What fills the void for me

At a climactic point in the recent movie Touching the Void, a young British mountain climber named Joe Simpson tumbles violently through a snowfield and lands on a shelf of ice deep within a dark crevasse on a 20,000-foot-high slope of the Peruvian Andes. His left leg is shattered, the slightest movement causing him agonizing pain. He has been separated from his climbing partner, Simon Yates, who believes him to have died in the fall. Simpson has no food or water and is suffering from dehydration and frostbite.

A screenwriter would be hard pressed to come up with a more desperate scenario, yet this is not fiction. The docudrama authentically reenacts an incident that occurred in 1985, portrayed believably by actors and climbers. But the film is narrated entirely—sometimes on camera—by Simpson and Yates themselves, and Richard Hawking, a friend who remained at base camp during their ordeal.

Although the main moral question raised by the film centers on Yates choosing to cut the rope connecting him to his partner—rather than risk falling to certain death with him—it was Simpson's apparent utter hopelessness that affected me most. I grew up believing that God can save us from the direst of predicaments. My Sunday School Bible lessons were full of examples—from Daniel in the den of lions, to Elisha surrounded by a hostile army, to Jonah trapped in the belly of a big fish. A psalm eloquently reassured me: "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there" (Ps. 139:7, 8).

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Fighting the common enemy
May 24, 2004

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