Timely Words from Conrad Anker


While every era is probably strange and stressful in its own particular way, the present age can and does often feel particularly strange and stressful.

Yesterday afternoon, the great alpinist, Conrad Anker, posted on his Instagram feed what he called, “a short essay on being positive.” And they are words worth far more than the time it takes to read them.

Thank you, Conrad.

A Short Essay On Being Positive, by Conrad Anker

“Please know that you, the person reading this, the person giving your time and insight to this form of communication are appreciated. It’s humbling the number of you that follow my life and interests. In the seven years since instagram has taken off we have seen the connectivity and community that this digital platform has enabled. Seeing what my friends are up to inspires me to work out, travel and explore. I’m also thankful for the diverse range of knowledge that is shared. We have also seen loneliness, commercialism, bullying, malicious intent and deceit wrestle with an entity that I inherently see as a positive force in society.

If you follow me and know my life story you’ll hopefully accept who I am. Maybe a few of you might be motivated by the experiences I have had and understand how they shape my worldview. Life is way too short. Too many of my peers, in age and passion, have lost their lives to accidents and disease. If I’m left with anything, after sorrow transforms, is that every day is something to celebrate. And every day is one more chance to give life back to the community that sustains us. Our children and elderly deserve our love and respect.

I was once young and in need of sustenance, guidance and knowledge. Hopefully we will be old and dependent upon others for our well-being, purpose and respect. No matter where we are in this timeline of life we have the to opportunity to be positive. I aim to leave this wonderful planet that we share in a manner that offers hope for future generations

As a kid born in ‘62 the moon landing and the Vietnam War were events that shaped my view. One was teamwork; “let’s do cool stuff and nerd out.” The other was a quarrel; one repeated throughout history, that to a young mind made no sense. My mother was born near Dresden on the onset of the Third Reich. The destruction, pain and death she experienced at age 13 when the war ended shaped her view. My mother is still the dearest person in my life. As loving as she was, she forbade me and my buddies from playing war. Death was not a joking matter. It was one of her rules. This also shaped my worldview. Which brings us back to where we are right now. The decency, kindness, courage, respect, generosity, equality and innovation that are part of the ethos of being a citizen of the United STates are very much how I see myself in the world. These values define me and are my star of guidance.

When the leader of the United States veers from these values, to a degree that is unprecedented in my short life, it is my duty and responsibility to speak up. By turning my head and getting lost in the comforts of life I’m ignoring the storm on the horizon. I’m taking my brake hand off the rope. And the last thing I want to do is drop you.

I stand for my fellow humans. Regardless of origin or station in life it is my hope that people will have the food, clothing and shelter to live with a degree of dignity. Being who I am and doing what I do I’m very aware of the privilege I was born into. Rather than hoard it for more it is my foundational belief to use my life as a lever to increase the well being of humanity and leave this planet healthier. It’s a big goal, yet what is life? It’s finding a challenge and giving it your best.

As an athlete my voice carries. This responsibility and opportunity is part of my thought process and, in turn, my decision making. I’m with the leaders in basketball, baseball and football who have been forthright with their views. Respect.

The voice of the marginalized and oppressed people is miniscule. For the animals, plants and planet there is no voice. For them I speak out. This is the small lever I have to make this world a better place.

Climbing is an international language. The act of belaying is a form of communication that is based on trust. “I’ve got your back.” “You’re on belay.” “You got this.” It’s the foundation of our sport, community and life.

In this increasingly polarized world we find ourselves in I find it easier and healthier to be positive. One never knows what the person one interacts with has been through. A smile costs nothing. It brings happiness to everyone in the conversation. What’s not to like about that?

Thanks for reading. If I have affirmed your life values I am humbled. If my views have offended you: my apologies.

As always,

be good ~ be kind ~ be happy


4 comments on “Timely Words from Conrad Anker”

  1. All things need to have legal standing and someone to speak for them.
    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

  2. Well said Conrad. Humility, kindness, and positivity are definitely in short supply in our current news cycle. That said, with you referencing the horrors of Dresden as the moral imperative compelling you to speak up, now is not the time to “apologize” to those who are offended by the idea that the core values of the US are decency, respect, and equality.
    History has not been kind to those responsible for supporting the Fascists as they buried those values along with the democracy of the Weimar Republic, nor should it be: they brought hate & war to the entire world. The Edmund Burke quote above is quite apt: coddling xenophobes & delusional narcissists is even worse than sitting back & doing nothing.
    I have also resolved to be kind, positive, and respectful to everyone I encounter, but to those enabling and promoting the expansion of New American Fascism, there must never be any apologies.

  3. Thank you to Conrad for writing this and to Blister for reposting it. I’ve read a great deal on your webpage, but never felt compelled to comment before. It is far too easy to sit back and not take a stand in times of troubles, particularly when it feels like there could be a financial or social cost to speaking up, but that is no the adventurous path. We need to learn to embrace the same spirit of adventure, the same courage that we find in the mountains, in our day to day lives. In the end climbing rocks or navigating a steep chute doesn’t matter much unless we are able to use those experiences to learn how to be better humans in the rest of our Lives. Now is a not a time to sit quietly by while the world crumbles around us. It behooves us to take a stand and commit to our path and values while remaining flexible and agile, the same mindset that carries us through an great adventure. There are times when I feely deeply daunted by what is happening in the world politically and environmentally. In those moments I do my best to take a deep breath, remember the privilege that I was fortunate enough to be born into and the responsibilities that come with it, and remind myself that I didn’t wan to lead a boring life anyhow.

Leave a Comment