Father Colbert’s Latest Sunday School Lesson

May 5th, 2017

Plus Mountain-Climbing Tips

Thanks to the Internet, I am now an expert on two things: the moral deterioration of Stephen Colbert, and mountain climbing.

Yesterday, RE CBS’s predictable (and predicted) failure to discipline Colbert for his obscene on-the-air remarks about President Trump, Colbert took a victory lap by saying the GOP had kicked the United States in the genitals. Except he didn’t say “genitals.” Here is what I said about Colbert yesterday:

Evil is predictable. The more evil is tolerated, the more predictable it gets, because people stop trying to be subtle. They don’t care if they get caught.

Colbert said something horrendous and filthy on national TV, and CBS did nothing. Today, he (pointedly) continued. Look for future outbursts.

Ho hum.

I’m not nearly as upset about politics and public attitudes toward God as I used to be, even though my estimate of America’s future has gotten much worse. I credit God with helping me escape pointless agitation. God is the all-time champion of battle-choosing, and he teaches his ways to his children. If you’re determined to lose your peace over Antifa, so-called gender transitioning, the bizarre political power of illegal aliens, and violence toward conservatives, you can certainly go ahead and sink into the flames. You can write furious blog posts, go to rallies, get beaten with your own flagpole, and get ulcers. My approach these days is to let things slide in the natural realm and to do my fighting in prayer. If I tussle in the mud (euphemism for something else) with the pigs, I’ll become one of them, and the pigs won’t change. Much better to sit back in the comfort of my home and do battle on a supernatural level.

I pray for God to defeat Colbert and also to change his heart, I ask God to help me not to have animosity toward him, and then I go on my merry way. I can’t fix the world, and if I want to lead a blessed life while I’m here, I have to be able to let go of things.

As for mountain climbing, I watched a movie about Mount Everest. I can’t remember why I was motivated to do that. Perhaps morbid interest. Everest (the world’s highest mountain, at 29029 feet) is a remarkable place, because people are thrilled to go into debt and spend huge amounts of money to go there and die in misery. Many people go multiple times, even after losing body parts to frostbite. I find that fascinating. After watching the movie, I looked at all sorts of maps and photos, and I watched a documentary. I almost feel like I’ve been to Everest.

There are something like 200 dead people on Everest. It’s so cold up there, and it’s so hard to carry things in the thin air, it’s very common to leave dead people where they fall. They don’t even cover them with snow; I suppose it would blow off. After a while, dead people in their brightly colored climbing clothing become landmarks. One of the most famous Everest corpses is an Indian commonly referred to as “Green Boots.” His frozen body wears bright green climbing boots. It lies under a rock projection. The cavity in which he lies is known as “Green Boots Cave.”

Everest isn’t the only mountain in its size class. K2, the next-tallest mountain, is only about 780 feet shorter, and it’s way harder to climb. Everest gets much more traffic and attention, however, because it’s number 1. If you tell people you’ve climbed K2, no one even knows what you’re talking about, but if you mention Everest, everyone in the bar will want to buy you a drink. The mountain is so popular, Everest climbing has become a local industry in Nepal.

The thing that interests me about Everest is the joy people find in destroying themselves on it.

The movie I watched is called Everest, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, and it’s about a terrible disaster that took place in 1996. An unexpected windstorm hit Everest while a bunch of climbers were on its slopes, and a lot of them died. Some lived but lost things like noses and fingers later on. It’s a movie, so obviously, they got some facts wrong, but I think they got the general idea right. I think the depiction of the problems the climbers faced was realistic. In the documentary I watched later, the climbers themselves talked about their experiences, and their stories were consistent with the misery presented in the movie.

There were four main groups of people involved in the disaster: climber/tourists, professional climbing guides from Europe, America, and New Zealand, Sherpa climbing guides, and support staff at Everest’s base camp. I call the people who weren’t getting paid “climber/tourists” because that’s accurate. They weren’t there to make money or do a job that had to be done. They were there for recreation.

The story focused on two companies that helped tourists climb. One belonged to New Zealander Rob Hall, and the other belonged to American Rob Fischer. Hall’s company had a big tent at base camp, equipped with a radio. A sort of project manager stayed there, organizing things and helping people communicate.

Right away, I was struck by the attitudes of the professionals. They didn’t behave like tour guides on a cruise ship. They behaved like military personnel involved in a vital and difficult campaign. They took themselves incredibly seriously. That was true in the documentary as well as the movie, so I think it showed how things really were.

It makes sense when military people are serious and speak in dramatic tones, but isn’t it strange to behave that way when you’re in a situation you created, and which you can abandon whenever you like? The Everest professionals had a mission mentality, but in reality, they were just helping rich people walk up the side of a rock. They weren’t repelling the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. They seemed to feel that what they were doing was very, very important, but in reality, it was one hundred percent unnecessary.

They reminded me of gang members. Before you join a gang, you may have a happy-go-lucky life free of stress and dread. Once you join (completely by choice), you have a life of drama. Everything is serious. You’re a “soldier”; gang members often use military terms to describe themselves. Your life is full of danger, and you have to face it. You are likely to end up listening to, or writing and performing, pathetic, self-pitying rap music, in which you glorify yourself and try to get people to see you as a martyr and a victim.

Climbers respect each other. If you’re a dead climber, forget it. “Respect” doesn’t even capture it. What you get is more like worship. Because you climbed a rock and died, when you could have been at home eating pancakes. Sounds a lot like gangsters, pouring cheap booze on the ground as an offering to absent homies.

If a climber read this, he would probably have a dismissive attitude toward me. “You don’t understand. You weren’t there.” That would be true. To paraphrase an old saying, I haven’t jumped off the Empire State Building, either. I don’t think that means I’m wrong when I say jumping is a bad idea.

The 1996 crew had a lot of problems. Everest was very crowded. That slows things down. I don’t know how many people were trying to climb at the same time, but it could have been a whole lot, because I know that on at least one occasion, 234 people made it in one day. To get up Everest along the south route, you have to get over a bunch of rickety ladders laid horizontally over crevasses, and it’s not a great setup for moving crowds. When too many people try to go at once, people get delayed. Delays mean more time on the mountain, and time up there is what kills people.

Rob Hall’s group had two serious problems. It contained two people who had no chance of making it. One was a postal employee named Doug Hansen. He had failed to summit in an earlier trip, and Hall had encouraged him to make another trip, at a substantial discount. The other was a pathologist named Beck Weathers. Weathers had had radial keratotomy, and his eyes reacted badly to the altitude; he went blind temporarily and only regained sight in one eye. No one saw that coming.

Hall’s group had a third problem, which led to the deaths of at least three people. When Hansen got tired and wanted to quit, Hall chose not to send him down the mountain. As a result, Hall and Hansen were near the summit when the windstorm arrived. Hansen was physically and mentally helpless, and Hall insisted on staying with him and trying to bring him down.

By the time Hansen became incapacitated, Weathers was already blind. He was farther down the mountain, waiting for Hall to lead him to safety. The longer he waited, the colder his limbs got.

Hall and Hansen needed help, so a guide named Andy Harris went up to meet them, carrying oxygen.

Here’s the short version of what happened. Hansen died and fell off the mountain, perhaps not in that order. No one knows what happened. Harris died and fell off the mountain, leaving his jacket behind with Hall. No one was able to reach Hall after that, and Hall spent two nights on the mountain, literally freezing to death. He died. Weathers was abandoned for dead, and when he finally got up and walked into a staging area, he was so frostbitten he would later lose one hand, all the fingers on the other hand, his nose, part of a cheek, and probably some other parts.

Rob Fischer died, too. He overexerted himself helping his tourists, and then he lay down in the snow to rest. It’s 2017, and he hasn’t gotten up yet. A Hall client named Yasuko Namba ended up stranded with Weathers, and she froze to death.

Here is my harsh assessment: Rob Hall blew it. When you need to get up and down Mount Everest in a hurry, you don’t wait around because a very sick person has a small chance of making it to the top. He should have told Doug Hansen to leave. He should have told Weathers to leave ASAP instead of promising to come back for him. Fischer screwed up, too. He was very experienced, and he should not have overdone it.

Maybe I’m wrong. All I know is what I learned from a movie, a documentary, and a bunch of websites and videos.

It disturbs me that people who took responsibility for other people’s lives let emotion rule them. The odds that you will die if you try to climb Mount Everest are better than one in fifty. Anyone who does anything to make those odds worse needs a lesson in math.

Would you fly on an airline if one in fifty of its flights crashed? If you had to fly with them, would it be okay with you if the pilot took additional chances?

I think people are nuts to climb that mountain. In 1996, Rob Hall was charging $65,000 per person (100,000 in 2017 dollars), for an opportunity to die or lose limbs. What goes through the mind of a person when he decides to pay for that?

Naturally, being me, I related it to my knowledge of God.

Years ago, I learned something interesting: being in God’s presence is like being on drugs. That may sound crazy, but it’s true. I can provide examples. Cocaine makes you feel euphoric and powerful. So does God. Opiates make you feel warm and relaxed. So does God. Caffeine gives you energy and confidence. So does God. I believe that people who take drugs and drink are actually trying to fill needs that are unfulfilled because they don’t know God.

Drugs and drink come with remorse and side effects. God does not.

The climber/tourists in the documentary talked about the wonder of their time on Everest. The stars were richer and brighter than they are down below. The views were awe-inspiring. Beck Weathers said he suffered from depression, but the exertion of mountain climbing took his mind off of it. To sum up, they talked about psychological effects they considered worth the danger, suffering, and expense. If God had been allowed to fill their needs, would they have needed to spend huge sums and risk their lives in order to feel good?

Weathers now says he has peace, for the first time in his life. He has a skin-graft nose, no right hand, and a “mitt” made by separating the bones of his left hand into makeshift fingers, but now he finally feels good. What if all that was unnecessary? What if peace was available in the safety of his house, and it was a type of peace he could help his family receive, instead of a solitary peace that helps no one but him?

I believe Everest climbers, like other daredevils, manufacture crises so they can enjoy the distraction of solving them. They want to have a sense of mission, and their lives don’t provide it, so off to Nepal they go, and some of them stay there and become landmarks. To me, they’re like base jumpers. They think people should admire them, especially when their worst fears come true. Mountain climbers, base jumpers, and skydivers generally expect admiration. I don’t admire them at all. I think they’re deceived.

I would love to climb mountains. Little ones. With paths and guard rails. Big ones littered with dead bodies, you can keep. I don’t have the slightest craving for a sense of mission.

Here’s another thing that bugged me: on the way to the climb, the tourist/climbers in the movie were “blessed” by a buddhist bigwig in a temple. You couldn’t get me near that. Tibetan Buddhism is plain old demon worship. It is said that back when World War Two was getting underway, a Buddhist monk told a Westerner a thousand of his “gods” had just left for Germany. They pray to spirits. They conjure them in chanting ceremonies. If the thing about being “blessed” is accurate, people who climb Everest begin the process by spitting in the face of God, who is the only one who can protect them. One wonders if the paganism is connected to the death rate.

I can guess what goes through the minds of most Westerners at the temple. First alternative: “Yes, yes, namaste, I agree that Eastern religion is superior to boring old Christianity even though Tibetans and Indians live in squalor and humiliation.” Second alternative: “Blah, blah, you’re so cute in your monk hat, you primitive, superstitious goofball. This will look great on Snapchat.”

I just found out people have literally Snapchatted their Everest climbs. That officially kills the romance.

I once heard that a member of my high school class had died on Mount Everest. That was not correct. I later learned he died on Shishapangma, which is the smallest and least challenging of the worlds 14 tallest peaks. Here’s what I know: there were experienced climbers present, but no Sherpas and no oxygen. The man who died went off and climbed without help. He fell into a crevasse. The idea seemed to be that he ditched the people who protected him because he had something to prove. I don’t know whether that’s true. Maybe the person who told me the story slanted things; he got the name of the mountain wrong, and he said there was a Sherpa.

The story is sad and chilling. A person who was close to him said they never found anything except his belongings, so he is still up there. I wonder what he went through. Was he killed instantly, or did he die of exposure and thirst? I hate to think he might have been trapped there, watching the filtered sunlight appear and disappear over the course of however many days it took to stop his heart.

For many people, Himalayan climbing is about bragging rights. I hope he didn’t extinguish himself trying to generate a story about the way he disdained help.

I learned some other interesting things about Everest. Here’s one: there’s a whole lot of poop up there. The lowest base camp has disgusting latrines, but once you start climbing, accepted practice is to walk away from the group, poop on the snow, and cover it. The poop freezes in a hurry, and then it’s just there. When the temperature fluctuates, it melts. Some of it gets into the groundwater. When new climber/tourists show up and drink tea made with the pure snow of Mother Everest, they’re really drinking poop soup. There aren’t a whole lot of paths to the peak, tourists in Asia often get diarrhea, and almost 8,000 people have summitted, so imagine how much poop there must be.

It must be a lot of fun pooping in plain sight, while the other tourists slog by.

The movies and shows don’t seem to focus on toilet issues. They’re too busy promoting the glamor.

Everest also has a litter problem. People leave their wrappers and cans all over the ground. Nasty. The peak itself has a litter problem. Climber/tourists with a graffitti mentality leave all sorts of junk up there, because, dude, it has, like, meaning to them.

It’s not easy to clean up a place that ranges in elevation from 17,000 to 29,000 feet, and besides, no one really wants to do it. Everest probably attracts a lot of narcissists who aren’t all that interested in the grunt work.

I would hate to go there even as a visitor, now that it’s a vertical cess-sicle. I don’t even like to use public restrooms. Everest would just be too much.

Warm, dirty places are better than cold, dirty places, because in a cold place, filth is preserved forever.

I learned one more thing you may find interesting. When you freeze your hand or foot off on Mount Everest, you don’t actually freeze it off. It turns red, then black, and then you have to keep it for a couple of months even though it’s dead. When it comes to frostbite, doctors say, “Frozen in January, amputate in July.” It’s impossible to tell how much tissue has to go until the rot process is over.

Imagine what it must be like to have one to four black, rotting extremities for a number of weeks. Think how that must affect your quality of life. Every day you’d be sitting there looking at the catastrophic results of the dumbest decision you ever made, and you wouldn’t have closure. Having a hand cut off instantly would be terrible, but I’d prefer that to having a dead black hand in front of me every day until spring came.

Big mountains are very cool, but I wouldn’t put Everest on my bucket list even if I had one. If you have to risk your life and suffer greatly in order to get your mind right, you are on the wrong path, and you need to turn back and look for a better one.


I have been thinking about the guy who died on Shishapangma. I have been under the impression that the accident was caused by overconfidence, but maybe it was something worse.

Let me call the decedent “George” in order to have something to call him, other than his real name.

The high school George and I attended was a prestigious prep school. Every year, a lot of graduates went to Ivy League schools, as I did. The year we graduated, if memory serves, two students were accepted by Princeton. One was a friend of mine who got his MD at 25 and then shot himself in the head with a Desert Eagle. The other was George. He was admitted early.

George never went to Princeton.

One day during our senior year, everyone had to walk out of school and out to our designated fire drill areas. Someone had called in a bomb scare. Exams were in session, and the test interrupted them.

Our school had a pay phone near the library entrance. On the day of the bomb scare, another guy I knew picked up the phone to use it, and there was already someone on the line. It was the police. They asked if anyone had just used the phone. The student identified George. That’s how I heard it, anyway.

George threatened to bomb the school because he was worried about an exam. He didn’t go to prison, which is surprising, but Princeton dropped him, and he ended up going to Wesleyan, which is on a lower tier.

He would have been about 33 on the day he died. He was still in school. He had decided to be a doctor. His undergrad degree was in some useless liberal arts discipline, so he had to go back and take math and science courses.

Life had not panned out for George. He had started life as a good student and a top athlete who won recognition all over his state, and then there had been the bomb scare and the fall from grace. I don’t know what he was doing between Wesleyan and his medical conversion, but he was not a professional, and a person who wrote about his death said he had been in the process of turning his life around. You don’t turn your life around when things are going well.

After George disappeared, supposedly, all they found were his trekking poles, his sunglasses, his backpack, and his journal.

Here’s what I wonder: what if the fall wasn’t an accident?

Why would you walk around alone in an area where there were crevasses? Why would you put down your poles? Why would you take off your sunglasses and backpack? If you simply fell, those things would probably go with you.

It’s a disturbing thought, but I can’t help wondering.

Many people botch their suicides. They shoot off the bottom halves of their faces. They break their backs in jumps from buildings. Jumping into an ice crevasse, sustaining nonfatal injuries, and then dying over a period of days or hours would be a horrible way to go.

I didn’t know George well, but I knew him a little. We sat in classes together for four years. We knew each other socially; there were only about a hundred kids in our class. He didn’t seem like a happy person at all. My school was full of kids who were driven and incapable of relaxing, and he seemed like one of them.

The other Princeton student, Ken, was the most driven person I had ever known. He was way up in the class rankings. Like George, he was also an athlete. He left Princeton to join a 5-year, 2-degree program at the University of Florida. Who leaves Princeton? That’s how impatient he was.

His dad was an overbearing, pushy radiologist. Nothing Ken ever did was good enough for him. When he died, his estate was a mess, and Ken and his crazy brother were left to fight over it. He left hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a wall in their house, and one day Ken saw that it had disappeared. He called his dad’s lawyer, who had known about the money, and the lawyer said, “What money?” Ken told me he thought the lawyer had worked something out with his brother.

One night, Ken’s brother ran him out of the house, shooting at his legs with a .357. Ken was in the shower when his brother started shooting, and he fled the house naked. Ken filed a bar complaint against the lawyer and found a new place to live. He claimed the lawyer called him and begged him to call the bar off.

Ken used to spend almost every afternoon at my house. He just wanted a place to hang out and be less alone.

He bought a Smith and Wesson 9mm and a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum. He said he wanted protection from his brother. We used to go to the range together.

One day in 1987, one of his other friends called and asked me when was the last time I had seen Ken. I told him, and I asked why he wanted to know. He said Ken had shot himself to death with the Desert Eagle.

The last time I had seen him, he had been angry at me over something trivial. Ken was extremely aggressive, and he always wanted to do things the quick and easy way. For example, when he went lobster diving in Biscayne Bay, he would tear short (illegal) lobsters in half in the water and throw the tails in the boat. He did that to keep his friends from throwing them back in the water.

The last time I saw him, we were driving around, and he wanted me to break some rule or other. Maybe a traffic rule. I can’t remember. When he got out of the car, he said, “You’re such an a_____e.” It didn’t mean anything. He had a hot temper.

I never thought he would kill himself. He was miserable, but he never seemed inclined to end it.

I didn’t go to the funeral. I don’t know if there was one. If there had been, I probably would have waited for an invitation. I didn’t know much about funerals at that age. Maybe there was a service, and people thought I was a jerk for not going. Ken was Jewish, though, so he would have been buried fast. I didn’t hear about his death until days later.

He was a medical doctor at 25, and he thought he was a failure. He said he could hear his father laughing at him from beyond the grave. There was a rich Mexican kid in our class, and his name was Eduardo. His family was Jewish, too, and his dad was rumored to be worth something like 300 million dollars. Eduardo used to put Ken down, telling him he would never be as rich as Eduardo. That actually bothered Ken. It would have meant nothing at all to me. It seemed like the Jewish kids felt they had to prove things to each other.

He was not programmed for happiness or longevity.

There were a lot of unhappy rich kids at that school. One of them, a guy named Barry Adler, picked a friend up at Miami International for a drug deal. The friend had a suitcase full of money. Adler reached around from the back seat, slit his throat, and stabbed him 33 times. He went to prison, got out early for good behavior, and was shot in the head in the parking lot of a Lum’s restaurant. He was only free for five months. The kid he stabbed came from a rich family, and they were surely unhappy about his release. People wondered if they had a hand in his killing.

I remember throwing a paper wad at Barry when we were in Algebra II together (he was two years older than I was). He gave me a very angry look. It wasn’t until he was convicted of murder that I realized what was behind that look.

Then there was Marty Kogan. He was in the class after mine. He always seemed to think he was playing people. He generally appeared to feel he was one step ahead of everyone else, but I don’t think he ever was. One day in 1984, he rented a boat on Miami Beach, and later on, it was found off the coast, empty, with his brains splattered on it. People assumed he had gone out there to make a drug deal, but if the facts ever came out, I don’t know what they are. He bought a pistol the day before. Why would you buy a pistol the day before you take a rented boat out to the gulf stream, alone, in 1984 Miami? Something to consider.

The boat was found circling with a rope on the helm. Why would you put a rope on a boat’s helm? How is that consistent with a drug deal or suicide? I don’t know. If he was murdered, as people believe, someone would have had to be on the boat with him. You can’t shoot someone from any distance on a rocking boat. But why would they tie down the wheel before jumping off?

Why would you take a boat out in order to kill yourself? That doesn’t make any sense. You can kill yourself anywhere. It must have been murder.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about these things.

My school was full of kids who had extraordinary advantages, but they didn’t know God, and they generally weren’t at peace. Maybe that’s not surprising. The school was half Jewish, and Jews are the most restless people on earth. You would think they would work harder on securing a homeland. Maybe if you’ve never lived in your homeland, you don’t know what it is that’s eating you.

George, Barry, Marty, and Ken were all Jewish.

It’s funny how things work out for people. A bright start is no guarantee of a happy ending.

I hope George did not suffer.

9 Responses to “Father Colbert’s Latest Sunday School Lesson”

  1. Stephen McAteer Says:

    The British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes got frostbite on some of his fingers during some caper or other. He had to wait, as you say, for a few months before surgeons would amputate what was left of his fingers. However, he was too impatient to wait, or the pain was too bad, so he cut off the necrosed flesh with a Black & Decker in his shed.

  2. Steve H. Says:

    Is that what they use to season haggis?

  3. Cliff Says:

    Ugh. Frostbite.

    What’s the house update?


  4. Steve H. Says:

    The offer is now official; the contract has been sent to the sellers. Now we’ll see if they really want to sell!

  5. Monty James Says:

    My dad and I enjoy watching Lou Dobbs on the Fox Business Network, except for one thing. Every show has a video clip of some base jumper or other ‘extreme’ sports enthusiast taking some silly chance, while Lou gushes about the guy in the clip. I can’t help but think that this sort of thing only encourages people to take pointless risks so they might see them selves on television.

    Also, I think you’re right; these fools can see no distinction to be made between themselves, and someone who volunteered to serve their country or community under arms, or otherwise take risks on behalf of the commonweal.

  6. MunDane Says:

    The acquaintance that died on the boat was most likely done for life insurance reasons, Not knowing anything else, with it impossible to rule a suicide, there would have to be a payout. I had a friend in the army that retired after 22 years for medical reasons just after 9/11 (Navy submariner, developed cancer). He took his sailboat out one day from Long Beach, CA and filed a float plan planning on going to San Diego. Never showed.

  7. Steve H. Says:

    Marty was 21 when he died, so he would not have had life insurance. They found bits of his skull on the boat. He was obviously shot through the head. I don’t think that would be a good plan for someone trying to make a suicide look like an accident.

  8. Keeping Up With an Old Friend – Da Tech Guy Blog Says:

    […] Here’s Steve on the Col­bert tem­pest: […]

  9. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Qualification: Jews who replace their religious heritage with false messiahs (career, fame, secularism…) are restless.