Friday, June 23, 2017

Life Above All


No mountain, not even Everest, is worth dying for and there’s no triumph upon the summit of any mountain, however easy or hard fought the summit might be. There’s only exhaustion, trepidation, some amount of bewilderment and perhaps a sense of relief. Most summits are desolate, hostile and unfit for human existence. There’s no pot of gold, no glory, no treasure anywhere on these lofty places where we stay only few minutes after having struggled through weeks and in some cases months of inhuman conditions. Why do this, again and again, is the purpose of the climb to summit, how sometimes we forego all caution and put our very lives at stake to claim that momentary glow of being at the summit, throwing all cautions to wind. How does one single step become more important than anything else we have or love including our lives? And upon no mountain is this more evident than Everest.

When we are too focussed on success or reaching the summit, we often do not enjoy the climb, cursing every moment of the endeavour. We lose patience, ability to weigh risk versus gain; our intent becomes an all consuming drive to reach the goal. The greatest loss indeed is the experience of the journey, every moment of the climb that teaches us something sublime and unique. We forget to pause and stare and look around and miss out the subtle beauty and small success that we achieve with each single step. What is most important is to do our best, yet not to kill ourselves in the process. Nothing is more beautiful than life itself. We should push our limits certainly yet understand how far it can be pushed before we go over the edge. It’s like blowing a balloon to the maximum but not bursting it in the process.

It is that tiny threshold between life and death where we reach upon our quest where we must understand and be able to differentiate on which side of the threshold we are. Most of the times that threshold will actually take us to the summit, but at times due to circumstances beyond our control that threshold will paralyze and grip us at a level less than where we wish to be.

The question is how far we should go before we realize that we have gone far enough! And that we should turn around and go home before it is too late. In the mountains I use my gut feelings, my instincts and my intuition that has been honed over 40 years of climbing and exploring some of the most dangerous and hostile natural elements. And most importantly I feel that we all must have a good reason to come back safe, a motivation that is bigger than life itself and self-preservation, which will push us towards safety when things are falling apart.

I personally couldn’t care less if I died or survived over all these years, yet what always brought me back, even from the brink of oblivion was the thought of my mother waiting for me back home. I could die happily if she wasn’t around. My self-preservation purely for myself wasn’t strong enough. So when my mother passed away last year in June, I kind of wondered what would happen when I am in a dangerous spot next. Many of my friends urged me to be extra careful in the mountains and some advised that I should find a new motivation to live. I have always been careful since I value life yet I must admit that I have now found the ‘motivation’ to keep coming back.

Having lived on the edge all my life, at the brink of death I have realized again and again that there’s nothing above life. I cherish life more because I realize how quickly and unexpectedly it could end.