Down The Well

[youtube=] The video above is of Nicholas White, a former BusinessWeek production manager, trapped in an elevator for 41 hours sped up to 190 seconds. The clip is fascinating and disturbing. Over the course of three minutes, you see him, understandably, lose his mind. I don’t have a time machine, so I couldn’t go back to 1999 to save him. But his mental torment has become just another YouTube clip, and it’s hard not to feel a bit complacent. Those 41 hours changed White’s life forever. He lost his job, his friends and his sanity. The whole thing reminded me a lot of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, where a character is also trapped, this time in a well, for a few days:

But of course, before anything could happen, the light was gone. I was still there, in the bottom of that miserable well. Darkness and cold reasserted their grip on me, as if to declare that the light had never existed at all. For a long time, I simply remained huddled where I was, my face bathed in tears. As if beaten down by some huge power, I was unable to do—or even to think—anything at all, unable to feel even my own physical existence. I was a dried-up carcass, the cast off shell of an insect. But then, once again, into the empty room of my mind, returned the prophecy of Corporal Honda: I would not die on the continent. Now, after the light had come and gone, I found myself able to believe his prophecy. I could believe it now because, in a place where I should have died, and at a time when I should have died, I had been unable to die. It was not that I would not die: I could not die. Do you understand what I am saying, Mr. Okada? Whatever heavenly grace I may have enjoyed until that moment was lost forever.
It’s hard to get at exactly what Murakami does in just a paragraph, but from other paragraphs, you see that this guy “survived” being caught in a well, but still lost a part of himself there. Before I went to Israel, a friend jokingly asked me if I thought the trip would change my life. I answered that I was too old for life changing experiences. And that’s a lucky thing: Who would we be if a chance encounter, a magical summer or some other movie trope could change us forever? Shouldn’t there be some part of us immune from that? Unfortunately, you’re never too old to be trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Here’s to taking the stairs. Additional Reading: “The Big City; Aftermath Of 40 Hours In an Elevator,” The New York Times Up And Then Down,” The New YorkerTrapped In An Elevator For Two Days The Video,” Gawker The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami