Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Are What You Do

Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do. Thomas Jefferson.

If you've been knocking around life and the mountains as long as I have, you learn to recognize - and quickly - the people who are really out there doing things, and the people with a skewed self-image who just think they are out there doing things. On the internet, these people are called poseurs, and they are as easy to spot as Ralph Nader at a Tea Party convention.

Poseurs are evident by spraying about how much they ski or climb, or even simply train. Poseurs will lay claim to ridiculous numbers of hours per week spent training (all hard core, of course), and report how super-humanly strong it makes them, yet, when you see them on an actual trip, they just don't perform anywhere near the level they claim. Or the poseur will spray about all the multi-day ski tours (pompously calling a simple tour up a glaciated peak "ski mountaineering") and epic climbing trips they do, but all you ever see them do is go on easy hikes and lap around the slack-country outside of a ski resort.

Sometimes poseurs try to sign up for your club trips - although this doesn't happen very often as poseurs prefer to recreate with one or two people they already know who can be relied upon to be either as weak as they are, or weaker. More often, you meet poseurs on the internet where, with a receptive and gullible audience, they spray about their athletic prowess. Almost universally, poseurs spend many hours, days, and much money acquiring gear, because, according to them, they are "hard" on their gear and wear out a jacket or pair of ski boots in less than a season.

The whole thing, of course, has long ago been explained by research. The truth is, the more we spray about what we do - preferably with a large audience such as you would find on the internet - and acquire symbols (skis, boots, clothing, etc.) that represent our chosen identity (hard-core skier or climber), the less we are actually motivated to pursue activities that will lead us towards our chosen identity. Just talking about climbing, skiing, training, or owning equipment related to these activities, becomes a "social reality" and without actually having to do anything, we believe ourselves to be a hard-core skier, climber, or fitness enthusiast. In fact, research has shown that, the more a person engages in spraying and acquiring symbols representative of their chosen sport, the less competent they actually are.

So, how do you recognize a poseur? Well, they talk loud, long, and confidently. When questioned they respond belligerently. Their achievements, which they claim are grandiose are undocumented, vague, or both. And, finally, they have mountains and mountains of stuff, and are always looking for more. How do you know if you are a poseur? Tally up what you have really done in the last year, not what you bought, or said you were going to do, but what you have actually done.  After all, you are what you do. 

Hauling big packs in the middle of the Hurley traverse

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