This morning my friend talked on his radio show a bit about his own personal religious journey. The metaphor he used to conceptualize this religious journey was a mountain with a ring of clouds around it, at various levels. Here’s how he described it (I’m going to paraphrase his words, but it’s mostly a direct quote):
[this journey is] a mountain that is encircled by clouds at various heights. And when you’re at the base of the mountain there are the clouds right above you and you can’t see anything up the mountain. You can really just see what’s right around you. The totality of possibility is obscured from your view. For a lot of people, they just live at the base of the mountain. It’s a pretty comfortable place, there’s no arduous climbing. But for some folks they want to climb through the clouds, up the mountain, to find something else. And so they start climbing up.
When I heard this analogy I thought it applied also to our general life journey. You may have a specific journey, like my friend’s religious journey. But it also might just be all of the little journeys in your life — the growth (or lack thereof) you allow yourself to experience. Over the years of my adult life, but especially in the last 3+ years, I feel like I’ve really shifted my mindset to sitting comfortably at the base of the mountain to wanting to climb and discover what is beyond each ring of clouds.
My journey is often difficult — I’ve faced a lot of personal demons and the demons of others. It’s emotionally taxing. It’s heartbreaking. But my journey has also been so overwhelmingly beautiful. There’s been so much that I have discovered about myself, about those that I love or have loved, and about my own inner desires and fulfillment. I’m not afraid to climb the mountain. Well, I take that back. I’m fucking terrified. Each time I climb through another ring I’m absolutely petrified at what I might discover and how I’ll deal with that discovery. I have to convince myself not just to turn around and return to base camp. Like my friend said, it’s pretty comfortable there. But I know there’s nothing down there for me. The base is not where I belong and it’s not what makes me happy and it’s not where I feel as though I’m manifesting my full potential as a human being. So I continue to climb despite the fear of the challenge ahead.
My friend discussed further why it is that, for him, he continues his journey. And I liked what he had to say, so I’m going to quote him here. (Again, I’m cleaning up some dangling “rights” and “you knows”, but it’s pretty much a direct quote.):
“it’s a cool journey…. these questions, these existential questions of who are we and why are we here, that people have been struggling with ever since we’ve been “we” – these questions are fascinating questions. And I think they are also fascinating questions juxtaposed against how we actually live our lives. Just working to make somebody else wealthier and spending our time we wouldn’t do if we didn’t have to. If it didn’t mean we’d otherwise starve we wouldn’t do half the things we do. And when you push that against “what is the purpose of this one shot of being alive that I get?” I think you end up in some really interesting places and a lot of times that place is a dense ring of clouds that you’re not exactly sure how to get out of. But it sure is an interesting trip and I sure am glad that all of you are taking it with me.”
A final thought: I think it’s important to find people who are willing to climb the mountain with you. It’s hard to do it alone. In fact, it’s even better if you can find a few people. And there’s nothing like conquering a big-ass mountain when you’ve got someone to share that experience with. Trust me. I know.
So find your mountain and don’t be afraid of those ring of clouds. Once you burst through you’ll be grateful for the journey and it will give you the strength and courage to break through the next ring.
I love you keep going,