Like Moses, many of us go into the mountains as supplicants in search of the truth, or central reality, of life—of finding an enchanted doorway foremost to life’s decisive moments.
Some say it is the challenge of the climb; others, to be one with nature. The elevation, combined with the purity of air, helps to bring out clarity of thought, something perhaps lacking in the flatlands below.
In our normal day-to-day existence, it is hard to find a pathway to life’s transcendent lanes, the archetypes and ethical tenets that appear to lie just outside the limits of our senses. We seem all alone in an outwardly symmetrical universe, a flat table of yesterdays and tomorrows, as we search for something or someone we have lost and search for a way out of human despair.
Some accept as true that a mountain really is just a metaphor for life. Our quest to climb that rocky, wind-swept rise really is about our earthly journey, our spiritual journey, and our psychic journey. It is about the challenges we must overcome to fulfill our purpose in life.
During our earthly tenure and experience, the mountain is our trustworthy teacher, because the skyward climb offers us the opportunity to grow and reach new heights. The adventure and challenge are about the ascent, not about reaching the noblest of summits.
We often must follow the frequently treacherous and unsteady tracks as we climb the menacing mountain marks. We cannot always pause to pinpoint the lofty crests and lordly ridges as we go. We must keep pushing forward, surrounded by natural sensations on all sides—the dramatic woodland scenes, the beauty of plant life, the lush leaf configuration, the towering pines and hemlocks, the bountiful forest floor, and above all, the inscrutable mystery of creation.
Some slopes are hard to scale. The switchbacks seem confusing. What if we make the wrong turn or fall? Even as we thwart self-doubt seeping in with each step we take, we yet must face the truth of our past, the reality of our failures, the summary of our sins, even as we are about to reach life’s pinnacle.
When we find a place to rest, to restore and replenish ourselves, we can reflect on the distance we have already come, consider the obstacles we have met, and notice the deft and confident folk we have encountered, those climbing for their own personal reasons—that is when we realize that we are all on the same path toward eternity.
Still, our eyes have remained cheerful and undefeated, even after a lifetime of struggle with the unknown, a struggle independent of time and age, a struggle perhaps the way that Jacob wrestled with God.
Now begins the final approach that leads to the road going down—a slow turning back to the valley below and the life that has been accorded to us, a return that brings with it a kind of transformation in our senses.
One of the most important lessons that topping the mountain can teach us is that it is not how the daring trek comes to an end but the committed climb itself: the beauty, fear, wonder, excitement, tears, and friendships that we experience along the way; the fixed and firmly unyielding trails we discover.
Seemingly, before we even begin our climb, we are confronted with a single query: “If we’re just here for a short duration and then die, what does it all mean?”
The answer might entail that passing away is our definitive goal, despite all the psychological, existential, and philosophical fortunes that confront us every day.
After all, the strenuous journey up the mountain really is about our mortal mission of accepting the finiteness of life—a time when we know that death is our future, and we must learn to live with that awareness, all the while sensing, that the time we have left makes every moment precious and each day revered.
Perhaps the wisdom we gain from reflecting on the impermanence of life will help us to expire at ease when the time comes—help us to live with a wiser, richer, and more satisfying intent; help us to be stirred by the music of the spheres and the love that moves the moon and the stars; help us to explore the possibilities of the human spirit; help us to achieve an inner harmony and calm across the many stages of life and all its many changes—both expected and unexpected—that we encounter along the way.
Like Moses, many of us go into the mountains as mendicants in search of some mystic access to life’s most crucial moments, in search of a sacred and sanctified stairway to heaven.
Some even argue that each mountain trial is just a metaphor for life, an allegorical symbol representing our mortal, earthly journey. It reflects the struggles and challenges we must overcome to achieve our purpose in the time and space we have been given, to enable us to experience union with the divine and find peace within ourselves.
The journey is our destination after all.