1.8 Significant Connections

At what point in our lives do we truly survive? Is it the moment you make it out of a life-threatening situation? Or is it only after you accept what happened in your past? Or is survival something we ultimately fight for our whole lives? Depending on the decisions we make and how mentally strong we are, each person level of survival is different.  The texts: “Into Thin Air” written by Jon Krakauer, “Touching The Void” written by Joe Simpson, “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer and finally the film “Alive” directed by Frank Marshall, all show how the aftermath of an accident can be as equally hard, if not harder, than surviving the initial disaster. Whether it’s the survivor who feels haunted by their past decisions or if its the family who must learn to deal with losing a loved one. Surviving is not just about one person coming out of a disaster alive, it is about accepting the decisions that we make and being able to move forward without letting guilt take over our lives.

In the text “Into Thin Air” by Jon Kaukauer, shows that even after an incident has ended we are still affected by its aftermath and you must be mentally strong to truly survive otherwise you will always feel haunted by the disaster. This is firstly shown in the text after the survivors made it back down and Jon is abused by outsiders for not doing anything to help, even though he physically couldn’t, he still felt guilty for the many lives that were lost that day. In 1996 Jon gives us insight into what the people who survived are doing now. It tells us how some of the survivors are able to live on the positive side even after surgery and losing limbs but he also shares how he and many others still find it hard not to think about what happened in their past on the Everest expedition. The text states, “I made it back down: four teammates with whom I’D laughed and vomited and held long intimate conversations with had lost their lives. My actions – or failure to act – played a direct role in the death of Andy Harris.” Jon interviews many people and finds they all feel the same way, other than Klev in contrast to Jon, the text states, “Klev said he, too, felt awful … but unlike me, he had no “survivors guilt” … I’ve made peace with myself over it, because I know in my heart that there was nothing more I could have done,” We learn that many people had to make the most unbelievable decisions on whether to leave someone to die or not and it shows how the action that you choose to take can change how you feel after the incident. Because Klev did all he could and he knew he had pushed himself to the absolute limit he could accept that there was nothing more he could do. But Jon, on the other hand, learns that maybe he could’ve done more, he feels such strong guilt because he made the mistake to not go out and help and he will always be haunted with the question of what if? This teaches us that to truly survive a traumatic experience not only must you be physically strong to survive the initial experience but you must also be mentally strong to deal with what comes after. We learn how important it is to give our fullest in every situation in truly we will feel regret because deep down we know we could’ve done better. This leaves us in a phase of regret and guilt which can be just as traumatic as it was fighting for their lives. If, as humans, we do not learn to keep moving forward and we keep dwelling on the past this will leave no space for the future and it allows for us to be stuck in a cycle of being tormented about the disaster and you’ll find you never fully recover.

In “Into Thin Air” it teaches us that one person’s actions during a disaster can affect the lives of many people both involved and not. This is shown in the section of the text when Jon interviews many of the survivors and the family members of victims of the verst disaster. After assuming Andy Harris had walked off the south col to his death, Jon informed his family this terrible news but the later found out that in fact he had not and had been telling a lie for almost two months, “my error had greatly and unnecessarily compounded the pain of Fiona Mcpherson; Andy’s parents… his brother… and his many friends.” Jon learns how badly he misconceived what happened to Andy and how his mistake caused so much pain to anyone that had any connection to Andy. His family had been believing a lie of what happened to Andy and then, even if they had accepted his death, to find out that he hadn’t actually died that way and there could’ve been a chance of saving him if one person hadn’t made a mistake would be such a horrible feeling. It would send anyone through a whole new grieving. Everything that happened in the may 1996 Everest expedition had a chain reaction and in fact, everything in life has a chain reaction it all really depends if the reaction was good or bad. Many actions made during the expedition had a negative reaction which caused pain for many other people including family members. This shows that the aftermath of a disaster is not only bad for the people who survived but also for the people who lost their son or daughter or partner. This is important to understand because it makes us aware of how our actions in life can not only affect us but also affects the people around us and we learn to think through our decisions and see the bigger picture of how it will affect everyone else. If Jon had not jumped to the conclusion that Andy was dead he could’ve told people that he was still out there and even if they hadn’t found him he would’ve saved his family from grieving about a lie. This helps us to understand how one person’s actions can affect the lives of many others, the death of one person can pull a family apart or even cause another death. Often we see families and friends indirectly affected by a death which can result in depression or anxiety and I find it very eye-opening how even though they weren’t the ones who went to Everest and risked their lives, the families of victims, in the end, suffered the most.

“Touching The Void” written by Joe Simpson helps us to understand that our recovery of a disaster can be greatly dictated by what others say. During the decent of Siula Grande the men are hit by a storm, Simon makes the life-changing decision to cut the rope on Joe in order to save himself from falling down with him. After he does this he debates whether to lie or not about what happened because he’s afraid of the hate he will receive for his decision. This is shown through Simons narration when he states, “Yet having saved myself, I was now going to return home and tell people story that few would ever believe… I could hear the questions and see the doubts in the eyes of even those excepted my story.” later followed by “ all I could think about was the disbelief and criticism I was inevitably going to be confronted with. I couldn’t face it… anger and guilt clash in my argument that’s what I should do.” Simon is continuously beating himself up for

the decision he made to cut the rope, even though deep down he knows it was the right thing to do. We learn that his opinion is pushed around by many outsiders who disagree with his decision and because of this he will never be treated the same. One event changed his whole life. Simon must learn to listen to what he believes and not what others will think because there will always be someone who disagrees but in reality, he was the only one who experienced that situation and in the end, he did what he thought was right. This is important because if we never listen to what we think and know, but instead we let others influence our feelings we will never truly be ourselves. This is similar to “Into Thin Air,” as both Jon on the Everest expedition and Simon on the Siula Grande attempt let criticism get to them which causes them to feel guilt and doubt their every action they made. Jon is haunted by the disaster on Everest and I believe a  lot of this guilt is fueled by people sharing their hateful opinions. Which is similar to what Simon goes through as he’s never been treated the same since cutting the rope on Joe, whether it was his friends that lost trust in him or he was stared at like a murderer in any room he walked into. Imagine living like this having one decision torment and follow you around till the day you die. This is what Simon and Jon now have to deal with and there’s no getting rid of it so what they must learn is to accept the hate, accept that people have their own opinions but they need to stay strong and believe that their decisions are what kept them alive to this day. Overall we learn that living and surviving each and every day after climbing the mountain is just as hard as it was to survive the initial experience.

Another aspect that shows that surviving the aftermath is just as hard as surviving the initial danger in “Touching The Void” was shown through the idea that a moment of pain can be better than a whole lifetime of pain. Years later in 2002, both men return to the base of Siula Grande to create a movie based on their experience. This return resulted in many emotions of fear from when Joe fought for his life in such excruciating pain. These resurfacing feelings caused Joe to have many panic attacks and even developed PDS (post-traumatic stress disorder). With the film crew surrounding him and everything, he has tried to forget being recreated. The text states, “I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In all likelihood the memory of the mountain surrounding the moraines and glacier had been so powerfully ingrained that had brought the fears of 1985 back,” Attempting Siula Grande was something that changed Joe’s life dramatically, not only is his leg still scared but he has many issues from being so close to death which really made an impact on him like it would with anyone. Joe finds everything he had tried to move on from struck him all again in one big hit. He learns that even after many years his life-threatening experience will always be a part of who he is for it changed a lot in his life. As humans, we can try move on from things but what we learn from Joe is that rather than move on we tend to push our feelings and fears deep down inside and hope that they won’t resurface. Unfortunately, they will always subconsciously be there sitting in the back of our minds. Moving on from something is not the same as forgetting about it. We must learn to embrace what happened and acknowledge the feelings we have but not necessarily act on them because acting on irrational emotions can cause even more pain and disaster. This can be seen in contrast to “Into Thin Air” with Klev as he learnt to accept what had happened whereas Joe still hasn’t learnt to accept and move on from the disaster. Klev experiences on Everest caused him some grief but he was mentally strong enough to realise that this event in his life had already impacted his life enough when he lost many of his friends but he learnt that he couldn’t let the pain of the past ruin the rest of his life. Unlike Klev, Joe does not move on. He has a constant pain in his leg which is a constant reminder of when he almost died and he lets this get to him as it is such a hard thing to ignore. Joe will never fully move on and every day of his life he will have to learn to cope with his pain and fears which in the end seems a lot more painful living like that than his initial accident.

“Into The Wild” written by Jon Krakauer shows that our decisions in life can affect others more than they affect ourselves. Chris McCandless, also known as Alex, this deemed true through his life and even through his death. This is shown through Chris McCandless life as when he was a young man he left home to explore the world and in his adventures, he hitchhiked to Alaska and in doing so completely removed himself from the social world. His disappearance from his family was a shock in its self, he had minimal contact with them for many years until 1992 when his body was found dead in the Alaskan wilderness. After leaving his family in the unknown for many years when they found out that he was dead it scared them for the rest of their lives. The text states, “No one in his family could’ve foreseen that … this initial journey would ultimately turn him inward and away, drawing Chris and those who loved him into a morass of anger, misunderstanding, and sorrow.” We learn that Chris lived for himself and never thought about how it would affect the people around him. This is where he went wrong for he was searching for something in himself that he knew he would never find and I believe deep down he was gonna keep searching until he died. Which is what he did but in doing so he left his family to deal with his death without a single goodbye or reassurance that he had had a good life. This caused his family to react in different ways to his death, his sister Carine and mother Billie lost weight but his father Walt gained weight and even months later we learn they still find it difficult. We understand this when Carine states 10 months later, “I can’t seem to get through a day without crying” and again when the text states: “you can’t fix it. Most things you can fix, but not that… It’s really hard… but it’s going to be hard every day for the rest of my life.”   The disappearance of Chris was horrible for the family but we learn that learning how to deal with his death was far worse. Chris suffered physically to his death but I believe his family suffered just as much mentally for the rest of their lives.  Something like this can leave a family blaming themselves, did he run away and end up dying because they weren’t good to him? The way the family dealt with Chris’s death teaches us that because Chris didn’t survive, will anyone who ever loved him survive either or will they always be in mourning and stuck in the terrible aftermath of his accident. His unknown location tortured and scared them but they always held onto their hope that he would return to them. But when they found news that he was dead this hope was completely lost, we even hear the sister try to bring back this hope by denying that he was dead, “no …. Chris isn’t dead” but in the end he was and everyone that loved him had to understand that he was never coming back which I believe is the hardest part. Just like when family members are sent to war, it was horrible sending them away yet we always had hope that they’d return. But when a family was informed that their son, for example, was dead, I can imagine they almost wished that is had said missing in action because even then we can still hold onto that little bit of hope that they are still alive. Maybe in some way, this book and film made about him was almost again an attempt to keep the idea of Chris alive so that they would never truly lose him because they could always find him in his story or film. Hope is what powers humans through their every day, it keeps us moving forward but when we lose hope this is when our bodies suffer just like it did for Chris’s family. Once you know you will always know, but sometimes its easier to not know. This can be compared to “Into Thin Air” because in the text we learn many negative effects that friends and family experiences because of the deaths on Everest. In both texts, the families of the people who died suffered through pain and each reacted differently. In “Into Thin Air” one woman suffered severe depression after losing her husband which is much like how Carine reacted as she still finds it hard to not cry about Chris. Even though Chris didn’t survive it still shows that even after years of finding out he was dead it is still just as painful to think about as the moment they found out.

In the film “Alive” directed by Frank Marshal presents the idea that our fears of society and our beliefs dictate our will to survive. This film is based around a true story of an Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashes deep in the Andes mountains causing them to risk everything in order to survive. This idea can be seen when Fernando shares the news from Antonio, their captain, that according to the radio the search for them has been called off. After days of rationing, they know they will inevitably run out of food and starve if they don’t consume anything soon, this causes them to consider eating the meat off the people who didn’t survive the crash. Gustavo fears what will become of him as a person if he does this and even though he hasn’t survived he fears what others may think. Gustavo states, “What about our innocents? What’s gonna become of our innocents if we survive as cannibals?” This shows how Gustavo how survival can push us to our limits, make us do things that we would never usually do and how the decisions we have to make is situations like these will change us forever. Gustavo understands this when he states, “If we do this we’ll never be the same again.” we learn how Gustavo was one of the ones who were still partially sane, this crash had not affected his values like it had with many other men as he still believed in a chance to do right. The problem was though, was that Gustavo’s mindset was not one of a survivor if they had followed what Gustavo had said they all would’ve died. Gustavo must learn that in survival there is no room to think about the future for you don’t even know if you will it to the future so you must act on what you are given not what you may get. Gustavo and many other survivors felt scared, not because they thought it was gruesome to eat flesh but because of how they will be seen by outsiders if they do survive. In society we are always so quick to judge, we try to imagine having to eat the flesh of another human and we see it as completely inhumane and so we create an opinion that what they did was wrong. But the reality is, we’ve never been in their situation and most likely won’t ever be, so it is wrong to make a judgement about such a thing. Still, this is the nature of the human brain, we have our own opinions whether they are fair or not but no one will ever escape other peoples opinions. These fears of what others will think can be seen dictated our every action, it dictates what we believe and what we don’t. Just like Gustavo says, this actions will change them forever and he believes this because of the way they will all be treated in society after surviving which is showing that in actual fact he is more afraid of what he will go through after he survives rather than what he must do to survive in the moment. This can be seen in comparison to “Touching The Void” and the similarities between Simons concerns about how people will react to the decision that he made to cut the rope on Joe. Simon is more worried about how people will judge him rather than feeling guilty about what he did. Simon knows that cutting the rope was the right thing to do but his opinion is altered by his fears that society will reject him for what he did. This is very similar to Gustavo because he is not afraid to eat human meat to survive that he more is afraid of how people will treat him if he does survive. Both texts show how surviving and making it back to society can be more intimidating than being in a life or death situation. Survival causes us to make rash decisions that we would never do in our everyday lives. Whether you risked someone else’s life to save yours or you did something totally inhuman, the actions we take cannot be reversed. I believe the hardest part is learning to accept your decisions because if you don’t you will live in regret for the rest of your life which is unhealthy for a human and this will ultimately pull apart your life.

The story of the Uruguayan Rugby team that crash landed in the Andes is also told through a documentary called “I Am Alive – Surviving the Andes Plane Crash” directed by Brad Osborn describes in better detail the viewpoints of the survivors and how they are to this day. It shows that when you act to your fullest and make decisions that you know were right then you don’t feel regret and you are able to move on in life. This is shown in the documentary when they speak of how Nando lives to this day. Nando lost both his mother and sister in the crash yet he came out of it as one of the strongest survivors, his mindset to be able to move on from such a traumatic experience shocked many people including his coach, “The Andes made him stronger because he lost his mother and sister … he continued with such an amazing force of will that isn’t really able to be expressed or understood.” In this survival story, it taught the men, who survived, about the beauty of life and to treasure it. Even through the sadness of all the loved ones they lost will always have a place in their hearts many of them learnt to not let their pain take over their lives in the future. Nando understood this and I believe he made a vow to live his every moment to the fullest not only for himself but for his mother and sister and all the victims that didn’t make it. The interesting thing is that in the text such as “Into Thin Air” many grieved for the ones that died and felt they should’ve died up there as well or they felt guilty for what happened. But in this story of what happened in the Andes, it taught the men quite the opposite. They learnt to be grateful that they were survivors and that even though many lives were lost, still many were saved. Because they didn’t give up and they fought so hard to live they know there was nothing more they could’ve done to save anyone and because of this they can live the rest of their lives not in regret. This shows us how mentally strong Nando must be and it teaches us in life that we have to keep moving forward. Hope can be one of the strongest forces and we must power through life even in the darkest times that seem to have no end. To love what is given to us and not dwell on what is taken from us is what we must do every day so that even after going through a traumatic experience we will always be able to pull ourselves through. This final connection is different to many of the other texts, in “Into Thin Air” it shows how many people never truly survived as they felt guilt and regret for the decisions they made resulting in the rest of their lives to be just as haunting as the disaster on Everest. Whereas, in the film and documentary of “Alive” their traumatic experience, in the end, gave them better lives, better mindsets and overall became so much more driven and mentally strong in life.

The point in our lives in which we truly survive is fully determined by our attitude towards life and by the way we choose to perceive the reality we live in. It is important to find happiness even in the saddest moments, not only when dealing with the aftermath of a disaster but also in our everyday lives. This is shown through the texts: “Into Thin Air” written by Jon Krakauer, “Touching The Void” written by Joe Simpson, “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer and finally the film “Alive” directed by Frank Marshall. In all four texts, the characters go through different but similar attempts to survive both a life-threatening disaster and its aftermath. Through their stories, we understand the many different people deal with the aftermath of a situation or disaster. Whether they react in such a way that they let it ruin and take over their lives or it teaches them the values and blessings of life. From these texts we learn how survival is not a one-man task, it involves the people all around us and not only do the decisions we make affect if we survive or not but it also affects the people that love you. Survival is not just about living and breathing but it’s about acceptance and hope and moving on. To fully survive we must be strong. Physically, mentally and even socially.  


One Reply to “1.8 Significant Connections”

  1. Maddy, there are some great moments in this essay. There are however, two areas that stand out for your final editing:
    1) You are lacking specific evidence in places. Noticeably in your discussion of “Into Thin Air”, however there are also other places where you do need to have specific evidence to strengthen your points.
    2) I find it interesting that you have referenced “Touching the Void” the film, and the “Alive” documentary, but have not referenced anything visual, related to the “Everest” movie or the “Into the Wild” film. I felt that these visual texts strengthened your discussion and gave you some insight to the “aftermath” of these events. You may find the additional texts which were created after the books will also give some insight to your theme.

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