Going to the mountaintop


I've been thinking of this ever since I read it a few days ago:

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.

~Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue

These words were written by a mountain climber so they were no doubt intended to be taken literally: why climb? Why submit your body to that exertion to reach the summit, only to have to turn around and descend? Good questions, especially if I were a mountain climber.

But even non-mountain-climber me finds a lot of truth to this, on several levels and topics that are still incubating in my mind. A smattering of things like faith and relationships and trials and triumphs and memory and striving and doing difficult things. 

And parenting & family life. As Greg's cousin said recently "At least 30 minutes of blood, sweat, and tears go into every Rockwell moment of family life." Likewise, the moments of seeing--really seeing the vista at the peaks--are slight compared to the moments of knowing and remembering what we saw. 

But this is what stops me in my tracks: The art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.  This is what I'm after this year. It's my current definition of faith and maturity and wisdom, rejoicing in the peaks but especially learning the art of knowing and remembering even in the valleys. On the way, pressing on, to the next peak. I feel nudged to learn this better.

. . .

"I've been to the mountaintop...I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.