Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No Way But Up

    The only thing crazier for me to think about than how high, how difficult, and how perilous hiking Mount Everest is would be how crazy the men and women who have done it must have been. People don't say that some one climbed Everest, they say they conquered Everest. Over 220 people have died trying to reach the summit, and that's not exactly as peaceful as passing away in your sleep; it's a little closer to freezing to death and/or not being able to inhale the thin veil of oxygen in your deflated lungs. Fun times.
    So what's the point? Despite the unenviable death described above, almost 3,150 people have at least attempted the climb...what a bunch of morons. Have there been that many morons with an interest in rock climbing throughout history, or am I missing something? I think George Leigh Mallory, who climbed Everest in 1924 (before they had oxygen tanks and things) would say I'm missing something. He had this to say:
    "The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is no use'. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life." Mr. Mallory was on to something. And Mr. Mallory died in his failed attempt to climb Everest in 1924. 
    A mountain can take your breath away with its beauty and grandeur, while all the while it can literally take your breath away. But I like to think that there is not one person to have reached its summit and regretted it, even if things were lost along the way. And stranger still, there are those who attempted it and failed but still regret nothing. If you're like me, love can seem like a similar endeavor.
    I have yet to reach love's summit. It hasn't worked out with the people that I've tried climbing it with in the past. I've gotten lost on the way up, I've run out of air, or I acted like it wasn't a dangerous climb at all only to get swept up the wind. But I don't regret those climbs. Not one bit. Because the view was still beautiful, and I'm actually closer with those people for trying. Because maybe we're not supposed to worry about reaching the summit. 
    Maybe God cares more about the climb. Maybe God wants us to have those moments where we hold each others' hand through the coldest wind or where a mere gaze from our partner is more sustaining than water. Maybe God wants us to share an adventure; and no one has ever had an adventure where there was nowhere to go. 
    Love seems dangerous. But that's the beauty of it; that I still want to climb, and that there's someone who would want to climb with me. Because I'm sure the view from the top is gorgeous, but it's the journey up that I hope takes my breath away -- one way or another.