That’s a headline we just don’t see everyday. But maybe we should?
It’s straightforward and direct. It means something. It stands for a lot of things, really. And maybe, just maybe, it comes as a surprise to people who, in fact, love their mountain ranges.
Mountains earn our awe simply by being extraordinarily magnificent to the human mind. Perhaps because we are proportionally small, we revel in large things, in huge things. Like an aerial view of the Earth, a sighting of the Sun low on the horizon, the Universe expanding infinite, or simply, rocky summits.
And these piles of rock, these massifs we so worship, whose intricate, myriad pathways lead us on interior journeys of our own choosing? They seem so all-knowing, as if behind every kicked in step, buried beneath a deep powder snowpack, existing in tandem along the arc of an epic’s suffering, lie the answers to the questions of life. But it’s not true. Those answers lie within ourselves.
The mountains, where we often go to seek such answers? They are cold, windy, and uncaring, or warm and sunny and seemingly full of life’s embrace. But the reality is that they’re indifferent in the extreme. They will just as easily send you a lightning bolt, or an avalanche, as calm air and sunshine.
Mountains are not that much different than a run down, abandoned building that you might choose to explore in the middle of the night. Both could collapse at any time: the roof falls in on the building, a wall of rock or a snow avalanche rip off and come tumbling down. It’s only a matter of time…
Both provide insubstantial shelter from the elements. The building offers a leaky roof, wind drafts galore, a floor you might step through, shattered glass, and blackness on the inside, at night. The mountains? Maybe a cave, maybe shelter beneath a large rock or some trees, but drafty as well, most likely. Rocky, uneven ground presents itself, seemingly designed to trip you up. And, if you’re lucky enough to visit mountains far removed from light pollution, you’ll see some blackness as well. Yet, the high mountain air will be pierced by the pinpoints of light from untold numbers of distant stars, and even more light from the moon.
Whether mountains inspire you to push yourself to your personal limits, or to some new, as-yet-unattained goal, is unimportant to those same mountains. It’s only important to you, and to the people interested in you.
The mountains don’t care. The mountains don’t love you. They don’t recognize your passage, be it a first ascent or first descent, the 17th, or the 300,000th. The mountains don’t take note of your route to their summits, intricate and complex as it was. That formidable sense of challenge you surmounted and feel victorious over, in gaining that summit? That’s yours. The mountains chuckle to themselves as you try to tickle them with your feet and hands from above. It doesn’t work. Mountains don’t feel anything.
The mountains are there for seemingly one thing only. We are small and insignificant to them; we love them, they don’t love us. But instead of focusing on unrequited love, learn only to respect them. Those billions of tons of stone and dirt and trees and water deserve respect.
Certainly, the history of the mountains is compelling. In the game of humans versus the mountains, the mountains always remain standing. Always.
Think that through as you set off in search of a mountain ‘conquest.’ For what you are conquering is yourself. Always.