Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Touching the Cloth

Joe Simpson was the climber who shattered his legs when he was dropped down a crevasse descending a peak in the Peruvian Andes. His story was the subject of the film Touching the Void. It was a miracle that he survived the fall, a miracle that he dragged himself out of the ravine, a miracle that he crawled all the way down the mountain, a miracle that he was able to walk again. But there he was on TV this weekend, describing how he had resumed climbing and even ascended the Eiger.

A man of the cloth is a term used for someone who is considered to be close to God, or at least someone who helps the rest of us to get closer to Him.

Mr Simpson was invited onto Desert Island Discs recently. I listened. The interviewer grilled him about those times when he was very close to fading out, when he genuinely thought he was about to die - did he ever think of God or a possible afterlife at those times? No, he replied. Never. Even faced with imminent death, the idea of such a crazy Thing did not even cross his mind.

In addition to your chosen records, the programme lets you take a little reading material onto the desert island. It assumes that everyone will take the Bible, and so many people wanted the complete works of Shakespeare that they started allowing that too. So two hefty books for free, and one more of your choice. Joe took the Shakespeare, but politely declined to take the Bible. Even as toilet paper.

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