What is Man's Quest for the Summit of Everest?
On the weekend my partner wanted to take me to see the movie Everest. It was his turn to choose a movie. Every part of my being knew I didn’t want to see it, especially while recovering from severe adrenal fatigue; it was a no brainer that there was going to be lots of stress and intense emotions that may not help my situation.
There was something he said however, that gave me incentive to go. He gently and casually mentioned that he felt some kind of spiritual connection to Everest, to the point he’d actually hiked weeks to get to base camp and had his own experiences there of the fragility of existence. He’d given me a project, something to chew on, of the male psyche, of man’s spiritual quest to the summit of Everest.
For the life of me I couldn’t get that Everest thing. I’d held a long term suspicion that the need to have to conquer every part of the planet and nature was a short coming of man, his restlessness and desire to dominate to the point of risking death at that level. At the beginning of the movie they quoted that 1 in 4 climbers of Everest die. Thanks, they just gave away the ending.
To me these restless climbers were predominantly bored guys that can’t be ok with being human, always having to look externally for something to overcome. I also never really could buy into that ‘be big’ crap that has also dominated the masculine world from business to self-development. We seem to applaud people who climb Everest, but pay no homage to the brave people in every day life fighting their demons, overcoming great personal odds and obstacles, who make the most of being human on a subtler level.
At the end of the movie my partner sat in awe, I sat with an overdose of adrenalin and overwhelm. He loved it and spoke so fondly of his time in Nepal and seeing those climbers. I was mute until we got home. By bed time I was so awake and startled that it took a lot of breathing and self talk to get to sleep. I did at least, have that little seed implanted in my brain, that there was possibly a deeply spiritual element about mountain climbing, and saw a sense of magic in that which I hoped to understand or to expand on some time.
The following morning, I took that thought into meditation and sat with it. The vision kept replaying of the men’s struggle and some insight came when contemplating the emotional nature of the weather around Everest. The lethal storms, the snow, the rain, the dark. She, mother nature, threw everything she had at those climbers. It’s an inhabitable, unwelcoming terrain both with the weather and the physical landscape. Those that had a respect for the wildness that seemed to be a Goddess could gently navigate her and for a brief moment, reach the summit. Those that couldn’t respect her would fail or be taken by her.
I found it interesting that the few that reach the summit, no matter how seasoned, couldn’t linger there, there was a short window of opportunity. I saw this akin to sadhana – spiritual practice, and the soul’s evolution, of being a spiritual being in a human form. I saw this spirit the same as the spirit of enlightenment. That’s the summit of existence. More interestingly, once reaching the summit, there’s the just as treacherous journey back down the mountain, back to living and reintegrating; but never the same for that exhilaration, that view, that knowledge is inside and we are forever changed.
The summit in fact, we bring back down the mountain with us. To get there is possible but the summit needs to be taken back to the world, the experience has to come home into our lives for that’s what gives inspiration, gives grace to others. To stay at the summit is impossible. It’s not meant to be that way. We can do that upon death. Once we have reached the summit and are free, we are free from taking another birth. Samsara. The cycle of birth and death is broken.
The movie I saw, can represent the struggle of conquering the inner world, the inner journey of man to spirit, it’s an outer world metaphor and a very good one. The spiritual path is ultimately a push by spirit to merge back to God consciousness. For the few that happens to at that level of acknowledgement, they will get this. There have been times I’ve felt so dark and so lost, feeling stuck on a black rock face with sleet and snow, haven’t you? The more into my inner world, the further down the road of sadhana, the bigger the storms, God is throwing everything at us to test our faith and resolve.
This gave me a new perspective and appreciation for why people would put themselves through this. My initial thoughts were a cynical one, why would people do this? What are they trying to prove? Is this a way of showing how big and accomplished someone is? But after my contemplation and sleeping on it, I see that it can be part of that same calling. An inner craving to reach the summit of existence. I can see why a man can be restless and take on the task of playing with death and battling the fiercest of elements just to be on top of the world. It’s a drive I’ve never understood in men, but I see now it can have a spiritual element to it. I’m sure there’s still a lot who are there running away from life don’t get me wrong, but this is a much nicer understanding.
The inner equivalent is the path of a similar warrior – there are ugly places to trespass, bleak rock faces to climb, storms and darkness with periods of inexplicable light and peace that get more intense the higher we manage to climb. Without that knowledge – that all desire is for a returning to spirit, with out that knowing and the natural urge to turn inward, there is left only the outer; and there could be no greater challenge than climbing Everest. The outer must be conquered or they go mad, maybe. Until that happens there is a hole in their existence, a restlessness.
The spiritual seeker understands this, for no apparent reason or for obvious reasons, there is a hole in their world, in their hearts that nothing seems to fill. It’s only when we turn ourselves towards the light and take on the climb to our inner summit that the purpose of the hole is satisfied. So many perils put most earnest seekers off, they can’t get past camp 4. With utter focus and navigation and with the facing of inner demons, trusting fully in God - one reaches the summit. It’s not because they follow a particular system of belief, wear orange or white, speak a certain language and sing certain songs. It’s because they are at a point in time where they realise they are being called and actually pulled and no longer resist i.e. ‘whatever it takes, just take me there’.
Then they go back down the mount, forever free but still a human and still prone to the vulnerabilities of being a human, still having to go through the ups and downs of worldly life but they are free, the summit is in them and they have the ability to share it with others, to take others there themselves.
Turned out to be a good movie ;-) Have you had a similar experience? Of understanding this desire to reach the top of existence, however that expresses itself to the individual? I’d love to hear about it, please share leave a comment below. xxx