“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”
– D. McCullough Jr.
If life was flat, monochromatic and dull, it is possible the journey would be easier, however there would be no enjoyment in overcoming challenges and no enthralling wonder looking at the world from above.
The goal is to enjoy not only the feeling of accomplishment or the view from the top, but to relish the challenge and the view all along the way. If your goal is to be a doctor you must not only enjoy the idea of having a successful practice, but must be compelled by a curiosity and wonder of the human body. If your goal is to be a runner you must not only enjoy the feeling of the race and the tape at the finish line, but must also enjoy the thousands of hours running alone without a crowd. If your goal is to be a writer you must enjoy not only the feeling of a published work in your hands, but also embrace the release that comes with organizing and creating a story on paper. If your goal is to be a scientist or academic, the love of learning, of understanding, and of finding more must far outweigh any desire for external motivations.
The love of the journey is critical not only for career but for the personal life, the relationships, the hobbies and dreams. As our society becomes goal oriented often the goal becomes the only end. However, for sustaining a pursuit of the goal, the journey itself, and the challenges therein, must be an end in and of themselves. Perhaps our goals should be processes not places, our most treasured rewards memories not money, and our trails seeking out the highest peaks, not to seek out greater accomplishments, but to see how our small path connects with a far greater world.
Over pad thai with a friend, a question arouse: how would you be different, how would your life be different, if you did not have your faith?
This question provides perspective not only on faith, but on many aspects of life including friends, careers, hobbies, and dreams. Often aspects of our life that “feel” important or key in a visceral way, are revealed as being of little import in our day to day lives while the importance of other, seemingly background activities, are highlighted as key components making up the essence of who we are.
Reflecting on this question not only reveals the aspects of our life that are important, but once this revelation occurs, also allows us to make changes, to reprioritize and redefine ourselves. Are the things we want to be important to the essence of our being the most impactful on our person? Or is the essence of our being comprised of immaterial pursuits and distractions?
A week after our pad thai, we revisited the question with new answers, and more importantly, new questions.
We are a people driven by movements. Whether we are looking for a feeling of belonging, pursuing a greater meaning in life, or merely looking for an entertaining pastime, we are often drawn to movements. Over the past two weeks I have noticed the refrain of “joining a movement” and “starting a movement” in every sphere of life, from the church, to politics, to charities, to advertisements for products.
Movements can bring change for the better. The movements for civil rights and for women’s suffrage, and many others have made our world a better place.
In very few other realms of life is this pressure to join the movement as obvious as it is in sports. The chants of the crowd, the euphoria and camaraderie after a win and glum solidarity after a loss. Sports draws us in and makes us feel part of something greater, a movement. While sports are largely innocuous, other movements can become bastions of evil where individuality is lost and acts are justified in the name of the movement. In fiction this was seen in Harry Potter wherein Grindelwald justifies evil with the phrase “for the Greater good.” However this has played over and over throughout history from the holocaust and genocides to unethical business practices and seemingly small lies. At first these begin as small alienations of other people groups, but soon, as the movement becomes the ultimate goal, individuals are asked to sacrifice individuality and identity for a single ideology. Actions which would have been unthinkable as individuals become permissible and even laudable for the good of the movement.
The challenge then is this. To maintain yourself, your identity, while being part of a movement. Individuals must shape movements not movements the individuals. Then and only then will movements be for the good of people not people for the good of the movements.
The conclusion is this. Movements are powerful, useful, and alluring. Therefore, one must note the critical nature of maintaining one’s identity even within the larger movement. When all is said and done and we give an account of who we are and what we have done, it will not be as a movement, but as an individual. The movement is penultimate, the individual is ultimate.