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16 The peak is not the goal

Pausing for breath you look up from the steep mountain path and see nothing but blue sky beyond the ridge, visible only now that the mist has lifted.

Relieved, re-invigorated with the knowledge that you are nearly there, you set off again, breathing more easily now that you are so close to achieving your goal.

Many thanks to Gaurav K for the photo

But then, as you scale the ridge, it becomes clear that this was a false peak, and that there is still a long way to climb after all. The crashing disappointment hits you like a physical blow and it is all you can do to take the next step. Later, again, the summit comes into view, only to reveal more mountain behind it when you have reached a certain point. And so on. What is important to you? What is it that you strive for? Once you have achieved your short term goal does it not leave you wanting more, but bigger and better? There is a difference between happiness and inner peace. Anyone who claims to be "happy" "all the time" is mentally ill. Tragic events will happen in everybody's life, and we will react to them with sadness, sometimes despair. But if we accept that illness, misfortune, death are inevitable parts of life then we begin to win. Win the battle against the self-destructive force that is desire for, and attachment to material gain. The disconsolate mountaineer would do well to remember: The peak is not the goal, the way itself is a thing of meaning and beauty.

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