I finally saw 127 hours, and it was as stirring as I had imagined. Only a few hours into his predicament, Aron Ralston (James Franco) had tried to free himself by scraping away at the boulder which had pinned his arm against the rock wall. It was an inferior tool engaged in a futile task, but it gave him hope in the moment that it might be the solution. He dropped the tool, and had some difficulty reaching it to resume his work. He now had to devise a way to retrieve the knife in order to continue to scrape away at the rock. With his foot, he lowered a branch, and after several attempts, finally hooked the knife. Franco conveyed a sense of accomplishment and joy that belied his character’s dire situation. His face lit up with excitement, like he had just won the lottery, he exclaims, “Sweet!”. His stay in the canyon would be marked by a number of minor triumphs, and dismal failures.
At the time, he couldn’t know how that knife would the instrument o f his liberation. But at the time, he had an idea about how he could extricate himself with the knife by chipping the stone. Then he had an idea about using a pulley. Then got an idea about how to stay hydrated without fresh water. All these things were tiny victories throughout his ordeal.
What am I pinning my hopes on? What is my salvation? Is there a tool within my reach that will eventually set me free, but in a way I cannot, or dare not imagine?
He realized at one point that his whole life had been pulling him toward this rock, and that this rock had emerged in all of creation, placed on a trajectory moving towards this meeting as well. This was Ralston’s destiny. This was the boulder’s destiny. He understood that he had arrived at this place from choices he had made. He never blamed anyone. He got there by himself, and was determined to get out under his own steam.
In the end, he wasn’t freed from the rock. He had never been pinned by the rock. His arm was pinned. He wasn’t. He chose to leave that part of him behind. His arm wasn’t him, and wasn’t necessary in his moving forward.
Ralston’s story compels me to wonder what do I need to leave behind? Is there a part of me that is more detrimental to me as long as it’s attached, than it is useful? Cutting this thing away is never easy or painless, but it is always an option. Ralston’s willingness to experience pain is what ultimately released him.
No matter how things appear, there is a way out.