Thursday, November 22, 2012

Everest Again

Climbed the highest mountain (Everest) again, at the autumn season of 2012.  Much colder, harder it was.  While I climbed Lhotse, nobody summitted on both mountains, and even accidents occurred.

Everest (left) and Lhotse (middle) seen from the Western Cwm.

A mountaineer climbing on the Sheer Lhotse Face.

Moreover, a poignant trouble have happened between the (foreign) members and the Sherpa mountaineers.  The series of the trouble looks complex and of course not-finished.

Now let me begin to look back on my experience on the mountain.  Hopefully some issues can help to understand the nature of the untold series of mountaineering experience.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sherpa Preparing Expedition

"Climbing Sherpa" have their own way to prepare "mentally" their job of Himalayan mountaineering.

Two Sherpa (Tendi and Lakpa brothers) spend one morning before leaving out to the expedition at the Bouddha, Kathmandu

As its mortality says the sport is not only scary to their foreign participants but also to the Sherpa.  Foreign mountaineers, as they intentionally and eagerly plan an expedition and "enjoy" it, they of course have very specialized way of dealing with the intimidation of the danger.  Indeed, most of the skill in the sport is about how to avoid dangerous situation--mountaineering is sometimes defined as the "skill to come back home alive".  To most of their mind, if they can acknowledge and avoid all the dangerous situation then they would likely to be successful in their climbing.

However, Sherpa might be different.  In many occasions their special way of considering "danger" in mountaineering gave rise to absurdity from the westerner's mind.  A huge avalanche, for example, to a particular group of people would have for Sherpa been regarded as an "anger of the mountain to them."  

It becomes therefore an important issue for them to protect themselves from the "anger of the mountain."  It is heard "unfortunately" religious; however, I believe all climbers--not only Sherpa but the "scientific" westerners"--should also have, in order to progress on the mountain, any sort of religious mind that would define for them the unknown force of the mountain, their future, their meanings of the world, and their selves.  

How Phenomenon Shape

Again, I would like to emphasize HOW phenomenon is shaped.

It seems that other animals do not concern the flowing water as humans would do.  Not only both (human and animal) have developed different physiological ways of incorporating information of the world.  It is not just depended solely on any physiological, or "bodily", function of the being.  It is only a recent assumption that there is entirely abstract "data", clearly distinguished from other fluid environment, that can be scripted into any material and considered comprehensively or incomprehensively through scientific method.  No.

We do not have any positive proof of there is such a distinction (of the material and the immaterial).  This assumption is the whole basis of structuralism in its broadest term.  If we assume such a fundamental distinction of the world then we again would have to face an awkward situation in which we need a "bridge" connecting between those two: This of course have founded the unnecessary discussion between Nominalism and Realism.

Put simply, if you say, "everybody has its own way to understand the world" then it is a replication of the basic structuralism.  There, in reality, cannot be such a distinction between "understand" and "the world".  Fixing the two opposite parts is a very humanist trait, therefore someone might say "human is structuralist."

Once I dropped a bit of water when I was drinking.  As the water dropping to between my legs, I almost automatically stretched my legs as it dropped down to the floor.  It was successful!  Successful in matching the speed of the acceleration of gravity of the water with that of my legs.

If "time" can be considered by thinking "speed", both also be matters of phenomenology. It is because time cannot exist without being, as Heidegger defines.  The falling water is a being-in-the-same-world with my being.  The fact of falling, the fact of its being of water becomes for the first time a fact by being with, connecting to, my body drinking the water, my hand holding the cup, my legs reacting to the water almost automatically, my consciousness almost unconscious at that time, and so on.

The reason I was stammering with, in particular, the division of life and its surrounding world is to conjecture the "boundary" of phenomenon.  My hypothesis on shaping phenomenon is: Life defines phenomenon, since life has the function of "crystalization of time".

Annapurna Rescue Expedition

immense Annapurna South Face, seen from the base camp of the face

Right after coming back to Kathmandu, I could, almost by accident, join with a unusual Himalayan expedition.  It is a Korean one, purposing to search out the three dead bodies from the foot of the immense Annapurna South Face.  Three climbers were Park Youngseok, Shin Dongmin, and Kang Kiseok, leaded by Mr. Park, aiming to climb the wall through a new route in the "alpine-style" which means with no more than 2 ropes, no using supplemental oxygen bottles, no previous setting up high camps, no help from high porters like Sherpa, and so on, and is now commonly regarded a "better" style in high-altitude mountaineering, especially among the mainstream climbers. 

I joined an Everest expedition in 2006 the leader of which was Mr. Park.  Mr. Kang was my old friend.  Most members of the current "rescue" expedition are also my good friends.  It is no wonder I could join with them although it was not planned, in particular I was regarded as skilled to build up a base camp.  

There were two voices in their country: to retrieve their dead bodies and not to do so, leaving them onto the "heart" of the mountain.  "The family of the deceased" and the close friends like the members of the expedition seem to want to do so.  Other people who do not know the deceased ones personally seem to want not to do so.  

Retrieving dead bodies from Himalayan mountains is not an extraordinary project for Korean people, as their mountaineering history shows several examples.  Sherpa mountaineers, in my interview with Sherpas, also regard the idea reasonable, while, as they concede, other national people would not do so.

Annapurna Base camp trekking

The immense wall of the south face of Annapurna 1 (8091m).

Korean and Sherpa climbers coming back from ABC (Advanced Base Camp) to BC.

With all the members of the expedition at the basecamp

Sherpas making a heli-port backgrounded by a sacred mountain "Fish Tale" Machhpuchre"

Sherpa AND Korean "Puja"

Korean mountaineers conducting a "puja", Sherpa Buddhist ritual, at the base camp of Annapurna South Face.

I should say I could not see any noticeable difference from each of the "official" meanings the Koreans and the Sherpas endowed to the ritual.  Anthropologist Sherry Ortner once critically analyzed the ritual placed by mountaineering expedition, separating the key meanings of foreign mountaineers and Sherpa's.

The indifference and difference in the meanings of the ritual, if we can consider to some extent, should be traced up to their consideration of such a terms including "dead", "deap person", "spirit", "god(s)", and so on.  What is "avalanche"?  How can you avoid the disaster?  What it means to "avoid" the force of the mountain.  It is the question: how one understand the "unknown".

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Leaving: Qualitative Difference

After the short period of stay in the Walung area, Tendi and me had to leave out to Kathmandu.  The moving out to another place from one's village needs a luck from the god for the Sherpa.  Two roosters had to be killed for serving us; wishing luck ritual "Milam" had been placed by a lama Ang Temba who is indeed Tendi's father.

Ang Temba Sherpa (41) wishes us luck as conducting "Milam".  He is the father of Tendi (Zetha), Maila (Lakpa), Saila (Nang Tessi, 12), Kancha (Nang Pemba, 9), Zethi (?), Maili (16), and Kanchi (13).  

Maila Lakpa cooking a rooster at the brazier.

Festival: Levels of Community

When we arrived at Khandbari, the Newari Jatra has coincidentally been placed.  The festival usually has played at around in the early August, to which many of the local people, not only Newar but also Sherpa, Gurung, Rai, Tamang, and so on would gather to see and enjoy together.

Jatra.  Note the crowd, in its "crowdness"

Note the two bikes crossing the scene

Two different plays conducted at once.  Consider the "levels" of community

1. Although it was accidental that the festival occurred at the same day with Bazar which gathered once in a week, such a huge crowd was itself rarely seen in the town.  Most of the people, to my eyes, not only gathered to see the festival, but also concerned the other people themselves, the "crowdness", and in particular some of them would be their cousins, friends, neighbors, and so on.  In other words, if you want to define the festival
in their own view, such a communitas mode of the festival (in Victor Turner's term) should only pose a part of the entire phenomenon.  How can it be possible that the two bikes crossing the scene at the second video clip.  How can the two "qualitatively" different behaviors exist at the same time, same phenomenon.  In Turner's as well as other theorists' conceptions of the duality of the world (mundane vs. exceptional) may not be enough to explain the seemingly awkward coexistance.

2. Closer look at the third clip.  Such a transcendental mode of festival would not likely be clearly distinguished from the "normal" life.  Or, our normal life might always include a certain possibility of festivalness.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Key Problem in Anthropological Methodology

How can one delve into the "process of meaning-making", since the method is indeed the anthropologist, a person, which always exists WITH meaning.

One way is to differentiate the "levels" of meaning.  Anthropologist Gregory Bateson's formulation of "form and process" (which has been developed from anthropologists Radcliff-Brown and Frederik Barth) looks to be helpful to consider the pre-thought process.  This is exactly the way Gilles Deleuze accords for his own building up of the notion of "resilience", to investigate the "essence of now".

Anthropology, as a social science, needs fieldwork data in order to prove or argue any fact of human nature.  It is not only interesting but very difficult question that what condition or theme in the fieldwork may be usable as the reliable data to appropriately argue such a pre-thought process.

Working Ideas: Criticism to Structuralism

Structuralism, as notoriously Claude Levi-Strauss has been regarded as formulated, is, unfortunately, not fully criticized to my understanding.

What is structuralism?  It is bold claim of mine: not only Levi-Strauss, but also Karl Marx (historian), Mircea Eliade (religious theorist), Victor Turner (anthropologist), Pierre Bourdieu (sociologist), and so on can be regarded as important theorists of structuralism.  This is bold because such figures like Turner and Bourdieu are least likely criticized as structuralists as they have never been.  But, this is the key mistake we did not find traces of structuralism in their thoughts.

Thus, we see limits from the current criticisms to structuralism, those of Clifford Geertz (anthropologist), Michael Foucault (philosopher), Jacque Derrida (philosopher), and, in particular, the recent ANT (Actor-Network-Theory) theorists like Bruno Latour, as they are, to my knowledge, still based on any fixed set of duality.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his posthumous manuscript confesses that his formulation of the famous theories on the body has been unsuccessful since he never have overcome the consciousness-object duality.

I consider monism as the key to overcome the duality.  There were not a few theorists in the monist tradition.  Charles Sanders Peirce is the one, but he has been regarded as finally successful, for his formulation of scientific semiotics system was very clear to capture the fluid nature of the world of experience.

Two more figures should be noted: Gregory Bateson (anthropologist) and Gilles Deleuze (philosopher).  It has not well-known the fact that the Deleuze's theories are grounded on to some extent Peirce and Bateson.

A few recent theorists I would call "relational theorists" try to further their ideas on the fluid nature of the world.  Two are foremost: Tim Ingold (anthropologist) and Karen Barad (philosopher).

It will be a very, very long note if I try to explain their "relational" theories in accordance to Peirce's synechism.  However, I believe, a perfect criticism to structuralism is only possible by understanding the synechism, something may be impossible in human thought.

Politico Ecological Topic

From the first glance, I would note of at least four themes on political ecology to the contemporary Walung area, Sankhuwasabha, northeastern Nepal.

1. Irony in education sponsorship
Children if they have enough education (i.e. speaking English fluently) they would, it is said, have gone out to other countries or at least Kathmandu.  The villages, then, would become empty.

2. Development as a local tourism sector
The people in the MSYC (Makalu Sherpa Youth Club, represented by Kama Chhring Sherpa) try to open a new trekking route to the Makalu Base Camp.  The example of Khumbu area (Mt. Everest area) will be a good case: As Mingma Sherpa criticizes, the wealthy locale do not anymore concern about the development of the local, poor people, while they send their children out to other developed countries to study further.

3. Interest on Environmental Problems
They have a local way of logging and clearing woods in order to make fields for cultivation.  It might be considered to be large area where the people cut off woods and make "Singngah".

4. Troubles between small villages.
The people in Nurbuchahur consider to build up a solid bridge bridge between their village and Pahl Kahrkah significant, to be settled foremost.  However, Kama Chhring Sherpa, the president of the MSYC and born and lived Angluwa, has not many interest on it.  Neither is the people of Nishar.

The Flimsy Bridge between Nurbuchahur and Pahl Kahrkar


The white columns in the B are seen rather darker than the column A.  People call this an "optical illusion": It is said that the B columns are in fact a brighter color, same with A's, and yet they look darker because of the black columns.  It is true that, no matter how we try to look at the B columns in its "factual" color, they are least seen as bright as of the A.

Think differently: There is no other way by which we see the picture than to look at it as a whole in our first view.  We do not see each column of the B separately.  They may be separated but only after our first glance as a whole and a following reflective thought.  The imagination of the "fact" that each column in B is indeed brighter than as seen is possible only after we have kept in mind the picture as a whole.  That is, it is NOT true that each column of B composes the whole picture.

We easily say, however, this as "illusion", something IS wrong.  We want to see the atoms of the whole in order to understand the whole, and that is why we understand our reality through the other way round.  However, we cannot know whether the atoms have ever existed in the world as fundamentally distinguished from its surroundings.  We only grab the world as a whole FIRST.  The trait of focusing on each atom is due to human's humble function of sensing the world, that its consciousness can embody at a time only a bit of its environment.  "Human is atomist," philosopher Ian Hacking notes.

Cleavage: Phenomenology and Peirce

All phenomenologies rise from where all the lives split up the world as it does.  In each instance "phenomenon" begins.  However, Charles Peirce with his unfinished system of synechism ("connectionism through monism") breaks up the boundary between the world and the lives.  He nihilates the subject-object dualism, fixed set of the duality, and rather argues the clear continuity of the world and the lives.

Communal Body: Taste

During the first days I had consciously expressed my delight on having the foods, frequently saying "Simbunok" (It is delicious).  However, it looks, now to me, the hostesses may have not expected from me such expressions.

Of course, there is obviously a difference in taste of each dish of food in accordance to the cooks.  And, most of them, as most of us do, prefer tasty dishes.  How would the food, however, be cooked?  All the materials of the food are commonly--not household basis--prepared.  More importantly, the "eating mouth" is, not an individually owned organ of the body, rather a commonly-owned organ.  Let me try to explain more carefully.

Sherpa would continuously ask each other whether they are in a hunger, looking at other's cup of beer is going to be empty.  The skill of soliciting and having others to eat or drink is, at least to me who had believed his own country (S. Korea) had the people who are the best in the skill, surprisingly great.

From here begins my hypotheses: 1. Having a full stomach ALTOGETHER is better; and 2.  the hunger is a pain that should be avoided as it arises from an individual body.

Temperature: Mode of Human Relations

"Cholum Lahsung" means "It is hot (weather)", and "Khebah Lahsung" means "It is cold."

The Sherpa terms on temperature are not just about the extents of movements of molecules in the air.  If there are many people it would be regarded "Cholum Lahsung", and if not it be "Khebah Lahsung".  It rather be defined by a mode of human relations.

A Sherpa large family - it involves "hot" mood

Love: Man vs. Nature

To live in a rural or mountainous area sometimes considers to be closer to "nature".  However, there is one considerable assumption.

"Yurukahssahmah" is a very active way of transforming the "nature" into what humankind would wish: "Yormahng" should be rooted out and dead.  Then, one may argue: the villagers would "love" the Gyarr, being more homogeneous with the "nature".

I may say that I have experienced three types of cats: one is in the US, cats of which tend to brag herself, as I have felt.  Another one is in Korea, the relation between the animal and their "owners" is rather an even-like exchange of affection (the cats tend to purr easier than those in the US).  The last one is here in Nepal.  I have never seen so far the dogs wagging their tails.  People and their livestock do not seem to exchange any affectionate behaviors.  Then, should I say, the relationship of cats and humans in the US can be more "lovely" than that of in Nepal?

"Salia" is cutting a home-grown rooster, to serve me as I am leaving out the village

An old Gurungni carrying a flock of goats

Sherpa cat, "Pissyung".  It looks not have learned any way of showing and exchanging affection to humans

The relation, or the definitions of human and nature has many times been discussed in the fields of social sciences.  As far as I know most of them have focused on the difficulty of the definitions and the activities or intentions of the defining tendency.  Here I am, however, approaching the topic in a different fashion: How we assume our emotions as their nature is something arouses FROM our body, our self, or any other our agency, which has always been regarded as our OWN.

How New World Begins

Weeding a garden (field) is called "Yurukahssahmah".  It may look a simple task, but needs a special skill: to distinct "Gyarr" (millet) from "Yormahng" (weed) or vice versa.  Although Gyarr is a single species, Yormahng includes every other species except the millet.  They are in a figure-ground relationship.  You root out Yormahng very fast, almost automatically, as if you do not actually "think" about what the grabbed species is. 

Sherpa work at a field

Although acquiring the skill is of course embodied from learning, it does not only involves "acquiring".  It is a process of transformation of one's worldview: The garden is not just a single-green field, but, as one would acknowledge, composed an ecosystem in which two  qualitatively different beings are contesting exclusively each other.  Learning is not just an instance of addition; learning inducts a beginning of a new world, a new life.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Essence of Life: Path

Most locally made paths are not straight.  You will soon find you walking not straight but turn left and right in every step you progress.  Functionally it is much easier to walk uphill in a zigzag way.

Local path in a Sherpa village.  Although it looks straight, you will find you walking zigzag.

Then, however, one must be confused out if he/she does not have any idea of the direction he/she want to follow.  Whereas they would warp out in each step and sometimes look to stagger as they walk, they have in mind any "linear" course of walking.

Moreover, To walk means to move.  To move always involves a result of a transformation of physical position: a purposive, subjective behavior.  In other words, without any sense of purpose there cannot be a walk.

Then, what is a "sense of purpose"?  My initial thought: it is an outcome of abstraction of time.  It is based on a firm belief of the presence of tomorrow, which is in actual you cannot prove out.

It seems that the abstraction of time and place is an essence of life.

Themes on "Ownership of the Body"

Kanchi and Zeti

"Zeti" Ming Doma Sherpa, as watching a video clip in my camcorder, embraces "Zetah" Tendi in her arms.  What is the boundaries between the bodies especially when they embraces each other.

Therefore, four initial themes on the topic of "Ownership of the Body" are:

1. What is emotion;
2. What is feeling of the self;
3. What is "tending toward a completion of feeling"; and, after all,
4. What is an individual.

Difficulty in Fieldwork

Only a few days of stay in the village were enough to let me face the difficulties in conducting fieldwork in such a rural area.  First of all, it is physiological problem.  The tough food was the one my body have troubled with.  Diarrhea did not stop due to continuous "Chang" (unstrained millet or corn wine) and "Ahrahk" (distilled liquor) which were served for me literally all the time.  Sometimes only a little smelling of food have me felt like vomiting.  Second is toileting.  It is hard to find an official toilet from each house.  Also, I do not have a knowledge of the after-measure of toilet without any toilet paper: Such a knowledge is one of the hardest things I could learn from "participating".  Third, especially during the summer season there are too many leeches that grapple with my bare feet.  If raining and if I should move to another house or village, only three minutes of walking would I find out tens of the horrible from inside of my sandals.  Blooding is quite frequent.  At least for me, to look at the insect and find my feet in red color is stressful.

Smoking "Balba" (frog) at the brazier of Ngaa Dawa Sherpa's house.  Ngaa Dawa is a maternal uncle of Mingma Sherpa.  Eating the Balba food, as they served for me as it was regarded as a kind of valuable medicinal food, was, frankly, too hard for me.

Leeches on a leaf

I cannot omit to tell another serious difficulty I have struggled with in conducting the fieldwork: To miss my home-people whom I love.  I was always thinking of those, especially my girlfriend.

I believe I never be able to live in the village just one single night if there is no such a lovely people.  It is not only very easy to tell them my troubles, but also they sincerely would suffer my struggles together.  My blood is not entirely of mine, when my "Gakka" (grandmother) feels the wounds and placates my heart.  I am just waiting for the "Mungsherr" (November) and "Pus" (December) when, they assert, the village life is much easier.

With Maili, Kancha, and Gakka at Gakka's house.  Nurbuchahur, Sankhuwasabha, northeastern Nepal

With Sherpa kids

Joke: Human and Animal Relationship

"Zetah" Tendi and "Kanchi" were joking (teasing) each other.

As in the presence of a cat
Zetah: Kanchi gh Ruh (The youngest girl's friend)
Kanchi: Chiujyu gh Permi (Older brother's wife)

Five conditions I would note:

1. The teasing occurs where others are;
2. The cat was also called "Kanchi";
3. The brother and the sister are teasing each other;
4. Cat is an animal lower than human; and
5. They distinct the sex of cat.

Order Naming

Most Nepalese people call their close friends with their "order names" as below.

Male order

1st - Zetah
2nd - Mailah
3rd - Sailah
4th - Kailah
5th - Ahndare
6th - Jahndare
7th - Mahndare
the last - Kancha

Female order

1st - Zethi
2nd - Maili
3rd - Saili
4th - Kaili
5th - Ahndarni
6th - Jahndarni
7th - Mahndarni
the last - Kanchi

*No name for 8th or more if among nine beings or more
*If only one being exists then he/her will be called Kancha/Kanchi.

Working Question: Life and Time

If there is no life, does time exist?  If we define life as crystalizing time, then the essence of life is time.  It is because time is flow.

Definition of Phenomenon 2

We easily become absent-minded in the face of, for instance, an impressive waterfall.  Why?  The power of the falling water, the coolness, the quality of water, or such a physical force of gravity will be soon commonly shared by human beings, other animals, or any other non-animated beings.  However, the wonder to the qualities, any fear against such an altitude difference, any memory to the waterfall, and so on cannot be shared, perhaps be so only between some humankinds.  Put simply: the quality is universal, yet the conceptions on the the quality are habitual, historical.

Semiotician Charles Peirce separates these into three categories: "Firstness" as the "quality of emotion", "Secondness" as the "struggle of experience", and "Thirdness" as symbol, habitual thought.  The 1stness can be universal, according to him, so it is eternally reoccurring.  The 3rdness is a very particular portion of any being since it accumulates all the particularities.

"Phenomenon" is only to be defined by the agency that does.

Why a waterfall attracts a person's attention

The Force of Water, Force of Life

It was difficult not to become absent-minded in the face of the impressive flowing water of Arun Nadi (river) on the flimsy suspension bridge between Walung Phedi and Yamalung.

We human beings focus on something that grab our senses. We feel "power" from the inanimate objects.  Then, however, the problem is I cannot comprehensively know whether any object which we ordinarily regard as being without life is in reality without life.  Simply, I feel anything that I might express as a "force of life" from the mighty flow of the water.

We normally are used to believe that only animate being has life, and the boundary of life-being demarcates itself at the "skin" of the beings.  However, it proves to be a simply absurd idea if we find the fact that their is no clear border between the "inner" and the "outer" parts of the body.  Rather, both are connected in an analogue relation, not in any qualitative difference, "digital" binary.

I am not arguing for such a Gaia hypothesis, by which organic and inorganic forms of beings may constitute a whole.  No holistic idea I consider here.  Rather, I think of "materials" for making-up a life.  We should consider, in order to reveal the secrets of life, time, the visible, and the phenomenon.

Habitual Thought

It is well known that a foreigner should follow the local way of treating others, such as a locally particular way of dressing.  For example, taking an upper garment off and being half-naked may be regarded as rude or impertinent.  Nepal as a whole is one country the people of which may think the half-naked rude.

Then, what is "half-naked", and what is "clothes"?  What is the function of clothes which may distinct the naked skin from other person's eyes?  My question is, rather, what is the "eyes", "clothes", "nakedness", and so on?

Perhaps we should think in the same way in which we deal with "name" of things and "language" as a whole, in our conjecturations of the body, garments, or any other materials, but also anything we can think about.

Essence of Life: "Crystalization of Time"

Chickes shoo away each other.  From the menacing, they would run away, but only a few steps.  No more consumption of energy.  It is same with the relation between cow's leg muscle and flies.  In their menacing there is no real "killing" but only pretending.

What is "pretending"?  It is basically pretending of a trial to kill yet without real loss of the targeted life.  There is always a doubled-consideration on life:  one thinks life as a concept, as if one says "you have a life and I may occur a loss of the life of yours."

In other words, no life-being deals its own life without a consideration of the worth of the life.  Life has never been just a flow of time; it always encomposes of "crystalization" of time, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty words in his posthumous book "The Visible and the Invisible."

Tough Life!

It was even before I got arrived at the village when I found my feet covered with blood.  It is very tough, just to approach to the village!  So many "Petta" (leeches)!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Definition of Phenomenon 1

What is "phenomenon", and what is "society"?

scene #1.

Tendi put his mobile phone playing music closer to a few ants carrying almost dead insects, after laughing a lot to the scene.  Then, however, are they really disturbed by listening the music?

scene #2.

A brood of chicken gathers around their mother.  It is "laughable," but only to the person who watching the scene, not those the group itself.

scene #3.

A brother and a sister cats always sleep together, pillowing each other, at the Sherpa brazier.  The phenomenon evokes a sort of fraternity, especially between a brother and a sister of human beings.

scene #4.

Cow sisters hanging each other, licking each other.  To lick out somebody, particularly if the other is related in a blood relation, evokes, too, the fraternity or familyhood, which might only be asserted between the groups of human beings.

It is true that human can "evoke" the feeling of fraternity as they look at any similar activities of other animals, while those almost do not have such a feeling.  In short, an emotion is very individual, humanist, or solipsistic.  Not only we cannot say our emotion is universal, but also we have no longer any term by which we correctly identify "our" emotion with others'.

Moreover, due to the fact that the emotions are not universal, it should also be true that we cannot say only human beings shape a human society in a phenomenal way.  Someone's society, to his/her own viewpoint, might include some agencies which are not human.  Again, we say, as we see the cow sisters licking each other, a morality, which assert a fraternity between human sisters.

Thus, such a personification of agencies--not only other persons, but also all kinds of animal, plant, or any other natural beings without life--which are not person in its strict term is a key step that a human agency constructs his/her own world of communities.  Rather, people may not be able to construct community only within alive human beings.  "Community of human beings" should be only a result of abstraction.  Abstraction, a process of thought, is very habitual, "historical" -- by historical I mean it can be differently composed.

Initial Travel to the Sherpa Village

Seoul - Kathmandu - Tumringtar - Khandbari - Mure - Walung

The plan of conducting my anthropological fieldwork is composed of moving between places, following people.  The people I hope to follow is the Sherpa whose hometown is Walung, one facture of Sankhuwasabha, Northeastern Nepal.  Many of the Sherpa men have worked as Himalayan guides, and they, sometimes with their 'close' family members (wives and children), move back and forth between their village and the homes in Kathmandu.  They join expeditions taking months every season, preparing and climbing high mountains such as Mt. Everest, Mt. K2, Mt. Manaslu, or other lower mountains.

Roughly speaking, anthropological study focuses on understanding from the people's standpoint, not from the outsider's view.  To answer the question -- What is mountaineering -- if you only accord to the Westerner's definition, I would say, it simply fails to grab the meaning of the sport.  On the other hand, if you do not see the sport on the favor of the Himalayan guides, your understanding of the Sherpa life is only but limited--This is the base of my counter-argument to the previous studies on the people.

Mountaineering, as you might have guessed from my description from the standpoint of the Koreans so far, is a collective sport, of the "members", of the friends of the club, of the members of the communities of mountaineering, of the people in the country.  A summiter's glory arises from and within the circles of the societies -- it is NOT identified with, coming up solely from, the person who focused.

I have left from the busy mega city, Seoul, after one and half months of stay.  The stay was chaotic: for an Everest-climber it was difficult even to sit on a chair focusing on to write about any topic, not to mention talking and meeting many long-time friends.  The one and half months stays at the hometown itself may be a long story which changed my life as a whole.

Coming back to Kathmandu alone was to me, the person of many times experiences of Nepal, very new.  Making a non-tourist visa from the governmental bodies was the first obstacle: I had to spend one entire week and tens of US dollars in order to "work faster" (bribe) the officials.  "Newar people do ANYTHING if they can make money," my Sherpa friend condemns.  Only I guess the ethnic identities and politics among the Nepalese.

Also "Chaotic" for the novice anthropologost, driving in the Kathmandu city

I left from the confusing capital to the Makalu area.  I knew I would stay no more than two weeks in the initial visit, I could not stand to wait for experiencing the village life.  Walking (almost like climbing) into the village itself was too tough, however.  "Zethi" Tendi Sherpa, one Sherpa I hired at the spring expedition to Mt. Everest, guided me throughout entire the first trip into the mountain.  It was very, very surprising, interesting, and fruitful experience to me.

"Kancha" Pasang, at the "snooker" in Kapan, Kathmandu, Nepal.  The snooker is such a 
social club of Makalu Sherpas.

The snooker in Kapan.  Many Sherpa from the village as well as other villages gather this place especially in pre-seasons.

Nepali police taking money from the drivers

Taking "garr(i)" (car) at the Tumringtarr (to Khandbari)

"Zetha" Tendi shows the Walung villages

With "Zetha" crossing the Arun Nadi (river) into the Walung area

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ownership of Experience

Can I say, "the climb was mine," or, at least, "the climb experience was mine"?  To answer this question we need to define the terms "experience" and "I."  In the pragmatist tradition, the self is defined as the sort of conversation between "I" and "me."  (Sometimes viewed as "inner theater")  That is, there is always an agential part "I" who is the author of consciousness.  On the other hand, there is a passive party, who is rather an hidden owner of "emotion," or the deaf body.  

The question to the pragmatic tradition is: Can we assert the ownership of "me" to the self?  

Heidegger once wrote: "It is not I or you who feel uncanny ... it is rather 'someone'".  The phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty points out, in his posthumous manuscript (The Visible and the Invisible), the unknown owner who feel uncanny is to be unknown since his identity is prior to consciousness/object dichotomy.

Let me put this into the working definition of experience. An instance of experience in its initial form derives its ownership rather to the unknown, someone who are not an object of "I".  Philosopher Karen Barad's argument would be appropriate here in order to progress our inquiry into the "ownership" of experience.  She argues that there is no boundary between you and me, this and that, one and the other, only if the identifier does not identify each. Initially they ARE one.

What can be called "my climb on Mt. Everest" is, therefore, not exactly mine.  Whenever it become endowed meaning in social life the ownership, if there is, elongates itself to the mind of all the signifiers.  All the people around the mountaineering signify the mountaineering, identifying oneself to the agent of the object.  If we have no capacity to identify oneself to another the mind cannot work since it would fall into agnosticism, for example.  

This may be heard a weird philosophy.  But my poor intention was to recognize that we the people in a certain intellectual tradition have assumed the author of consciousness as the owner of the unknown (by definition) "me" and the world.

People welcome the climbers at the airport

Now: Past Experience

I cannot say the mountaineering "finished."  Every moment including writing this turns out the new, totally newness of thinking aback.  Perhaps it revolves around the mystery of "now," the substance of time.

The very minutes I was being on the top had least spread out any special present.  It just was.  Arriving back to the BC without any serious injury to all our members and receiving a great welcome from the senior members of the alpine club at the camp, already the "climbing up" became some delightful incidents.  When the hired Sherpas were happy with the "summit bonus," when all the members enjoyed a farewell party at Kathmandu, when we met a number of people waiting for us at the Incheon airport, etc. the meaning of the expedition continuously changed.

It is Gilles Deleuze who connects time with now: There is no such a thing past or future; there is only now.  "Now" is composed of the two, "to the past" and "to the future."  Then, it is easy to remember something called "past experience" is made up from now, which always cannot be fixed, as flowing river.

The Photo Exhibition of the Expedition

Kathmandu: Meaningless World

Kathmandu is a strange city.  Once everything therein was out of sight, as you did not concern at all; while again everything does not hold any meaning, all the voidness filled with the air.

I was trying to find out what were filled up with my mind.  Let's seat on an internet cafe, logging on email, Facebook... But failed.  Too much energy needed even to remember out ID and password.  In the website, another person with same face of mine looked at me.  Turned off the computer.  Not yet.  Now I needed some other.

There was only left emptiness.  Hornbein paralized himself: Dreams come true; however, nobody answers my question.  Why people lost their fingers and toes.  Why some do not return from the mountain.  Why we intended to climb on.  Why.  We did, but, there was (still) no answer.

I was not anymore "mountain" but also not yet "everyday."  I was "..." as Martin Heidegger impressively describes.  The life, the world in front of me did not hold any meaning.  There was only the flow of time, which is the life itself.  No necessity as well as no way to endow meaning onto the world and myself.

So far was the prologue of the start of my pages.  It may resemble what Heidegger progressed from the "former Heidegger" (ontology) to the "later Heidegger" (neo-ontology).  It is from humanist phenomenology to what recent philosophers call "post-phenomenology."  From Sartrean existentialism to Deleuze.  From the Cartesian to the Peircean Monism.

What is Decision to Live

Of course the reason of why we prepare for the future and try to avoid danger is to lessen the possibility of being fallen into more serious problems.  Nobody does not want to be death.  On the other hand, however, it is also true that nobody can choose one's own life lives.

The news hit me when I arrived back to C2 in the evening of the exhaustible day was a very sad one.  Two Koreans from the other Korean team were missed during their summit try.  The member of the team, Mr. Kim, had tried his best at the C2 in order to draw any other's help who were at C4.  However, all the Sherpa couldn't go up since they also needed to help their own clients.  What matters worse, the night began to blow the jet stream over 8,000m.

Five climbers including one of the two Koreans were dead that night.

I am alive now as writing this.  However, was I clever, strong enough to choose life, with a better decision?  No.  I did not know my decision was right when I had to decide.  Only what I did was TO ASSURE of me that mine would be right.  Nobody cannot foresight one's own future.  Mountaineering will be seen as the game against unknown; however, the rule of the game will also to be unknown.

Seonpil climbing the sheer Lhotse Face

Turning back to Life

The American Tom Hornbein, the first ascentionist of the Everest West-Ridge in 1963, defines mountaineering:  Mountaineering is the struggle between the will to life and to the top.

I finally saw Jeonghwan at around 8650m turning around his way, from the top to the camp below, at 7AM as I was climbing down from the top.  His turning aback will mean his purpose of the top being end with unfruitful, no more the rule of mountaineering Hornbein defines would hold.  However, it is for the finish of mountaineering: Going back to his friends, to other human beings, to the world in which one does not need to risk one's own death as everyday life goes.  It is rather to achieve the spirit of mountaineering, for he will be able to think and talk about his climbing.

Jeonhwan looking over Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world


It was 4:30PM when I arrived finally at the last camp on the "South Col" as high as 8,000m.  The summit plan should be reconsidered as soon as possible.  Previously the idea was that most of us would arrive the camp at around 2 or 3PM, which would give us enough time to enjoy short hours of rest with the supplemental oxygen, getting up 6PM and braking up from the camp to the top 8PM.  However, now we faced two problems: Too many people that likely block the way to the top, and not enough time to take a rest at the camp.  

"Are you Okay, Jeonghwan?"
"Ya, of course."
"Then, let's start earlier than others. If we packed up among them, then we won't be able to move back and forth."

Thus, it was only 7:45PM that I and my "personal" Sherpa Ngaa Tenji began to move from the camp.  There were a couple of lights seen from the face upward of the big mountain which were probably of the season-first summitters'.  No earlier climbers on that day before us.  The air in the evening was cold.

In the film Apocalypse Now (1979) there was a focus on "horror."  If the particular bodily state dominates over the person, as the case of Vietnam War in the movie shows, all the human rules are to be reorganized in accordance to the "first" rule, which is horror in the movie.  

It was deadly thirst that reorganized my all the journey to the top at that time.  The small water bottle soon went empty.  The two hours of rest at the final camp was too short to melt down ice and snow into water enough for the five people on the tent.  My bare consciousness had no choice but to imagine the scene of drinking water without restriction.  No concerns on climbing, no fear, no worry, and no delight being on the top.

The "Balcony" (8400m), the South Summit (8750m), and the famous Hillary-Step I have crossed over and climbed up without much consideration.  It was already almost the top when my watch showed 3AM.  Still dark around.

I needed a photo on the top.  It IS significant to share my getting on the top with others.  To see their pleasure, or rather their recognition of me would toggle the climbing into my experience, experience deemed to risk my life.  

Therefore, we found a small cave right below the top in which two to three persons could take a rest, kicking into it, falling into a deep nap but short as we sat on one's own bag.  It was too cold, although the temperature was just around -30 centigrade, for we did not move one and half hour in the bench.  At 4:30AM we got up and headed to the top.

I had had driven throughout the vast desert in California in an evening some time ago alone.  Then, a fire was encaptured my sight.  The sky, and the world, was half red and half black.  The color of fire looked as if overwhelms the blacken world.  

The sea of cloud was so vast to the whole east side of the mountain, the Tibetan side I firstly saw during the entire climbing.  And, the far end of the sea, not the small end, but the spouting out end, there was a presage of the sun, the symbol of energy, the maxim of life, the rule that governs the world.

Pictures were taken.  All the fingers freezing.  Only ten minutes on the top were not short amount of time since the strength of experience never be dominated by the duration.  Man overcomes time.  

Young Hoon at the top of Mt. Everest at the dawn of May 19th.

The fifth highest mountain Makalu (8463m) seen from the top of Mt. Everest

The chain of head lamps following from the C4, 9PM May 18th, photo taken 8,300m.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Amusement Park"

On May 18, beginning the day of climbing at the C3 to C4, I was but to be shocked with the crowd.  The endless chain of people were climbing up to the Lhotse Face in a line.  It looked like some three hundreds or more.  I was never heard about this before, as all of the others were.  The worst is that you have to wait even though you may walk faster.

Simone Moro, the well-known Italian mountaineer, describes his being among the group of people as being in an "amusement park," and the people as begging a "jewel which they want to purchase and conquest."  

Why were so many people packed there?  According to the Nepalese official record of the number of Mt. Everest climbers throughout the years, this year did not show the biggest number.  It is rather ordinary.  

Tashi Sherpa, the basecamp manager of the "Seven Summit Treks" agency in Nepal, narrates differently.  He accuses the reason of "rush hour" on the face to the "Himex" team, the biggest commercial expedition of that time, managed by the New Zelander Russel Brice.  "The R.B. team (Himex) was initially to make the route to the top at least until the early May.  But, they didn't."  The New Zelander decided to forgive the year's summit climb, for he and others had concluded the condition of the mountain was worse to climb up.  They withdrew from the BC as late as May 8th without fixing the rope nor letting other teams know their decision.  Therefore, Tashi believes, the rest of the climbers could not help but to lose the better chances to try summit before the horrible day.  

The photos of the crowd on the face, however, have covered the world news headlines.  And the typical way of depicting the "crowd" on the world highest mountain is not different from how Simone has cynically censured. Their purpose is only the conquering the top of the world; they have no serious consideration of the spirit of mountaineering; they are not "alpinist" but only "novice" who without the help of Sherpa would be fallen to death.  However, Simone, as well as me, was one of the crowd.  

Thus, here are my questions: what is so-called "alpinism," and how does it differ from the naive philosophies of the crowd, if they are unlike from the genuine climbers?  I am not asking the should-be of the sport.  Nor, I am not querying the history of the sport.  My intention is a philosophical one: How one experience can be translated into diverse languages?