December 14

You never conquer a mountain.
You stand on the summit a few
moments; then the wind
blows your footprints away.

Arlene Blum


Today's Meditation:

I've always had a less-than-strong relationship with the idea of "conquering" anything.  I think that we tend to adopt certain vocabulary simply because it's convenient and because we haven't really thought about what things mean in any deep and significant manner.  The truth is, though, that people don't conquer things like mountains--we may conquer our fears in order to climb them, or our limitations or our preconceived notions, but we certainly cannot "conquer" a mountain.

I love Arlene's complete acceptance of the idea of the transitory nature of all that we do, even our most vaunted accomplishments.  No matter what we do, eventually the wind and the rain and the sun will wash away all indication that we've ever been where we've been at all.  We may think that we've made a lasting mark, but really we've made a miniscule mark that won't last long--and not only is that okay, but it's the way things should be.  We aren't meant to be permanent fixtures on this planet, and I think this world would be a much better place if more people simply were to accept that fact.

Can we leave behind the need to "conquer"?  Can we not feel that it's important that we "defeat" and always "battle against"?  Can't we work with, cooperate with, and enjoy the company of?  To me, climbing a mountain is much more fun if I enjoy the journey and all that the mountain offers me:  beauty and challenge and obstacles that help me to grow stronger.  Even if I don't make it to the peak, I can still get tons out of a climbing expedition, can't I?

I'm fine with standing at the peak for a few moments, or even a few hours, and then letting the wind wipe away any trace that I've ever been there.  I don't make myself a better person by using the word "conquer."  Heck, I'll even try not to leave any trace, and I'll wipe away my tracks before I leave, and not tell anyone that I climbed it--the growth is in the journey and the experience, not in making sure that others know what I've done.

Questions to consider:

Why do we use so many words like "conquer"  in our vocabulary?  Are those words accurate? 

From where do we get the urge to "defeat" and subjugate?  Why is it important to us to have the sense of having defeated someone or something?

Is it a negative thing that the "wind blows your footprints away"?

For further thought:

Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy
my ambition to achieve, they are the
cathedrals where I practice my religion.

Anatoli Boukreev


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