“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
Hunter S. Thompson
if the climbing world has a shaman presiding over it, it is Dean Potter. confident to walk in the shadows of what the climbing world deems acceptable, a man who tempers demons from the fringe into a dynamic set of skills that push the definitions of what to be human means by playing about with the fundamentals of human experience: the forces of gravity, fear, control, dimension and aloneness. in every era there have been people like this, who use a raw and unsettling physicality to poke holes in the perceived boundaries of human potential. that Dean Potter makes his environment for this the verticality of the mountains is an ascentic tradition long and old, where the margins for the decision process are immediate and definite.
there are better climbers, better flyers, bigger risk takers, but no one else combines, refines and redefines the fusion of these disciplines like Dean Potter. its one thing to break rules, its another to find new ones. consistantly, as the agent of change itself. to look at the soaring upward curve of activity in big soloing, BASE, slacklining one notices that Dean Potter has been the constant, the guy with the perspective on life to steward these disciplines from their inceptive days as dark arts thru to the high disciplines they now are.
adventurers will always claim Dean Potter as one of their own, yet he walks a line closer to John Lilly, Aleister Crowely and Musashi than to the readers of Rock & Ice magazine – the line of turning gross physical abilities into refined mechanisms for expanding experience. to regard Dean Potter as a climber / flyer / jumper/ soloist etc is to miss the point as it is to call a shaman an entertainer. these things are just the smoke and mirrors of a grander process. throughout a career dense with profound events, Dean Potter has always described his inner motivations. the ideas, the visions, the hard work, the nightmares and the ecstasy. he has always been candid with the processes of mentorship, training, contemplation, play, relationships and conceptualization that turn difficult and morpheus ideas into realized acts.
its folly to call Dean Potter a climber, or flyer or liner as this is to think the agent is the objective. that he does these things at a significant high level is relevant not in itself, but as an indicator of the extent of the vision behind the crude corporeal execution. the grander the idea the greater the skill needed to realize it, and the more elegant the execution.
how does a man like Dean Potter die? at the furthest extent of his realization of course, at the point where turning the idea into an actual event is at its most potent, where the stresses of physical reality are at their most profound, where the outcome has the largest effect, where the distinction between what can be done and what cant is thinnest. the same things that kill all men, but in the case of the man who devotes his total experience to the very questioning of the parameters of experience itself, the context has little in common. men die every minute striving for what it is to be human, but few men die having resolved all that, instead striving to be more. and like all shaman the seemingly final act is one of show, an event in itself. watched by many who fail to see the strings and trapdoors that let the master leave unseen, knowing its not real but unable to perceive otherwise. they greive for the dissappearence, not the mastery of the trick.