestation (highly unlikely, unless the concept of The Walking Dead comes true).

Honestly, I have no idea how I would react, and that realization made me more uncomfortable than any scene from the movie.

I want some feedback on this one. How do you guys think you would react in a life or death situation? How do you think you would react in Ralston’s specific situation? Have you been in a life or death situation previously?

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§ 3 Responses to Life Questions After Watching 127 Hours

  • Martin Krueger says:

    First off good post and I really want to go see the movie. I have never personally been in a life or death situation per say but I like to think that I may have avoided them (usually in the context of driving) by being very defensive. Driving down 55 last semester a car in the far right lane taking the exit ramp came back over in front of me going probably 20 mph. I was driving at least 75 mph and in a split second changed lanes narrowly missing the car. I then corrected to not go into oncoming traffic, lost control and hit the ditch after 360ing. Ended up with two flat tires and the asshole in the car stopped ahead and then pulled away when I got out. All in all I think two flat tires from most likely an instant death had I not swerved to miss the car is a pretty good outcome. As I’m writing this I’m also recalling a near accident when a driver in Dallas on 35 almost killed the front passenger (you) and the idiot in the middle back without a seatbelt on (me). Anyway, I don’t know if I have the mental control to survive 50 days, 100s of miles out at sea with no food or water in a row boat like the two teenagers from N.Carolina a few years back. No they didn’t cut their own arm off but they did cut their own skin to use as bait for fishing. Although, obviously biased I think I could do well in survival situations just because I can remain calm in a sorta “don’t look down” manner. I don’t look down. Hopefully I can never speak from experience to the subject but I think I could do what’s necessary to survive in many situations.

    • Martin Krueger says:

      Had to check the story about the teens at sea. I mixed up the New Zealand story: three teens at sea for 50 days in a rowboat, with the N. Carolina Story: two teens in a small sailboat for 7 days. Either way both pretty amazing.

  • spencerengel says:

    Now that you bring up driving, I have a story of my own. I was driving home from work in the summer of ’08. The roads were wet from a bad thunderstorm, and the line to get onto westbound 70 from northbound 270 was backed up even more than usual. Said line always comes up out of nowhere, as in you’re going 60 and then you’re going zero. I have no idea why, that’s just how it is, and it takes some getting used to.

    Since the line to get on 70 started earlier than usual and my windshield was a little blurry, I had to slam on my brakes, which didn’t work too well since I was easily hydroplaning. I would’ve skidded right into the back of the car in front of me going at least 40 mph, but I was able to swerve into the lane to the right (the eastbound 70 lane) and somehow correct my steering back to normal before going over the shoulder into the ditch. So I just kept driving like nothing happened, although my heart was pounding faster than a hummingbird. Thank God nobody lives in the three-mile stretch of shitty neighborhoods east of 270.

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