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Inspirations, Part I: Vince Anderson
Posted on: January 2, 2008
[Photo] Vince Anderson collection
Many climbers have a favorite mountaineering book or essay. Athletes and guides, those whose lives are so deeply connected to climbing, often have literary obsessions—and everything from a story's lyricism to its ethical stance has influenced how they approach the sharp end.
We at Alpinist picked a handful of climbers we found inspirational and asked them to share their literary influences. This first installment features Vince Anderson, who explains his peculiar philosophy, the intersection of alpinism and Satanism.
Vince Anderson on The Satanic Bible, by Anton Szandor LaVey
I was at (for lack of a better term) an Atavistic Pagan Ritual at Mark Twight's house involving animal sacrifice and came across The Satanic Bible in his library during a break in the action. Naturally, seeing such a provocative title, I was very curious. Immediately I was mesmerized and captivated.
You may be asking what this has to do with climbing. The Nine Satanic Sins, which I've summarized below, pretty much sum up my philosophy about how I approach alpinism. Without aesthetics, it would not matter how you did anything. [See Anderson's October 16, 2007 Readers' Blog to read his controversial post about ethics on K2. —Ed.] In my business, style is everything, and it comes down to a matter of aesthetics. Finding a beautiful line on a peak, and then trying to climb it in the best style possible, is what it is all about.
The Nine Satanic Sins
1. Stupidity: The top of the list for Satanic Sins. The Cardinal Sin of Satanism. It's too bad that stupidity isn't painful. Ignorance is one thing, but our society thrives increasingly on stupidity. It depends on people going along with whatever they are told. The media promotes a cultivated stupidity as a posture that is not only acceptable but laudable. Satanists must learn to see through the tricks and cannot afford to be stupid.
2. Pretentiousness: Empty posturing can be most irritating and isn't applying the cardinal rules of Lesser Magic. On equal footing with stupidity for what keeps the money in circulation these days. Everyone's made to feel like a big shot, whether they can come up with the goods or not.
3. Solipsism: Can be very dangerous for Satanists. Projecting your reactions, responses and sensibilities onto someone who is probably far less attuned than you are. It is the mistake of expecting people to give you the same consideration, courtesy and respect that you naturally give them. They won't. Instead, Satanists must strive to apply the dictum of "Do unto others as they do unto you." It's work for most of us and requires constant vigilance lest you slip into a comfortable illusion of everyone being like you. As has been said, certain utopias would be ideal in a nation of philosophers, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, from a Machiavellian standpoint) we are far from that point.
4. Self-deceit: It's in the "Nine Satanic Statements" but deserves to be repeated here. Another cardinal sin. We must not pay homage to any of the sacred cows presented to us, including the roles we are expected to play ourselves. The only time self-deceit should be entered into is when it's fun, and with awareness. But then, it's not self-deceit!
5. Herd Conformity: That's obvious from a Satanic stance. It's all right to conform to a person's wishes, if it ultimately benefits you. But only fools follow along with the herd, letting an impersonal entity dictate to you. The key is to choose a master wisely instead of being enslaved by the whims of the many.
6. Lack of Perspective: Again, this one can lead to a lot of pain for a Satanist. You must never lose sight of who and what you are, and what a threat you can be, by your very existence. We are making history right now, every day. Always keep the wider historical and social picture in mind. That is an important key to both Lesser and Greater Magic. See the patterns and fit things together as you want the pieces to fall into place. Do not be swayed by herd constraints—know that you are working on another level entirely from the rest of the world.
7. Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies: Be aware that this is one of the keys to brainwashing people into accepting something new and different, when in reality it's something that was once widely accepted but is now presented in a new package. We are expected to rave about the genius of the creator and forget the original. This makes for a disposable society.
8. Counterproductive Pride: That first word is important. Pride is great up to the point you begin to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The rule of Satanism is: if it works for you, great. When it stops working for you, when you've painted yourself into a corner and the only way out is to say, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake, I wish we could compromise somehow," then do it.
9. Lack of Aesthetics: This is the physical application of the Balance Factor. Aesthetics is important in Lesser Magic and should be cultivated. It is obvious that no one can collect any money off classical standards of beauty and form most of the time so they are discouraged in a consumer society, but an eye for beauty, for balance, is an essential Satanic tool and must be applied for greatest magical effectiveness. It's not what's supposed to be pleasing—it's what is. Aesthetics is a personal thing, reflective of one's own nature, but there are universally pleasing and harmonious configurations that should not be denied.
If you're looking for the soundtrack to accompany Anderson's inspiration, a good place to start might be Mark Twight's collection of essays, Kiss or Kill, which includes a catalog of punk for the discerning climber. We also asked Twight about his dearest mountain literature, and he responded fleetingly: "No time. But there are some ideas here: www.grivelnorthamerica.com." He says of the multi-generational compendium: "Persevere, because every piece of writing noted herein is worth the energy it might take to locate it."
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