I like to look back. When I am climbing a mountain, it is an excuse to rest. But I also do it for another reason—to see how far I have climbed.
And I find it best to rest with my feet facing the valley, so I don’t just look over my shoulder in pain, but gaze in earnest, so that I have as wide a picture as possible. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to overcome certain obstacles. From above, they seem more imposing than they actually were. Sometimes the fog, rain, or wind deprives me of such moments. I can’t see where I came from, or exactly where the path leads. So I often stop and look for shelter. Or I try to climb quickly, without enjoying the scenery, and start to calculate risks, just trying to get through the situation as quickly as possible. Many times, I pray, and at the same time I wonder why I started on the journey in the first place. Why didn’t I inform myself better? Why didn’t I ask ‘useless’ questions when I had the chance?
I have gotten lost a few times, but being around people who are more experienced than me, and who I trusted, I was not afraid (well, not very afraid). At least it wasn’t so bad that we had to call the Mountain Rescue Services. And the fact that I lived to write about the experience is proof that we finally found our way. Perhaps, we inadvertently created new paths. I admit that there are a lot of tracks I have not yet taken. My equipment is that of an amateur, and my maps…well, there are moments when I know where North is.
Trekking in the mountains sometimes brings a sense of personal satisfaction that is unknown to those who do not trek. The worthwhile effort and exertion of climbing can settle our thoughts broaden our perspectives.
The goal I usually set for myself is simply to reach the top. Along the way, however, my feelings change. I adjust my expectations, I postpone the moment of reaching the top for various other moments, which seem more important, or even more necessary, than reaching the top. So the initial goal is just the starter-motor. The engine really purrs when I am lost in the trek. But one thing is for sure: when I get to the top, I am no longer the same man who set out.
Some mountains barely let you breathe. All you can do is climb, and the road doesn’t seem to end. Others are gentler, and the route is more varied. You go up, down, up and down again, but you know that after all this you are closer to the top. I like these mountains most. Perhaps I like them because they resemble the way I understand life: the purpose of life is both reaching the top and enjoying the path to get to it.
For some time now, I have understood the purpose of life to be looking behind rather than looking ahead. The decision to stop and rest does not always belong to me, but I have come to understand my rests as part of a route that is sometimes difficult, sometimes spectacular, at least in my eyes, because I know where I started and where I have been. Along the way, life seems like a cluster of smaller meanings, of which I am not aware in a given moment, but which connect to each other later down the road.
In real life, breaks and failures often overlap and prepare the ground for doubt, and this makes me confirm, or reconfigure, my attitude and plans for the future. Moments of crisis thus reveal to me what my true motivations are, and whether they are strong enough to be worth the effort. So I treat them more gently, and I have the patience to discover lessons and new perspectives. I know now that they can help me to not only reach the top, but also to enjoy the journey in an even deeper way than I intended. This discovery helped me to control the doubt that brews in my head whenever I don’t seem able to strive for my own goal, or the goals imposed by the expectations of others.
Moreover, this purpose of life has become a way of daily living, the perspective from which I look at the route, rests, the weather, shelter, and the company I keep. It is both the infrastructure and the destination.
Having this purpose to life—or, the reason why I wake up in the morning—determines what I do and what I do not do, what I give up and what I choose to develop, in every area of my life. Just as I can’t climb a mountain if I put on high heels or only sleep for two hours, I can’t have a goal and achieve it when I have a chaotic schedule governed by chance and frivolity. That would be fooling myself. Moreover, the lack of a goal makes everything taste bad. What kind of life would it be in which you do not feel the flavour of a cold watermelon in the summer heat?
I do not know exactly what sparked my desire to climb mountains, or why I find pleasure in it. But, from the ultimate map of life, God’s Word, I understand that the path I started will be littered with mistakes, and the final goal, although it belongs to me, was partially given to me before I was even created.
The path, which is also my Model, did not leave me without directions or company. I know now that “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made“, and the purpose of my life is closely connected with the One who created life itself. Before I started counting my days, meaning was made for them. I both discover and embellish this meaning through my decisions on the path, “shining ever brighter till the full light of day“, when His Word “is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path“. And the view from the top will be like the things that “no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived.”