The Old Man And The Mountain

The flakes of snow was all over his face, concentrated on his facial hair. He stopped for a moment to wipe a layer of ice off his forehead and stared at the fog of ice at the distance. His face was the only part of his body exposed to the numbing cold… he had once told a porter “Pain is important my boy… Its the most true feeling of being alive”.

People had called him insane, some had laughed at him, some pitied him. The mountain was a murderer, the old people of the village at tried to convince him. The truth was that only a few had returned from it and a even fewer remained sane enough to narrate the experience. No one had ever returned from the peak.

Legend was that a wise man had conquered the mountain and found enlightenment at its peak. He had chosen to make the mountain his home. They believed that the brave one to reach the peak would be given the gift of knowledge.

‘There is no sign of life at this god forsaken place, let alone a wise man’ thought the old man. He carefully considered restarting his journey and slowly moved his right leg forward.

All he had thought about for the last few days was the summit of the great mountain. Without any company in the chilling landscape, it was the anticipation that had kept him going. He had given up his past life in the pursuit of this. He knew that everything that was in his life right now, he owed this mountain. There was this sense of a prophecy being fulfilled right thru his journey. Yet the last few hours his mind was very clear.

He could now see the silhouette of what had deceived many climbers before him. “The destination” he told himself. He knew he was the first, there wasn’t a sign of anything left behind by a living creature. He was finally going to walk where no one had walked before him.

He knew deep down that he was so close to his destination and waited for the anticipation to sink in. There was a little spark of satisfaction but that died down instantly. He stopped a few steps away from the summit and wondered for the first time since the start of his journey “What am I supposed to feel when I reach there? Satisfaction? Vindication? Happiness?”. He seemed unable to make that last few steps to the top… He even wondered if it was worth doing.

He hoped that standing at his destination his answers would find him. That satisfaction, vindication and happiness that he had been devoid of would find him then. Telling himself that what he had searched and hoped for would greet him in the next few steps he moved towards the peak.

He stopped when he was right at the top and the scene that greeted him was similar to what he had seen for a while now. Snow, clouds and the angry wind. He knew now that the moment had arrived and yet he hadnt felt what he hoped for. He sat down breathing hard and wondered what this all meant?

Ever since he had first thought about the mountain everything about him had changed. His thoughts were focused and he pursued this challenge like he had pursued nothing else in his life. He would wake up each day knowing exactly what he had to do. He was a man on a mission and that mission would consume years of his life.

The mountain drove him to be more fitter than he had ever been, learn more than he ever wanted to, appreciate people he had ignored and to respect nature. Ironically during the months he trained for the climb he never once thought about the peak. Maybe there were thoughts about glory and success but they were only momentary. What drove him the most was that he believed it was his destiny to climb that mountain.

As he sat alone on top of the mountain he wondered if it was all worth it, working so hard and so diligently to sit there alone and confused. The more he thought the more the feeling of loneliness crept in. What was he to do next? The last few years of his life was devoted to this goal and yet he had never once thought about what after the mountain.

Suddenly he felt free, he tasted freedom of the sort never spoken to him. He took a struggled breath but in it he found more pleasure than in the billions of breaths before that one. He stood up and started his walk back to civilization.

In a moment of epiphany he had realized what the mountain had held at its breast for him. This was one of those destinations whose journey was far more important than the climax. The climb to the top had opened his eyes to what he was truly capable of and what belief could do to him. He had expected to climb to the top and find something valuable, but he had found something valuable every step of the way…

He wasn’t angry, he was fascinated by his experience. As he climbed down he once again thought about what to do next… he told himself “There are other mountains to climb” and chuckeld.