One of the best books I have read on the pursuit of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, is George Mallory’s Climbing Everest. George was possibly the first man to summit Everest (nobody knows whether he did it), almost 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay began their ascent.
It was during his third expedition to the Everest that he lost his life, last seen about 800 feet from the summit.
Anyways, all his writings on climbing are collected in Climbing Everest, which started out as letters to his wife Ruth. One of my favourite parts from the book is when George shared his response to one question asked by a journalist about why he would risk his life to attempt to reach the Everest.
His profound response outlines an undeniably powerful way to perceive life –
People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron…
If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go.
What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.
What a beautiful, inspirational thought!
Life is never perfect. And as George wrote, living is not just about eating and making money.
Facing adversities and challenges head on, and stepping away from what is comfortable and familiar to us and into the unknown, is what often brings us real joy.
That’s what gets us life’s real worth.
Before I end, here is something I read recently that goes well with this idea of life –
मंज़िल मिल ही जाएगी भटकते ही सही,
गुमराह तो वो हैं जो घर से निकले ही नहीं.
(You will find your destination, even when you are wandering. Misguided are those who never came out of their house.)