online: 24 july 2002

23 july 2002 men as climbing animals

20:03 A windy evening beneath half-clouded sky. Only a few people walking or running. Voices of men shouting to each other from a large tree in which they are climbing.

Is tree-climbing becoming popular again after fifty to a hundred years in which it wasn't? In my father's time boys collected bird's eggs which they climbed for. If tree-climbing is becoming popular again I see it as part of the huge process of men refinding their place in the world - after the devaluation of muscular strength in industry.

I expect there will soon be developed climbing shoes and gloves, or even powered prostheses (Limbo 90?*), which will enable people to climb any large tree or building. Burglars also. When I look at the claws and feet of say squirrels, or cats, compared with those of say rabbits or dogs, I am surprised to see how small a difference there is between feet which can climb and those which cannot.

But the men in the tree were climbing with ordinary hands and shoes, plus muscles and nervous systems that they have trained to climb without the fear or the muscular weakness that stop me climbing.

And now two young men in outdoor vests and crash helmets climb the steep slope beside me on mountain bicycles. Part of the same process - the post-industrial revolution.

That's a good title for the book I should be writing - or perhaps I am writing it?

*Limbo 90is the name of a science-fiction novel by Bernard Wolfe (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth 1961) in which the elite people have arms and legs amputated so as to be fitted with powerful prostheses.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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