“Men don’t bond unless they risk their lives together.” –Kaj
That line is from the chapter “The Pain Will Bind Us” in Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Donald explains:
I have a friend named Kaj who used to run an outdoor school in Canada. I went to visit him a couple of times, and each time I noticed he had a remarkable men’s group at his school. The men tended to bond like brothers and respect each other and treat each other with dignity. I asked him once how he got the guys to bond like that, and Kaj said he believed the key to getting men to bond was to have them risk their lives together. (Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, p. 185)
One game they played together was Capture the Flag but with an incendiary twist. “Instead of flags they chucked little bottles of gasoline across fields into each other’s campfires. The team whose campfire burned down last won. I honestly thought somebody was going to die” (p. 186). This conflagration was followed by jousting on bikes with flaming spears.
The day after reading this deep social and anthropological analysis, I watched a live online feed, where Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk shared about their two ordeals on Meru’s Shark’s Fin [UPDATE: the video is available here]. Here’s a trailer from the film being made about the two expeditions (see also):
These three men were deeply bonded. They spoke openly about their concern and respect for each other and also for other friends who had died in the mountains. Conrad had married the wife of a deceased buddy and raised his children. Jimmy had held Renan in his arms after a serious accident, all the while thinking Renan would die there.
These stories made me smile as I thought about the beastly guys who’ve been important in my story. The night before watching the trio recount their Himalayan climb, I had slept in an old t-shirt with a hole burned in front where Dr. T shot me with a bottle rocket in the heat of battle almost two decades ago. Yes, bonding at the edge of death, or at least 1st degree burns. Thanks to all the great men of valor with whom I’ve had the honor of sharing life’s battles!