’127 hours’: At UMKC, film inspiration Aron Ralston recalls, ‘You’re going to have to cut your arm off, dude.’
Pain becomes a very relative term after cutting off your own arm with a dull pocket knife.
Aron Ralston did exactly that, and on Wednesday night at the Student Union Theatre, as part this year’ Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy Symposium, he detailed the whole event for some 100 students.
“It was the most glorious, ecstatic, euphoric experience of my life,” Ralston said.
In April 2003, Ralston was hiking alone in Blue John Canyon, located in southeastern Utah, when he decided to take a short cut through a narrow passage. It didn’t take long before a boulder was jarred free, ensnaring his right arm.
“[My arm] disappears into this impossibly black shadow,” Ralston said.
He quickly devised several ways to free himself. The first was by rigging a pulley system using climbing rope. He managed to wrap the boulder and attach the rope’s other end to another rock above. Pulling and pulling, he tried to budge the boulder but soon realized that was a hapless endeavor.
His next effort was chipping at the rock with a discount pocket knife. He managed to chip about a golf ball’s worth of rock in several hours and, after doing some calculations, factored it would take him several months to chip enough rock to free himself. Again, he was defeated.
“I remember saying to myself out loud, which I never do, you’re going to have to cut your arm off, dude,” Ralston said.
He detailed the difficulty of doing this. He had to begin by forcing the dull knife through his skin, then muscle.
“The chaos of that moment…and then the pain hit,” he said.
Throughout the evening he repeated his message, alluding to life’s boulders.
“Consider the boulders in your life,” he asked. “Smile at your boulder,” and, “I think our boulders are a blessing.”
Even with the loss of his right arm in such a uniquely tragic event, Ralston continued to pursue his love of wilderness.
By 2005, he had summited all of Colorado’s “fourteeners” mountains. He has gone rafting and rock climbing as well. Despite his audacity to continue, he wants to reminds everyone that, “it’s not what you do, it’s who you are.”
Ralston’s story is personal, but it serves as an example others should strive to follow.
“Whatever your boulder is, I wish you that it might be your greatest lesson,” he said.