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No Exit

Scene 1. The Room. Jean Paul Sartre’s 1944 play No Exit depicts an afterlife where three people sentenced to Hell find themselves locked in a room together. Each of them wait and wonder how they will be tortured…until after some great length of time, they come to find that they are there to torture one another. Forever. The reader might be expected to come away with a perverse view of humanity; that is, the idea that “L’enfer, c’est les autres” or “Hell is other people” after being a voyeur of the unfolding relationship of the three. Kirk Woodward writes that the three are in hell because they are trivial, pretentious people. This is Sartre’s satiric point: they are in Hell because they are petty-bourgeois. Their concern for the world goes only as far as the extent to which the world services their needs. When it doesn’t adequately cater to their desires, they blame the world and the people in it – that is, they say that “Hell is other people.”

Scene 2. The Commonwealth. In writing about the British commonwealth, the economist William Forster Lloyd well described a phenomenon whereby individuals acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole by depleting some common resource. Over a hundred years later, the ecologist Garrett Hardin popularized the term “Tragedy of the Commons” in a 1968 essay of the same name. One may be tempted to look at the spoiled resource as the lone tragedy, but it’s not.

Scene 3. Cardiac Ridge, Big Cottonwood Canyon. The camera pans around from Little Superior to a single skier skinning up the far north edge of the slope who soon gains the saddle keyhole and looks into Mineral Fork’s Room of Doom. He rips hiss kins and skis the 1200′ fall line back into Cardiff. He puts hiss kins back on and heads back up for another lap. And another. He waits for a moment at the top of the fourth run. Soon, other ski tourers arrive, skin half-way up the track and cut across the slope beneath the man waiting at the top. Snowmobilers arrive from Reynolds Flat to check out their private land in the upper reaches of the drainage. The heli-ski helicopter loaded with clients lands atop High Ivory just to the north. More ski-tourers arrive, having just skiied the Hallway couloir from the ridgeline to the east. A backcountry ski guide directs her client down the left chute of Superior into Cardiac Bowl.

There is No Exit. We are all here together in the Wasatch for the long run. What will be our future?

(photo credit: Jim Harris)

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