Let’s get this straight, right off the bat. My mountains can be your mole-hills and your mountains, my mole-hills. But, both mountains and mole-hills pose some sort of obstacle, which we perceive as either something near-impossible to overcome, or something on which we stub our toe or trip over, causing temporary discomfort.
Either way, every obstacle is dealt with first, through perception. My obstacle today was clearly a mole-hill, brought on by a frustration resulting in the statement, “I feel like I take one step forward and three steps back.” My husband said, “that sounds like dance steps. You’ll probably write a column about it.”
Then, as thoughts can tumble, I thought about a local young man’s mountainous fight with lymphoma, whose family relies on a different dance, a Chinese proverb, “fall down 7 times, stand up 8.”
This column could be subtitled – How to See a Mountain, but I avoid the phrase, “how to.” Like a plague, I avoid it. I’ve grown over the years to detest “how to – in 10 steps ….”
The “Mountain-dance,” is about perspective. It’s about how one can see mountains, metaphorical ones, from different perspectives. Seeing from another perspective is perhaps a greater feat than climbing the most challenging mountain.
Mountains, from my long-held point-of-view were to be climbed. How far up we are, marks our progress. The mountaintop is the goal. Having reached the top denotes success. The pinnacle is the culmination of our journey and the view is the reward for our effort.
Mountaintop vistas are coveted the world over. From the top, there are no more obstacles to obstruct one’s view. You’ve made it when you’re at the top of the mountain.
We climb the ladder in our careers, for what? To reach the highest point possible, where the view from the office with many windows is unimpeded.
For years I thought I wanted a chance to live uphill or on a mountaintop, having lived for years at the bottom of the hill where all the debris blows, the water drains, and the dirt settles. I’ve thought it might be nice to dwell atop the mountain instead of just taking walks there to get a taste of its freshness, wildness, and peaceful views.
But then I had a dream. It was one of those dreams where instead of a scenario with setting and action and such, it was a matter-of-fact statement:
Downhill skiing – grateful for the law of gravity –
We will always make it to the bottom of the mountain.
I have a documented fear of downhill skiing. Part and parcel of that fear was that I would be unable to get back to the top of the mountain, having fallen somewhere mid-mountain. “I’ve fallen, and can’t get up.”
This dream suggests a different, even paradoxical perspective of mountains; namely, the bottom of them. I’ve lived down here forever, adapted to the conditions and become acculturated to its challenges so much so, that I hadn’t considered, prior to the dream, that there’s another way to see living at the bottom of the hill.
It’s like getting driving directions from a local. They don’t see distances accurately because they’re so accustomed to traveling those highways, that their perception is skewed by familiarity – “It’s a mile or two; turn right at the big oak tree.” It turns out your destination is five miles and the oak tree no longer marks the spot where you should have turned.
When we were driving through the English countryside in 2008, we asked for directions and were told to turn on to “Bah-ole” road, which we first interpreted in American English, as “Battle” road. Having found no such road on the map or otherwise, we found another road starting with B and ending with an L – “Bauxhall” road. I don’t think it got us where we wanted to go, but we muddled our way.
That travel experience illustrated quite clearly that we don’t all share perceptions of direction. We also probably should count it all joy when we share any perception with somebody because that might just be kind of rare.
Always having been preoccupied, and with my sight firmly focused on the long, hard climb uphill to reach my goals – I couldn’t see that perhaps my reward is located at the bottom of the hill. The lovely law of gravity demands I make it to the bottom of every hill I descend, even if I get there sliding on my backside the whole journey.
This perspective is reminiscent of Jesus’ many paradoxical teachings like, the first will be last, etc. I will have triumphed when I make it to the bottom of the mountain. In another dream focusing on descending the mountain, we were triumphant in reaching the bottom of the mountain trail and sort-of pitied the people we shimmied past who were just starting the climb.
Might the conquest of some mountains be to raze them rather than to climb them? One could see the bottom of the mountain not so much as a valley, but as the bottom of a shoe – overcome, conquered.
Life could be seen as razing said mountains rather than climbing them, about breaking down obstacles rather than overcoming them. I can envision myself struggling for eons to climb up over big boulders on the mountain. Then, I change my perception of the obstacle, dig a little trench around the boulder, put my weight against it, and presto, it rolls down the mountain.
A Scriptural piece of inspirational poetry, concerning the razing of mountain-obstacles is found in Zechariah 4:7, where an angel showed a ruler named Zerubbabel a new perspective of his obstacles. “What are you, O great mountain [of human obstacles]? You will become a plain, [a mere mole hill].”
My hope is that you will conquer your mountains and mole-hills. Whether your dance is one step forward and three steps back, or seven steps forward, fall down, get up, and hit step eight, hard; it matters not whether you’re ascending or descending the mountain, start with step one, and let the dance begin. This is how to see a mountain.