Ask a mountaineer or hill-walker why they climb, and you may well get the answer “because it’s there!”. Personally that doesn’t resonate with me at all. I enjoy exploring and like my fresh air and exercise, but to go ever higher, to test myself against the elements just doesn’t do it for me. And why should it? Are we not all different?
Watch a litter of puppies or group of young children and you’ll see a wide range of characters. Some will express their zest for life by crawling, then climbing anywhere and everywhere. Others will do their exploring more inwardly: watching, observing, ‘taking it all in’. That’s always been me.
Don’t get me wrong, give me the opportunity to explore a different ancient town or botanic gardens or different culture (particularly though its food and drink!) and I’ll take you up on the offer. Physical experience is still important to me, but I’m not interested in the extremes. I watch some of the extreme sports now practiced and have no inner answer to the ‘why?’ people do it. Are they adrenalin junkies, I wonder? But they might consider those like me to me information junkies, I suppose.
I used to crave information, facts and theories. As a boy my head would always be in a book, seeking answers to the questions of life. As my eyes have deteriorated and I’ve got more in Zen and the Tao, I’ve become more discerning. No longer soaking up any and all information. Now what matters is coming to terms with my immediate surrounding and finding some inner peace with my here and now situation. The inner drive, that has always been asking ‘why? How?’ in the back (if not the front) of my head now urges me to take a step back from the mental machinations and tune-in. To go within and feel the situation, to know whatever it is I need to through being at one with it. My exploration is increasing at a deeper level, beyond boundaries of body or mind . . . where ever fewer have trod before. Which may be why so few understand enough to recognize the achievements of those on a similar journey. It’s another paradox to be embraced: how can anyone appreciate something they don’t understand?
But that, I realise is what bugs me: if you’re ahead of the pack on an athletics track or race track you’re glorified and worshipped. If you dare to stick your neck out in front on matters more intellectual or esoteric you’re more usually ridiculed or persecuted. What’s going on? A mountaineer who goes where not human foot has ever trod, just because it’s there, is hailed as a hero . .. but those who dare to think thoughts that no man has thought before are considered fools (although both groups may also be considered mad). In both cases we’re both merely responding to an inner urge to explore, to grow, to evolve. In the case of progressive thinkers we would argue that our ideas are for the benefit of humanity. And yes, we would consider that we are leading the way . . . like the pioneers of mountaineering. All we ask is for the same recognition that they get, please.