The mountain

Why do we climb the mountain? George Mallory, when asked why he climbed Mount Everest responded, “Because it was there.”

Climbing the mountain can be a symbol of a person’s personal struggle to achieve. It is a metaphor for man versus mountain. It is our primal desire to conquer. The metaphor stands as a symbol of both triumph and failure. Either we succeed and climb to the top, or our efforts are less than perfect and we don’t make it to the summit. But if we finally summit the mountain, and are successful, we see it as a triumph and the success is forever etched into our psyche.

People from Tibet call Mount Everest Chomolungma, or Mother Goddess of the Universe. As a metaphor, the highest peak in the world stands as the symbol of man’s greatest achievements.

We climb mountains to change our life, to grow, to pull ourselves away from the ordinary and security to a place of higher personal growth. The climb might be away from the trappings of our youth, the trappings of a suffocating relationship, or merely to readjust our moral compass.

In our quest to climb our personal mountain, we reach certain stages in that quest and stop and marvel at the vistas offered from that vantage point. It might be a time of reflection, a time to assess how far we’ve climbed and to ascertain we are taking the right path up the mountain. Will we be able to reach the summit by continuing on the present course, or do we need to make a correction and follow a different route in order to succeed and make it to the top?

Some people become complacent in their lives and are satisfied with the vista a partial trip up the mountain allows, and never fully make it to the top. This too is human nature for some. Perhaps most don’t make it to the top, but the goal of reaching the summit is the metaphor for that human drive to accomplish all that we can.

There are certain plateaus we reach and from where we can enjoy the vista. It might be perfectly natural to stay at that level for a long time enjoying the view. We can look down and see the parts of the mountain we’ve already conquered, and still look up and see the summit, which may or may not be our goal. There may be comfort and security where we are. But if one longs to continue the assent, growth and the challenge must supersede complacency.

The closer to the summit one gets, the more dangerous the climb may become. You have to make sure your footing is good and you have a good handhold as you slowly pull yourself up from that safe plateau. If not, then the fall back to the safety of the plateau can be dramatic. Any progress made during that portion of the assent is negated. It may cause us to give up the quest, or to become complacent and accept the summit will never be reached.

The human condition is that we have all been there! What we then do next is entirely up to us!

Some may decide the climb up to the summit from one of those safe “staging” areas is selfish. That to continue the climb, many times alone, puts them in a position where they must abandon the needs of others in order to reach the summit. There is a difference between self actualizationintrospection, and being selfish.

Those who really love you, and not just for what they feel you can be or should be for them should love you for what you will and do become. Does that make sense? There is a big difference.

So before you endeavor to climb the rest of the way up the mountain, you have to do something. Either you will be satisfied with where you are on the mountain and just stay, or you will figure a way to convince those in your life that your journey up the mountain is a growth for you and doesn’t really impact them in a negative way. Or, you go on and leave those holding you back on their personal plateau and continue to the summit, because that is what you decide is right for you, despite their expectation.

This is the conundrum: you want to aspire to higher peaks, but are being held back by someone who feels threatened by your growth. Either you will figure out a way to bring them up with you, to cause them to understand your needs, or you will abandon the effort and continue your climb without them. These are personal struggles as you look for sure footing on the side of the mountain.

Can you see the top? Are you taking the right line up the mountain? Are you being distracted as you reach for a new handhold? Maybe the plateau you are on allows you a good view and security. You can see where you’ve been and are quite high up the mountain. There is a mountain glen there. It offers safety and comfort. There is water and food for which you might forage. Maybe it is your belief the mountain glen is not a bad place to be after all.

I believe if I do not try to climb the mountain, my opinion matters less and less to those around me. I also believe if you don’t try to climb the mountain, I may still love you, but your opinion will matter less and less to me.

Those who climb the mountain for glory, fame or money may make it to the top, but the view will be diminished by clouds. Those who climb for truth, beauty and personal growth see a vista not possible through the fog of complacency: themselves.

Until next time–

You can read past columns by visiting tamatoledonews.com and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 – 2012 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at mike@aweiowa.com via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.