Seeing the best in life's challenges

The Mountain

on November 14, 2011

Life is like a mountain, and we are all climbing to reach the summit.

It’s a huge mountain, with all kinds of varied terrain.  We are each at a different spot on that mountain.  We all start at the bottom, and work our way up.  Some face north, some south, some east, some west. Some paths up the mountain twist back and forth, but aren’t too steep.  Some of us are rock-climbing up some serious cliffs.  Some are moving fast, others taking their time and enjoying the scenery.  There are as many variations in paths up the mountain as there are people.

Because each of us is in our own unique spot, each of us has a different view of our surroundings.  Some people might be in a particularly wooded, flat spot, and they might not even know they are on a mountain!  Some might be so focused on their path, that they aren’t taking the time to notice that there is other terrain around them.  Those at the bottom might look up and find the mountain overwhelming.  Those at the very top might be looking up and admiring the sky…..or they might take the time to look down in every direction, and see the endless possibilities there are to get up to the top.

Is one path up the mountain better than another?  For each particular person, there is probably one path that offers them the appropriate number of challenges, without being too difficult.  The right path would depend on each situation.  For example, if you were traveling up with a group, you would probably pick a path that was suited to the abilities of the group.  Someone who enjoys the challenges of extreme sports might pick a very difficult path that no one has attempted before.

Maybe at some point, you or your group encounters a scout who has been up the mountain, and can give you really useful instructions for navigating your path.  The scout could give you a great set of rules that, if followed, could make your journey so much easier!!

Those who are climbing with you, if you are climbing in a group, are going to see things from the same perspective as you.  For example, the people climbing the east side, are going to see the sun rise each day, but after the sun goes behind the mountain, they will know they still have many hours of daylight, despite the fact that they can’t see the sun in the sky.  But the people climbing the west side of the mountain will have that daylight BEFORE they can actually see the sun in the sky, and they will get to see the sun set.  One side of the mountain is likely to be windward and rainy, while the other is likely to be leeward and dry.

Think about how different the eastern climbers and the western climbers would describe the conditions around the mountain.

Even on the same side of the mountain, the people following the gradual path with switchbacks, would have a very different perspective than those who are climbing the steep face.  If they described their experience of climbing the mountain to someone unfamiliar with it, they would give vastly different impressions of the same place!

So let’s say Joe Smith hasn’t yet figured out that he is on a mountain.  He hears rumors that there is this person named Jane Doe who tells stories of her path that make absolutely no sense.  They don’t fit Joe’s group experience at all, they seem far-out, and are actually a little scary.  Joe concludes that there is no way these stories can be true, they must be WRONG!  (Joe’s group might even decide that it is too dangerous to even speak to Jane, or maybe they should even kill this heretic!  But let’s assume Joe’s group is peace-loving and open-minded.)

Then Joe meets Jane in person when their paths cross.  To hear her stories and descriptions of her climb still seem unbelievable, but she seems like a pretty reasonable and nice person, not so different from Joe.  He likes Jane, even though she must be a little crazy.  As Jane shares her stories, Joe gets to know her a little better, so he decides that, well, another path might be possible, but his is still BETTER than hers.  (After all, his path is well-known and proven!)

Years go by, and both Joe and Jane are much further along on their paths.  They have had a wider variety of experiences, and because they are further up, they now have a broader view of terrain that is further away.  As Joe has gained insight, experience and wisdom, he now thinks about Jane and her stories, and concludes that maybe her path is right for her, while his path is best for him.  Maybe Jane’s experience is no better or worse, maybe it’s just DIFFERENT.  Joe is still happy to be on his path, with his group, but he is ok with others making their own choices and deciding what path is best for them.

The higher any one person gets on the mountain, the more they will be able to see, and the better able they will be to appreciate the challenges, the stories, the perspectives, of all the different people who they run into from different paths.  They will start to be able to understand why it takes some people so long to climb the mountain, while it seems easy for others.

The point is we each have our own perspective, based on our unique life experiences.  The way we see things is true for us, but that doesn’t mean that others who have a different experience are “wrong” and our experiences aren’t any “better” than theirs.  They are just different.

THEN, people start getting to the top of the mountain.  Suddenly, they can see the whole thing!  Now, they can see that there is A LOT of the mountain they never knew about!  They feel more than a little humbled, and realize how little they actually knew getting up.  They might also realize that they learned the most from the toughest parts of the journey.  What seemed like the worst situations when they happened, actually provided the very best lessons.

In hearing the stories and wisdom that these other people share it becomes clear that not only are all the paths different, they are COMPLEMENTARY.  To truly understand the mountain, its terrain, how the paths fit together, and all the lessons that can be learned, you need the experience of all types of people who have tackled all the paths.

Now think about this possibility:  the people at the top are sharing their stories of their adventures.  All of a sudden, a helicopter arrives and drops off a guy who decided to skip the climb.  So, he has arrived at the top, and can now look down at all the paths and see everything.  But he has no experience with the mountain.  His “climb” was the easiest in the extreme.  While we all sometimes wish for an easy climb, how useful do you really think an easy climb is, in learning to navigate life and in gaining wisdom?

One response to “The Mountain

  1. Johnny butler says:

    Absolutely powerfully stated and true. What a provoking mind challenging commentary

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