Friday, October 18, 2013
That we may have Mount Everest syndrome
I was studying this huge mountain with my younger son. It's so impressive, being the world's tallest, at 8848 metres high. Apparently it still grows by about 0.25 inches each year, even at 60 million years old. It was first identified by a British survey team lead by George Everest in 1841, but not until 1953 did anyone manage to reach the summit. It was achieved by Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa guide, making them instantly famous.
I applaud Junko Tabei, the first female to reach the top, not to mention Miura Yiuchiro, the oldest person to reach the top, aged 80, just last year in May 2013. I'm about half that age and just hiking the hills around home gets me huffing and puffing. Flinders Ranges' Mount Remarkable was almost too much for me, at 960 metres. Over time, thousands of people have tried to reach the top of Everest, and many nameless folk have died making the attempt, in the name of thrill seeking or notoriety. My nephew's karate sensei spent some of these last holidays climbing part of it. Even though he has a fitness level of an Olympic athlete, he didn't even attempt to make it all the way up. He told them all stories about the thinness of the atmosphere, and the many stops they would make just to get their breath back and conquer that altitude sickness. Something about a challenge of that magnitude appeals to the adventurous streak that lies buried in all of us, some deeper than others.
Yet it would seem that, from space, it is a different story. From a vantage point of that magnitude, Mount Everest is merely part and parcel of the crust of the earth. In fact, it was even surprisingly difficult to single out. Russian cosmonaut, Valentin Lebedev, said, "How many people dream of conquering Everest so they can look down from it, yet for us up above, it was difficult to locate."
This God's eye perspective, as it were, instantly made me feel peaceful, although I had to think about it to figure out why. Finally, I got it. It's all to do with the fact that it is we humans who label things with significance and importance, by deeming them big or impressive from our vantage point. As it's not at all the same for God, we needn't worry about buying into all that.
We make Everests out of many things. Humans are those who spread the illusion that some lines of work are way more illustrious than others, and that achieving celebrity-hood or stardom in some area must be the pinnacle. I now like to think that from a lofty enough heavenly perspective, all the good we do just becomes part of the earth's fabric. That means we don't really have to bust our boilers, burst our blood vessels and strain our Type A personalities to impress the people walking around down here, who share our limited focus.
I imagine some member of the angelic host from way above whose vantage point is more like that of Lebedev and his fellow astronauts, saying, "What Mother Teresa and Billy Graham have done is wonderful, but it's just part of the fabric of what love-driven servants are doing everywhere. Look at Jane Doe, looking after her sick mother and working hard as a single parent to support her son through college. Or Joe Blogs the bus driver, sticking to road rules and greeting all his passengers cheerfully, day after day. It's all one and the same, and we love it."
If we've ever been afraid of never hearing, "Well done, good and faithful servant," thinking our work is too little or measly to justify the space we take, it might be time to get over our Mount Everest syndrome. When I finish writing this blog post, I'm going to go and clean my kitchen, take my young son for a night walk, then before long I'll be hopping in the car to pick my daughter up from youth group, about 20 minutes drive away. I'll have to remind myself that it's all adding to crust of love-driven deeds that makes the earth a great place to live, even if it's not Mount Everest.