Sunday, September 16, 2012

The mountains are calling and I must go

For me, spending time in the mountains is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It's important to feel unimportant, to let some air out of the ego.

I've written about this before but I think it's worth repeating: the view from the top of a mountain not just stunningly beautiful, it's also philosophically important. To stand on top of a mountain and see nothing but mountains beyond mountains all the way to the horizon is a humbling experience. You can't help but surrender yourself to the realization that you are nothing more than an insignificant speck on a tiny planet in a vast universe whose mysteries we know very little about.

This is not a bleak, cold or empty view on life. To me, surrendering to the mysteries of the universe is more fulfilling than subscribing to a religious story that claims to have all the answers. Certainty is absurd. Why not revel in uncertainty?

There is nothing more fascinating than life on earth. Our planet is the only place in the known universe where life exists, which is an amazing thing when you consider how big the universe really is. Our planet is just one of eight in orbit around our sun, which itself is only one of about 200 billion stars in our galaxy. But even our galaxy is just one of 100 billion galaxies, all joined together in an enormous web stretching out in all directions.

It's a waste to reduce all of this to a religious story and then fight over whose version of the story is better. Why can't we just marvel in the evolutionary perfection of life without ascribing some greater meaning to it?

I didn't intend for this post to go this way (I was actually going to write a straight-up post about our hiking trip in the Swiss Alps. Where we went and what it was like and all of that). It's just that everything seemed so simple in the mountains and so unnecessarily complicated back in Bonn.

We got back from the Alps the day violent protests over the anti-Islam film were making headlines. The whole thing struck me as being absurd. It boggles the mind on so many different levels. I watched the trailer on YouTube to see what the fuss was all about. And I just don't get it. The film is such an incoherent, idiotic, embarrassingly bad, low-budget mess (the whole thing looks like it was filmed in front of a green screen) that it's hard to believe anyone could take it seriously. It's not even worth responding to, let alone getting up in arms about it.

What's wrong with us? And by "us" I mean "us as a species." Why are we still whipping ourselves into a frenzy over such petty, tribal divisions? Why can't we just accept that we don't have all of the answers and that none of us have exclusive access to the truth?


Esz said...

WERD. I could not agree more. I find it comforting to know we are but a speck in the billions of stars that make up the universe. More insignificant than a grain of sand.

It strikes me as incredibly arrogant to think that our puny lives would warrant the attention of a judging, conscious being.

Sarah M. said...

I have trouble wrapping my mind around that one too. A little less arrogance, a little less ego and the world would be a better place.

don said...

I certainly think that you have articulated several answers to questions that haunt an uncertain species.

Sarah M. said...

It's just the unnecessary stupidity that drives me crazy. We're smarter than this. Why can't we just roll our eyes at the film and move on? Extremism of any kind is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, I really look forward to updates from you.

Sarah M. said...

Thank you. That's very nice to hear!

Unknown said...

I can't remember how I came across your blog but I have subscribed to your RSS feed and enjoy reading your posts now and then.
I appreciate your post on mountains - it reminded me why I am so drawn to them. It is essential for me to hike or snowshoe up a mountain to remind myself that the world is beautiful, and life is beautiful, and can and ought to always be, not just when hiking in North Vancouver, Whistler or the Alps.
I’m sure I subscribed to your blog because of your political postings. I have just recently been reading about the persistence and even renewal of religion centuries after it has been made redundant by scientific knowledge and reason. It seems that people are not really drawn to religions because of their creation myths or other supernatural ‘explanations’ of why the world is how it is. The persistence and resurgence of religious belief and affiliation is more of a political phenomenon: the rise of national antagonisms (especially between imperialist and neo-colonial regions); worsening living conditions; the dominance of ruling class ideology and the lack of organized resistance.
So while these people may deeply feel anger about this film that supposedly insults a religion, I think what is beneath their anger is the repeated invasions of Middle Eastern countries for oil and military dominance. Unfortunately their anger is misdirected as the former secular and leftist leaderships have betrayed and capitulated and the political vacuum is now filled by Islamic fundamentalists who want the oil riches for themselves.
America is in the biggest recession since the 1930s and over half the population thinks God created man a few thousand years ago. If people are stupefied, they are less likely to effectively resist. I think that until people are offered hope for a better world again in a secular, humanist form, nationalist religious ideology will persist.
I'll work on that this weekend, but first I'll hike up Cypress :)

Sarah M. said...

Wow. Thank you so much for that. Very well said. I'm always touched when people leave comments but more so when people take the time to leave such personal and well-thought-out comments. I agree that there is much more to the protests than just the simple film. I also agree that life is full of so much beauty and we don't have to be in the mountains to be reminded of that. Hope you had a nice hike up Cypress. It's been so long since I've been in the North Shore mountains. I miss B.C. so much.