Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Climbing for fame or self-discovery?: The trappings of classifying climbers based upon inferred motives

Thanks to Dr. Mardy and his weekly quotes, I was inspired to post these thoughts as I prepare for my climb.

Climbers are often classified by their goals.  Some seek fame while others appear to seek some other ephemeral outcome.  Those who classify the climbers do so at a distance and then value the accomplishments of others based upon this classification.  


Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds.  -- Socrates
Fame drives many people to endure the extremes.  The goal is not necessarily fame but the perks that go along with being a "known" person.  What people want before becoming famous often turns into a burden.  They want attention perhaps or to be the "talk of the town."  I get it.  It is far better to be talked about favorably than to be ridiculed.  The difference between the two, however, might be razor thin.  More often, those who seek fame only find themselves at the mercy of public opinion.  


While some adventurers may seek fame, others seek appreciation of the unknown and perspective of the known.  The fruits of these labors offer little other than the possibility of self-discovery and, perhaps, distance from contemporary society.  I intend to explain the second possibility later; for now, I want to focus on the self-discovery.  George Mallory's oft-quoted line that climbing Everest is "of no use" was even further clarified by "[t]here is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever."   I beg to differ.  We gain by these endeavors by understanding ourselves.  Maybe we become more patient.  Perhaps the opposite.  Any time a person endures some hardship - whether self-imposed or imposed by others - the impact remains.  

Classification and Values

Drives or motivation appears to be an important variable when we differentiate climbers.  There are those who want the fame that may accompany great adventure.  These people often pay attention to the "famous" and treat them with special attention or respect.  The people who seek self-discovery ignore others and focus on themselves.  More often than not, the fame seekers have a low regard for the self-discoverers and vice versa.  I have no earthly clue why but that appears to be the case.  Evidence to the contrary would be welcomed.

The purpose of my post is simple.  Neither motivational extreme contributes positively to an expedition team.  We adventure seekers come together in these large expeditions - like on Everest - and that merger does not always produce the most amicable conditions.  I believe the friction comes from different drives or motivation.  We each see others as odd or difficult to understand.  I find it odd that some people collect peak "summits" (aka peak baggers) like others collect stamps.  My views do not render their accomplishments any different from those who have other motives.  I yearn to be out in the wilderness and summit if/when possible.  Still, I have the same objectives as the peak baggers; the fact that I find them odd only communicates my lack of understanding or a lack of agreement with our climbing motives.  Our objectives are the same.  Our motives differ.

One major advantage of not seeking fame or a check-off for my climbs is that I enjoy the outcome no matter what happens.  I am no different than most people.  If I compete, I want to win.  When I climb, I want to summit.  Sure, the objective remains no matter what the situation.  If I fail to win, summit, or achieve an objective, I am bummed but there is more to the process than the outcome.  Those who seek the outcome for others must answer to those "others" when things do not go as expected.

One important caveat to my post is that I hold no value judgments on anyone who seeks adventure.  The drives are immaterial.  Adventurers are adventurers.  It is more often the non-adventurer who places values on the adventurers.  Firsts are almost always lauded and seconds, thirds, and later are considered mere minor accomplishments.  Think about the runners who now break the 4-minute mile.  Many people who hear of a 4-minute mile runner shrug it off as if it were common.  

Adventures, however, are not the same for everyone.  Similar to the 4-minute mile, we must all work to overcome our own weaknesses.  The process is what matters.  We seek adventure for whatever reason but we all ought to value one another regardless of the motive.  Find peace within your own motives and climb on!
If you cannot find peace in yourself, it is useless to look for it elsewhere.  -- La Rochefoucauld

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