Travel Diaries Part 3: Summits

Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys. – Billy Graham.

Distance Travelled: 30km
Elevation: 3500m
Temperature: 10 Deg C

The summit is windy, almost nothing grows there. It is exposed, it exposes you, and so too the world lies naked before you. The trek up was long, but simple, the ancient trail cleared by centuries of passage by mountain herders and other people transporting goods, making a small ditch two or three metres deep at places. It was precarious. It meandered with the river. But it got you to the top.

You saw the mountain range all around, connected by ridgelines like tree branches spreading out across the land. You saw where you came from, the distant golden-grass hill bathed in sunlight, marking the entrance to the valley. You saw the mountain yaks and the goats and the grassy plateaus. You almost see yourself, the hills staring back at you, all of man’s praise or accolades left at the foot of the mountain, just you and the world. The mountains which have stood for so long beckon honesty – their silent faces neither in judgment nor acceptance.

How do you see me, God? The true way to know is to be known. The true way to learn speak is to be spoken to: not a natural mysticism of the mountains echoing back your own thoughts, but to know that He is there and He is not silent.

We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. – Talmud

Up here there is always quiet. In the mornings before anyone has roused, and the sheets of frost still on your tent and on the ground, the air is so still. You can hear your own thoughts, you can clear your mind, watching the sunlight tracing your footsteps, ice melting behind you.  It is beautiful. It does not fade, but it does not remain the same. Not easy, fragile or flimsy. A dangerous, savage beauty. Discovered not created. Earned not imagined.

Life here is raw, untampered. There is something about being this near to creation that is comforting, it does not feel alien or unsettling. The chill is thrilling, the danger is invigorating, the independence is freeing. There is something to be learned about being away from the comforts of modernity- a world after our own making, where you conform to forces larger than yourself. It is humbling.

There is also something to be learned about God. He is not a civilized God, not a God that can be tamed, or set to work for our purposes. Like the craggy peaks that rise above the and splits the course of the wind. Hosea speaks repeatedly about the image of a lion, the lion of Judah. A wild thing. A dangerous thing. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. Have mercy on me, a sinner. I was not made to rest, or be comfortable, I was made to contest, to strive, to advance, help me be all that you have made me to be, my living God.

A Reflection on Adventure:

In hindsight, the chasm between adventure and ego widened and crystallized. I saw clearly that adventure stands opposed to achievement. Those who do so, for the purposes of self-aggrandizement or for self-promotion must be sadly blind to it’s real value. Adventure, a real journey, is actually quite impossible for those who have a chip on their shoulder, something to prove, for an insecure person. How will one survive the days of boredom with no real purpose, the life-threatening dangers and the risks with no accolades, the eventual summit- with no one to photograph you? You would much rather get a real job.

The crowning beauty of adventure is really the sense of your own smallness- all about finding something greater than yourself, to know that there is beauty and meaning that goes on all the while outside of you, that is truly exhilarating. The most depressing thing must be to think that all that you know, and all that you are is the best thing in the universe, because our own depravity is only too evident to us (even if not consciously). To behold the infinities of creation, small and large- isn’t that something that feeds the soul? Isn’t that an echo of the very glory of God?

The way back was uneventful. The fire crackled. The moon shone brightly as a crescent. The camp fell silent and songs of praise arose. I know you hear them.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s