This week I read Touching the Void about an English mountaineer Joe Simpson who fell climbing in the Andes and shattered his leg at almost 18,000 feet.
He was on the descent after summiting the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in Peru in 1985.
Simpson misjudged the safety of an ice cliff while trying to climb down, falling and breaking his right leg.
Both he and his climbing partner Simon Yates know the score - rescue is impossible in this remote location and a self-rescue will most likely kill them both.
But they attempt it and through a complicated and repeated method of Yates braced in a seat dug into the snow, he lowers Simpson with two 150 feet ropes knotted together.
Each 300 foot descent batters Simpson's shattered leg against the ice and snow, twisting it at horrible angles. He screams repeatedly for Yates to slow down, knowing he cannot hear him above the wind and snow and if he could, he could not afford the time to be slow and gentle.
As night falls and a storm drops the temperatures below -20 degrees, they decide to continue lowering because they have eaten their food and are without gas to produce water.
They are dehydrated, disorientated and probably delirious as they push on in blindness.
Then disaster strikes. Simpson feels the ground steepening and realises he is being lowered off another ice cliff. He screams for Yates to stop lowering but can't be heard above the wind and snow.
Dangling 50 feet above the ground, he cannot climb back up the rope and Yates cannot pull him up. Worse, he is hanging over the yawning mouth of a crevasse.
When the ice seat Yates is sitting in starts to collapse after 30 minutes, he makes the harrowing decision to cut the rope, sending Simpson falling to his presumed death.
Yates knows he has done the right thing by cutting the rope - they both would die if he attempted a rescue.
Miraculously, Simpson survives the 100 foot fall into the crevasse, landing on an ice bridge. He pulls the rope and it falls through the roof with the telltale threads showing it had been cut. Simpson instantly accepts his climbing partner had no other choice - it was better only one of them dies on the mountain.
Rather than lay in the dark and die, he manages to climb out of the crevasse and crawl through a dangerous glacier filled with more bottomless drops. He reaches the mountain's base and crawls and hops the remaining kilometres back to camp.
It is an amazing story of exploration and survival against the odds: two adventurers alone on a landscape no one else had walked.
In has parallels with mankind's greatest feat of exploration - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon, the 50th anniversary of which is being celebrated this month.
The US was losing the space race to Russia when it set a target so ambitious, so difficult, that it knew would catapult it ahead.
US president John F Kennedy summed it up with his immortal words: "We chose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard."
The goal captured the world in its audacity.
"All great actions are accompanied by great difficulty," JFK said.
The world needs audacious goals and that audacity trickles down and inspires countries and leaders at federal, state and local levels.
Plenty of you have a few pollies you would like to see rocketed into orbit, but I'm not suggesting the state or even federal government launch a space campaign.
(Besides, that is clearly the remit of the Hobart City Council to suggest and debate things beyond its means of influence and control.)
But where are the audacious goals and long-term vision for our country and state?
What will we look back on in 50 years time like the moon landing, like the Snowy Mountains Scheme or hydroelectricity in Tasmania and say, "That was visionary".
There are no doubt projects and policies that people will highlight, but they feel few and far between.
Perhaps, like words in a storm, they are getting lost in the sound of the fury of political debate.
- Mark Baker is Australian Community Media - Tasmania managing editor