There is a spot near here where a pair of 900’ tall rock outcroppings emerge from the surrounding hills. This feature is known as Seneca Rocks, and it is quite a sight to behold. Evidently rock climbers from all over the world come here to face its challenge. We saw some of them in action today.
The US Forest Service operates a visitor’s center at that base of the rocks. It’s a very nice facility, and well worth a visit. One of the things they have to offer is a 20-minute video about the US Army’s use of this area during World War II. The Tenth Mountain Division saw these rocks as an excellent training ground for mountaineering skills. Thousands of soldiers learned climbing techniques here before being deployed in the war effort. One of the things that struck me as I listened to some original source material from some of the trainees was how they had to overcome their natural fears as a part of their training exercises. The Army took ordinary boys, brought them to these rocks, screened them for their likelihood to succeed (6 in 10 were selected), and then essentially ordered them to follow their training – in spite of their natural fears. Even at that, some of them were not able to do it.
This got me thinking about fears and how we overcome them. I will admit that I’ve been facing some anxiety on this trip as I am getting acquainted with my 4Runner’s capabilities to handle towing our trailer in mountainous country. The roads are steep and winding. Going uphill presents the challenge of finding the right gears and watching the temperatures. Am I asking too much of our 4Runner? It’s a constant source of a bit of anxiety. Going downhill, am I letting it pick up too much speed? Am I going to be able to keep it on the road? Am I using the brakes too much and causing them to overheat? Again, it can be a constant source of a bit of anxiety. So how do we respond to our anxieties? How did those young soldiers overcome their fears? In some ways they had it easier than most of us do. They had orders, and they knew they had to follow them. Most of us have to give ourselves our own orders. It is a lot easier to ignore orders coming from ourselves than it is to ignore military orders from a commander. But it still comes down to the same thing, I think. We simply have to tell ourselves to get over our fears and get on with life.