Last night I watched "127 Hours," the movie about Aron Ralston, the canyoneer who got trapped in a tiny crevice with his hand pinned underneath a rock. After 5 days and 7 hours, he broke the two bones in his lower arm, used the can opener on his utility tool to break through the skin and sever the nerves, and cut his own arm off to get away.
The thought of this horrified me. Still does, actually, but now I see a strange kind of beauty in it. It always had purpose; clearly, while losing an arm, especially like that, is terrible, he got to keep the rest of his body. He got to keep his life. The arm was gone either way. It simply became a question of what else he lost with it.
I hate violence, and I hate blood, and watching the 10 minutes that everyone talks about was, again, horrifying. But it wasn't as bad as I thought, and I've been wondering why ever since last night, when I found myself riveted to the screen even as blood was pouring out. I think it's because, taken on its own, him cutting his own arm off is just disgusting. There's no getting around that. I left thinking, "I could never do that. I'd just die instead."
But the rest of Aron's story is what makes that 10 minutes, in all of its goriness, beautiful. That's why you spend an hour and 20 minutes leading up to the 10 minutes everyone talks about and everyone came to see. By this point, you know what he'd be giving up if he died. You know the mistakes he's made in his life and how badly he wants to correct them. You know the regret he feels and the understanding about why the things that he took for granted are so important.
And you know what is worth living for. In his final hours, when he's out of water, hasn't eaten in days and feels utterly hopeless, he sees this couch. His parents are there, then brothers, sisters, family members. He talks to them. He says the things to their mirages he doesn't think he'll get to say to them.
Then a little boy is on the couch. A little boy that he doesn't recognize at first, until he sees himself in that little boy. He sees his son.
He sees his future in that little boy's innocent smile. A future that includes a family. A future that he wants to have, and that is within his grasp if he simply gets rid of the obstacles in his present that are stopping him from reaching that future.
You know what's coming next. But it no longer seems like a sacrifice. You see Aron gritting his teeth in determination to do what needs to be done to reach what he wants. While still painful, it is filled with purpose. Since he can't adjust the boulder, he adjusts himself. I cried as I watched that little boy watch his father make the changes in his present that he needed to so he could reach his future.
I left wondering about how I am trapped, and if I have the courage to make the changes, however excruciating, to get around them to reach my future. And hoping my children are smiling at me.