This past week I was amazed at a news story about how crowded it has become at the top of Mt. Everest! The obvious dangers of falling and oxygen starvation and altitude sickness have always been a part of this momentous challenge and achievement; but now it is traffic jam conditions, just waiting in a precarious line for one’s turn to stand on top of the world, that is adding to the peril. The Sherpa who was being interviewed said one of the reasons is that a significant number of climbers have really not sufficiently prepared physically, mentally, emotionally, as well as having the skill set to make the trek. They are focused on being able to say that they have conquered the mountain, and there has been an alarming rise in the number of those who are losing their life in the process.
Finding purpose and meaning in life can make the difference between peace and the anxiety of always looking for something else to define and satisfy us. It is not a once and for all achievement; sometimes after stars win the emmy, their next question is “Now, what?” The “now whatness” doesn’t always depend on a new and more demanding goal. Meaning in life comes in finding our authentic selves and our personal truths, and then a place where we can give our gifts, whether humble or famous, being a part of something larger than ourselves. A recent television commercial features a grandfather handing over car keys for a safe, practical car to a granddaughter going off to college. She reminds him of the dream car he had been planning to buy for himself. He tells her he has a new goal: her success.
Life helps us find our meaning. Yesterday I visited a friend who has survived a stroke, but has significantly lost the use of his left side. His courage and grace are meaning in themselves for all who are watching him climb his personal mountain without bitterness, but with determination to go forward and find how to give his gifts in a new way. We are all climbing some kind of mountain. In the process of doing this together with other climbers we find the meaning of it all.