Somewhere along the way I lost my writing mojo. Juggling a whole lot of things, the so called life and its general nonsense. I have been travelling a whole lot, well not a whole lot, a bit. So much can originate from a sparring moment; like a five minute turned two hour commentary I made some place late 2011. I could write a whole lot of travel tales. Mountaineering is where I will start.
A couple weeks ago I climbed an actual mountain for the first time. This coming from a guy whose farm is right at the base of Mt. Elgon, Kenya’s second highest mountain. Together with a few people, we climbed Mt. Kilimambogo in Eastern. Nothing eventful as such, besides swarting mountain flies amidst random conversation. A whole lot was going on in my mind though and in my world, I synch such things with some aspects of my life.
Every experience in life, every result of actions we take always find their stability in the foundations we establish, the roots we grow. It is critical to have a sure footing before going to another level, else we slip and slide back several levels, several metres in the case of mountaineering. Bad results; like a loss, a fall always originate from how firm our bases are… A bad fall can end with serious wounds that take a long time to heal and seriously delay the journey whether in personal lives, business and even careers.
Plateau, a world I first learnt from my father, a geography enthusiast when I was much younger fairly describes a level playing field in my world. Standard, safety, comfort, perhaps easiness in some aspect. Stretched flat lands. To me they indicate safety. There is a need to stay at each plateau long enough to learn what is going on around us. If it is in career world, horizontal growth is a great way to lean varied experience in similar positions. Spiritually, it is good to stay in plateaus long enough to find out what God is teaching us. We all want to get to the top. We crave to find the ultimate satisfaction, absolute comfort, the most success, lots of money, fame and such kind of prosperity for others. Moving too quickly can be dangerous. Our zeal or our want-it-now mentality can make us want to take a undignified by just, sometimes unjust shortcuts to the top in order to skip levels. From my mountaineering experience, pressure mounted as we went higher and higher, folks slowed down by the minute, one took a lift in a service vehicle to the top, conversation slowed, as we regrouped our energies and as oxygen levels lowered. It increasingly became cold, a bottle of rather warm water I had picked from my room was suddenly cold, almost chilled. But the climb is an important step-by-step learning experience. It is not unfounded, that the most attractive shortcuts lead to disaster.
Each level of the mountain demands constant reference to the map and prayerful evaluation of our current footing and vision. In corporate institutions, strategic and business plans are drawn to guide them to their short, medium and long term goals. In personal lives, different people take different measures to achieve what is important to them. Mentorship, Prayer, Plans and Role Models are what I see work around. Most too are driven to their goals by influence (peer pressure), some greed. From my personal experience, the higher most people go, the less they believe they need a helping or guiding hand. As we neared the top, vegetation became intense, wildlife changed from birds and butterfiles to buffalos and babboons. There was signage for mountaineers to be wary of wildlife and directions were even clearer on which way to go. Without a sure foundation and vision, the higher up, the more dangerous the climb becomes in every aspect that characterises our lives. Usually, decisions are tougher, consultantions are much more needed and accessibility is scare. An old saying goes; ‘It is lonely at the top.’
Lightening the Load
As we go higher, we mature and our motives change. At the base of the mountain, the warden, Benson asked each one of us what we expected. Someone in the group said he expected to come back to safety, to what he knows and relates to. I didnt quite have anything on mind, but I expected a personal celebration of my achievement. That is the most ideal objective for most us. One of my favourite modern day hip-hop songs is ‘ROC Boyz(And The Winner Is) by Jay Z(Swawn Corey Carter)’. In the song, which features great music, champagne and a whole host of celebrities, Jay Z expresses self actualization. My favorite moment is when he takes a moment for what seems to be banter with the other two prominent hiphop moguls, Diddy(Sean Combs) and Nas(Nasir Jones). They puff on cigars and exchange some supposed winner handshakes. I want that at the top of my game, me, and my closest; moments of absolute achievement. The clip also features a bouched shooting incident as some supposed rival group attempts to take out the host. At the height of our successes, we will take to what we perceive to be the absolute celebration. There are those who will not be happy with our achievement. The path to the top will become increasingly lighter and brighter nonetheless. Once high enough to get a glimpse of glory, we will be elated. Our thoughts will focus more on ‘what else’. Ultimately, those who have reached the top of the world, so to speak, have always found in them a purpose to reach out to others. Bill Gates through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Richard Branson with his many philanthropy arrangements and Warren Buffet with his Charity.
I noticed from our guide, Warden Benson; as we started off the climbing, he was behind us all, he made sure no one was left behind, and asked those of us who were ahead to take breathers waiting for the rest. As we approached the top, he was in front, making sure, with his gun at hand that no wild animal came our way. He was symbolically there to encourage those of us behind; that we too could make it. Our time at the top is spent going higher and but ultimately, our satisfaction and common good comes from going back to help others climb.
Stumbles and Falls
Have you ever wondered why so many parables in the old, and even the new testament of the bible have so much to do with mountains? Symbolically, these mountains represented the many struggles, and achievements that our faith characterises with our lives. In the bible, many of those chosen stumbled, some faced wrath, equally; some excelled and were equally rewarded. I have fallen many times. I have fallen sometimes so low that when I look back I wonder how I even got there. I am not safe from falling further, its life, these things happen as my mother and the few I trust know. Falling is varied. Different strokes for different folks. I have lost stuff, I have stooped too low and I have sometimes just been stupid. Others forget virtues, trust too much and all that kind of bad stuff we all wish to get away from. I didn’t quite fall from my mountain climbing experience but I lost charm as I went further, The water bottles I carried along were empty three kilometres to the top. I was not so much at the front of the crew as I was from the start through midway. The kind lady I spent most of my time with climbing the mountain encouraged me, she also offered her lucozade. I was shy taking it. Its uncommon in us to seek a helping hand when we truly need one, even when it is offered by those who see our need. Stumbles and falls are the way of life. Teamwork at workplace, family and friendship in our day to day lives are some of the most important bonds to build. Accepting help is basic truth I did not have a firm grip on. Most of the time, pride comes in my way of an opportunity to become better.
We stumble several times in our lives by being impatient. I can look back at my disastrous attempts to find a quicker path than the path chosen/ right path. The joy however in doing the right thing, maintaining good relationships and working with a plan almost guarantees us absolute satisfaction. In our exercise, the top was peaceful, we enjoyed fresh air and even as we laughed and enjoyed the serenity, each one of us had a level of satisfaction and hopefully a tale if not a lesson to share. We cannot all climb mountains as such, but we can observe and take life with a big spoon; as that old fanta advert said.
We can only increase to higher elevations without falling by waiting on perfect timing.
Till then, Cheers!