This winter has been all about steady upward progress for me — my outdoor adventures have been mostly uphill & mostly on skis. As of this writing, I’ve completed about 72,000 vertical feet of ascent, or just under 20% of the 400,000 ft goal I’ve set for this year.
I love hearing about other people out there working toward the same (or similar) goals — whether a few stairs a week, a few laps on the driveway, or a few mountains before breakfast — it helps motivate me knowing others are thinking about the connection between the 400,000 and the 400 billion tons of glacial ice lost each year.
The goal may seem a little arbitrary sometimes, for sure: “how can climbing a mountain be doing anything to help with climate change?”
But it’s exactly that human connection we achieve by being active and engaged with the world around us that’s so important.
The Norwegian adventurer Erling Kagge writes in his wonderful book Silence in the Age of Noise, “the world disappears when you go into it.” My goal is always to make the world disappear — which means not to ignore the world, but rather the opposite: to diminish the self as separate from the world.
Just after I finished my own run across Arctic Norway and Sweden in 2017, I wrote,
Tillat deg selv å se at det ikke er noe her, men alt i venden.
Allow yourself to see that there is nothing here, but everything in the world.
The world is all.
An explorer of a different sort, although clearly a kindred spirit of Erling Kagge, Thomas Merton wrote in the autumn of 1968,
The full beauty of the mountain is not seen until you too consent to the impossible paradox: it is and is not. When nothing more needs to be said, the smoke of ideas clears, the mountain is SEEN.
I would add to Merton’s words (written as they were only weeks before his untimely death in December 1968) that the mountain is not only seen but is always becoming. Co-becoming with us as we lose ourselves in the sinewy folds of its slopes, the depths of shadow and the brilliance of morning light — all of it.
When we lose ourselves, we can become more than just ourselves — whether that’s in friendship, community, or in connection with the world around us.
It may well be an uphill journey, but when it comes to understanding the world and its interconnectedness, there can hardly be a more important first step.