Ask Carrot

Recently I used some of our social media outlets to ask for help.  No, not that kind of help.  I asked for some help putting together an article.  I thought it would be fun to play “Ask Carrot”; so, I invited our readers and friends to ask anything.  I prefaced the plea with the notion that the theme was silly.  However, most of the questions that came back were so thoughtful that they really got the wheels turning, and I felt inclined to respond to some of the more thought-provoking questions with some thought out replies1.

What is Love?

I consider the philosophy of love my area of concentration, and so I really appreciate this question.  I’ve found no overriding reason to consider love an objective entity.  While that response comes off as pessimistic to many, it leaves open what I consider the optimistic interpretation of love, namely that love in its raw subjectivity is truly what you make it.  For more on my diagnosis of ‘Love’ here are some thoughts I recently published.

How do I find a climber BF?

I’ll do my best to help, no promises!  I am assuming this is a general question, and you don’t have one particular person in mind. 

Option #1:  Move to Boulder CO, and before you know it, you’ll be asking ‘how do I find a non-climber BF?’  (Sorry Boulder, I’m kidding, you know I love you!)

Option #2: Look under a rock, literally.  (I think I’m really funny sometimes.)

Option #3: Write us a post explaining what you are looking for, we’ll publish it for you, and before you know it, your options will be lining up from crags around the world!

Three solid pieces of advice. My expertise on love is really shining with this one!

What is the most important philosophical teaching to instill in young people?

This was a really difficult question to consider, and I can’t tell you the most important idea to instill.  So much of the answer depends on what goals we have for young people.  With that, I’ll offer three points that at the very least could be beneficial to some lil’ nippers.

  1. Celebrate failure.  I don’t know when failure became the new f-word.  Failure is one of humanities greatest teachers, avoiding failure is done at the peril of growth.
  2. Embrace change.  Fear of change can be debilitating, change can be very difficult, but it’s part of life. Understanding this at a young age, makes accepting this at an older age much easier.
  3. Allow for boredom: “a generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase.” – Bertrand Russell2

What is the foundation of Western Philosophy?

Speaking of Bertrand Russell, he wrote A History of Western Philosophy.  It’s a great book by a spectacular writer, and it’s a wonderful place to start when it comes to understanding philosophy in the west.  But there is a difference between the history of Western Philosophy and the foundation of Western Philosophy.  I think we can separate ‘foundation’ from ‘origin’ as well.  When I dissect the idea of ‘foundation’ I come to classify it very simply as that which all other parts rest upon.  The long boring answer to this question probably has something to do with using an agreed upon set of logical principles in search for a better understanding of the universe and our place in it.  I prefer to set the whole of Western Philosophy on Socrates’ notion that “the unexamined life is not worth living”3.

How does climbing fit into Stoicism?

I cannot imagine a more fitting philosophical approach to climbing than Stoicism.  There are several subtle and drastic variations of Stoic philosophies throughout the 2,300-year history of Stoicism, so to limit the discourse, I’ll concentrate on two generally accepted points within the tradition and how those two points relate to climbing.  The first point is more historical than philosophical, but relevant to climbing, nonetheless.  Stoicism comes from the Greek word Stoa which translates to porch.  The OG stoics were just a bunch of buds that would hang out on a porch and wax philosophical.  Climbers may not be hanging out on porches like the original Stoics, but the community aspect of climbing, and the community aspect of Stoicism complement one another perfectly.

The second point is more philosophical than historical.  A common theme found in most accounts of Stoicism is the acceptance of fate.  We cannot control nearly anything. One doesn’t pick to have a short ape index, or narrow feet, or advancing years, low metabolism, or low blood sugar.  These things are thrust upon us.  We cannot dictate the weather, the line, the approach, or the friction on the rock.  What we can control is our attitude.  Stoicism maintains that happiness comes from accepting your fate.  We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be controlled by desire and fear.  Fate has already dictated whether we will send of fall.  We didn’t pick for that hold to break, or our foot to slip, or for the trip to be rained out.  But so what!  Have fun anyway.  If the only thing we get to pick is our attitude, we might as well pick a good one!

What’s the meaning of climbing?

This one has me stumped.  I ask students all the time to avoid using dictionaries.  ‘Philosophers don’t use dictionaries, philosophers write dictionaries’ I’ll tell them somewhat sarcastically.  It’s not uncommon for me to explain the use of necessary and sufficient conditions when defining a term.  But the more I think about the question posed, I realize there is a difference between the definition of climbing and the meaning of climbing.  I can state all the necessary and sufficient conditions of climbing, and totally miss the mark regarding what climbing means.  I admit I could be equivocating/confusing/looking too deeply into the question in typical philosophical fashion, but it’s an idea worth exploring more.  I’ll make a deal with you, if you give me a little time to think about this, I’ll provide a much better answer than one I could provide here.  If that doesn’t work, then I guess there’s this.

Climb·ing /ˈklīmiNG/

Climbing is the activity of using one’s hands, feet, or any other part of the body to ascend a steep topographical object. It is done for locomotion, recreation and competition, and within trades that rely on ascension; such as emergency rescue and military operations.

  1. Apologies to anyone whose question I didn’t get to, I’ll try to catch you on the B-Side.
  2. “Boredom and Excitement.” Essay. In The Conquest of Happiness. New York: New American Library, 1951. 
  3. Plato, The Apology.

12 Replies to “Ask Carrot”

  1. Interesting article, thank you for putting my attention to stoicism. I agree it is very compatible with climbing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can this be an ongoing column–like “Dear Abby”? I have lots of questions to ask Carrot! Ha ha.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carrot,
    The part about embracing failure is incredibly important, and I am glad I am not alone in this. Also you mentioned that change is a part of life, this too is a virtue. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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