'He would have us ascend, not fly, that we may have greater merit in the violence that we do to ourselves when we conquer ourselves little by little, as in climbing up a high mountain…'
- Father Paolo Segneri
Once upon a time, the story goes, Confucius climbed 6,660 stone steps, 1,532.7 meters to the top of China’s most sacred mountain, Taishan. One Chinese legend holds that the mountain is where heaven and earth were born.
Standing at the peak, the point closest to heaven, furthest from earth he could reach, over the clouds and the noise of the living and of his life, he said: ‘The world looks small.’
The world is not small. It is vast and wild, strewn with infinite trails to be walked along. There are as many of those as people willing to seek them out, as many starting points as reasons to go, as many mountain peaks to end at.
Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka: 5,500 steps. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: 38,680. Mount Everest: 58,070 straddled across China and Nepal. 1,710 steps for a view of Paris from the top of the Tour Eiffel. Three steps to the front door of a house, a person that has been missed.
The mountains are calling, and I must go,
Whatever the peak we each seek. The rest of that sentence goes:
and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.
I would have liked to know what Confucius saw on his way up Taishan. The last people he crossed before he was left with the climb and himself. Where he stopped to rest. Where he first noticed the blisters on his feet. Where he looked down, nearly slipped. Looked up, nearly gave up. Where he saw the mountain and himself for exactly what each one was.
‘It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.’ The world is not small, does not change. We do; the climb turns us into giants. The view is breathtaking from the top.
Once upon a time, I will one day write, a girl I know went on a hike, along the Alpine trail, up and down mountains and through layers and versions of herself. She had to go, seek, find, conquer, ‘to know there’s no dream that mustn’t be dared.’
What she found and vanquished, what she saw on her way, I will not say. I will not know. It is her trail to follow, her world to build, her view to earn at the top.
I will say I am proud of what she did. I am already proud of who you are, M. Now the mountains are calling. So go, climb, grow. We will be here when you come down.