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The Mountain of Ambition

Imagine if you will that upon the horizon sits an impressive mountain. It is the distant fixture that confronts you every day. So far away and yet, it stands as it has since before history. A thought popped into your mind once, ‘I would love to climb to the top of that mountain some day’. It is at first a seed of an idea, until over time you declare it to others. The declaration becomes a mandate, one that mutates into an obsession. You do not need a reason why that you want to accomplish this feat, only that the mountain is there and perhaps there is a purpose in climbing it.

What you do leading up to that moment seems to be more important than the idea of the goal. The ambition is empty, everyone has dream like ideas. They are as tangible as clouds at first, but you can still see a cloud. Promises that we make to ourselves and others that can often go unfulfilled. But in having this ambition, one can derive a satisfaction. A currency for themselves and even from others, that some day this trundle up an impressive mountain will be accomplished.

One may go shopping and wander through the rows of hiking clothes, buying sturdy boots and pants. Watching documentaries and movies about those who have achieved what is your declared obsession. Among others who are excited and eager to learn and pretend to do, consuming from those few how have done. It is easy to be stuck inside the pool of procrastination. You may even go on walks, climb gentle hills and join some groups that participate in outdoor exercise. All the while as you do or set out to do these little things, that great objective remains inside your mind.

Should you finally tie up your brand new boots and set foot outside of the comfort of your home, walking into great unknown of your ambition, stepping into the distance to the foot of the mountain, then you would have done more than most. To simply do, to act and to take on that task is beyond what many will ever do. To have a declaration, a fantasy is often enough for most. To aimlessly move about for a time without any goals or ambition is so common that it is normal to not want to actually take on a mountain. Or to achieve any goal for that matter.

As you make those steps and walk past the suburbs and the structured normality of the familiar, you may face detractors. Those who as they cower inside the comfortable will tell you what you are doing wrong or that you are a failure for doing what you are hoping to achieve. You may encounter those who approach you with advice, none of them have dared to climb the mountain and yet they will scream their expertise at you. Not because it may help, but they seek to attain attention in your moment. You will have distant admirers and those who will cheer for you to do what it is that you feel that you must, and invariably those who are concerned that harm may befall you or even that your motivation may lead to others hurting themselves in attempting similar goals. You may be called a fool because you risk so much without making any money from it.

The frontiers of feral land, broken and uncultivated greet you. Your legs are already tired, the pavement is no longer under your boots. You have no idea what lays ahead, great rivers could ring the mountain, shards of obsidian or broken rock could point outwards at every ledge, great winds may take you, rain and snow could drown you and is there even a path, however remote for you to follow. So many unknowns. But on this journey, it is step by step. Those micro goals and the attention to detail is how you will achieve that great ambition, to reach the peak.

You are now alone, the virginal experts, well wishers, naysayers and those frightened of all things are far from you. It is the purity of adventure that accompanies you. You navigate obstacles and indirect paths, it is not easy. You have an ambition, no matter how many times you may need to back track or find another way you remember what it is that you want. You are doing, you are no longer planning and dreaming. In this moment your mind and body are ascending the great unfamiliar unknown. You are learning, about you and nature. You will fall and stumble, you may injure yourself and on such an expedition, you could even die. But this is your destiny.

No great rivers, but gushing streams, slippery rocks, strange wildlife and bushes that stab you with their barbs. You are slowly climbing, winding around the waist of the mountain, it is far larger than you could have ever imagined, your fingers hurt from reaching for dirty ledges, your legs swell from pushing you up steep edges and your heart pounds. Your mind is fixated on what is ahead, where to place a finger or foot, how much weight to apply, each action is calculated, small and brief but part of a greater totality. As you do all of these things, you question, do you have enough food, enough water, will you survive the nights? The doubt is always lingering, the risk constant but you persevere.

Tempting thoughts tease your mind, the warmth of your bed, the sweetness of treats all of which are back at home. You could descend, return to comfort and no one would question you. You think about it, there is almost a comfort in the option of quitting. You do not have to endure the pain, you could be like everyone else. You have already done more than others. Then you remind yourself, you remember the intention you have always had. You are not like everyone else. This is your moment, for you alone. The distinction of self, to assert yourself despite others, discomfort and regardless of the ease in which you could quit. You climb on.

It is hard to know how long it has been, you have not aged but you have matured, wiser from the experience. Though you are stressed, you are stronger. No longer naive looking at the distant mountain, you are now wrapped upon it, climbing it on your own terms at your own pace. You stop for a moment, you look back and see how far you have come. Your home, the comfort of the familiar are distant dots, the clouds are nearer, those streams and rocks that had obstructed you are now insignificant in their scale. You can be proud, but you are not done.

Even though you have come far, the challenges are now complicated. They are those only a few shall ever know. You need to innovate, adapt and invent as you steadily climb upon a deadly frontier. It is colder, harder and the pain is intense. You can no longer relate to most others because they will never dare to know what you needed to do, how you had to over come. Those who do will always be admired by you. You have greater respect for them because as you near that peak, you appreciate what it is that they had to endure.

Time passes in motion, sidesteps, those backtracking great distances because you went the wrong way. You failed but you learned. Then forwards, the momentum is upwards and you near that top. You reach new obstacles, ice and thin air, it is cold and ever so lonely. You talk to yourself and remind your being what it is that you have set out to do. The pain never passes but you are driven, you stumble in a delirium and then you have no where else to reach. You are at the top. You sit, tired and weary of your surroundings. You feel deflated. You accomplished what had always been a dream, but it is nothing like you imagined. Hard work, lonely and now you smile proudly. You did it.

You can not own the location, you can only appreciate the moments where you were at the top of the world. You look at the graffiti and notes of those who went before you, welcoming letters to each adventurer like yourself, respectful words for those who failed on their way up and romantic gestures to loved ones who did not join in the expedition. You will not spend nearly as long witnessing your accomplishment as you did trying to achieve it. But for those moments you are the king of your own ambition. You fantasise about other goals and accomplishments, you feel motivated. You are educated from your endeavour, the idea of being ‘normal’ pains you. You are excited to challenge yourself in other ways.

You descend, knowing where to step. You still need to be wise and wary as the mountains dangers remain. You think about what you have done, you did it. You reach the bottom and walk back to the comfortable. You walk among the familiar, despite the great risk and effort you will meet those who claim you never reached the top or that you cheated. You will find those who will boast that they too shall do what you just did, unaware of what lies ahead. Those who are proud and supportive of you. And many more who are indifferent, it was after all your ambition. As it shall be for the next mountain you climb. It is for you to live your life according to your own ambition and purpose, whatever mountains may present themselves. But only you can climb them.

Feb 2022

Published inAll Articles and EssaysMiscellaneousPhilosophy, Society and LibertyShort stories and fictions