My husband likes to read adventure stories. The REAL kind, about people who take crazy risks or climb Mt. Everest. He was re-telling one of these stories to me, and I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Are you saying you want to climb Mt. Everest?”
“I am just reading about it. It’s very interesting.”
“You are not allowed to climb Mt. Everest. I need you not to die.”
He hugged me and promised he wasn’t going to climb Mt. Everest.
However, there is something compelling about the ones who choose to climb it. What on earth would possess a person to risk life and limb to do this? A lot of people do exactly this sort of thing, define some difficult and nearly impossible goal and throw themselves on the mercy of the wind to accomplish it.
It is at this time of year, the turning of the New Year that people pause to think of these things. What have I done this year? What will I do next year?
What am I doing with my life? Is this what I choose? Is it the right choice?
I am still slowly making my way through the Iliad, as I’ve mentioned earlier. Of these mythological warriors who are fighting the Trojan War, Achilles is understood to be the best warrior of them all.
Achilles, the son of a goddess and a battle machine, has a deep crisis of faith and identity when he steps away from the fighting. What’s this all about, he wonders. His mother gave his a secret. His fate could go either way. He could go back to the fighting as his brothers-in-arms are begging him to do.He could fight as only he can do, win the war for them, and have glory and honor for all time.
Not in that order.
Alternatively, he could go home and live at peace for a long life.
Two possible fates.
Of course his goddess mother is an immortal, and she weeps for the short life that her son Achilles is inevitably going to have. What is human life, long or short, in contrast to forever?
It is something to Achilles. Shall he go do what he was born to do, be the warrior beyond compare that he can be? Or shall he tamp that down and be safe at home, enjoying the gentle pleasures and comforts of life?
I am also reading the latest book by Seth Godin: What to do when it’s your turn [and it’s always your turn]. Modern life offers more choices that battle glory. We have so many tools and resources at our disposal.
Often fear keeps us from expressing ourselves, from exercising our strengths and gifts. Stay home. Stay safe. Take that talent of gold and hide it under the ground. It could draw the WORST kind of attention.
Godin says take your turn before it’s offered. That life IS the turn, for each of us, to get up and be and do and fail and get up again and try.
Achilles’ analogy works. Shall we throw ourselves onto the field of battle? Because it’s what we were born to do?
Shall we climb the tallest peak? Because it’s there?
I know that’s why Chris reads those books. It’s a story of ultimate striving. It’s easy to belittle the highest strivings in my life. My aspirations are not as dramatic as Mt. Everest.
And yet. That book I am getting ready to publish…That business I want to start…That movement I want to launch…All these rise above the ordinary and lift my eyes to a higher horizon.
There was once, the one who first climbed Everest. He had to make his own path. The others followed, striving for what they felt drawn to do.
There is for sure and no doubt, the first and only me. And the first and only you. As this year turns into the new one, I want to try to do the big stuff.
Happy New Year, everybody!