Learn How To Climb A Mountain (Literally And Figuratively)

February 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

photo courtesy of Dey

“Is it possible to write, just for the love of writing? Instead of attempting impress someone with writing?”

“How many people do you want to impress before you start writing what you love? How high a position must you attain, before you can pour your heart into words?”

These are a few questions that I have to put myself through every week, especially times when I have doubt over the quality of my work and my motivations for writing.

Good writing is like good sex. As Warren Buffet says, delaying what you love to do is saving sex for old age.

I then tell myself “Finding a means to be self-sustainable is noble, but do not ask for riches to come tomorrow. Do what you must to enable riches to come, yes, but do it also because riches might not come at all. But that’s okay, because you enjoy doing and discovering anyway. ”

What gives life’s “happiness”?

The pursuit. Pursuit? Pursuit of knowledge, pursuit of achievement, pursuit of love. Pursuit makes life worth living. It probably would feel like a dog chasing cars. Yet treat the pursuit in perspective, such that we do not neglect other important pursuits, for the blinded-pursuit of one.

As they say, “you never arrive”. Because “arriving” is not life’s happiness. Pursuit is.

My views on life’s pursuits was given added perspective with the recent reading of Robert Pirsig’s Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. Here the author imparts his knowledge about climbing a mountain:

Excerpts From Robert Pirsig’s Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance
“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessess and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end,  but a unique event in itself…To live only for some future goal is shallow. Its the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”

“Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to prove yourself again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That’s never the way.”

“Phaedrus wrote a letter from India about a pilgrimage to holy Mount Kailas, the source of the Ganges and the abode of Shiva, high in the Himalayas, in the company of a holy man and his adherents.

He never reached the mountain. After the third day he gave up, exhausted, and the pilgrimage went on without him. He said he had the physical strength but that physical strength wasn’t enough. He had the intellectual motivation but that wasn’t enough either. He didn’t think he had been arrogant but thought that he was undertaking the pilgrimage to broaden his experience, to gain understanding for himself. He was trying to use the mountain for his own purposes and the pilgrimage too. He regarded himself as the fixed entity, not the pilgrimage or the mountain, and thus wasn’t ready for it.”

“To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be “here”. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.”



When it comes to working your 10,000 hours, don’t think of it as a grueling grind, a tunnel of darkness, or a path of resistance. Sure it might feel that way sometimes, but pay attention to the edges of the leaves, the smell of moss on wet rocks along your path. Build that sense of indifference for the “goal” because it is the everyday processes that enrich you.


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