All Hail The Conquering Hero!

I’ve never wanted to ‘conquer’ mountains.

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Or any other parts of the world, really.

I’ve always felt this was the wrong way to think of a journey. It was ridiculous to think I could impose my will upon a mountain, or on a desert, or indeed upon any part of my route. That I could, perhaps, somehow bend it to my will.

I feel it is more a case of preparing as best as possible, including mentally, and then perhaps said mountain will tolerate my presence; will allow me passage.

‘Conquering’ also carries the implication of invasion, of fighting, of strife. That is not the sort of relationship I want with mountains, or with any other place I choose to travel.

Certainly, in the past I have travelled at least partly with that mindset at times.

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Some of you may recall I wrote about an extremely foolish journey I took in Oman when I lived there almost 30 years ago (Mr. Stupid Goes For a Walk). Although I was running low on water, I pushed myself to the limit to reach the final ridge of hills on the route I had decided I was going to achieve one day, nearly killing my stupid self in the process. And although I achieved my aim, I didn’t feel victorious.

Only a bit stupid.

I prefer instead to think of myself as a visitor. And as a visitor, I need to have some manners. You do not expect to find the visitors pushing through your house and demanding to see this or to be given that, so I don’t.

I am not out to break records, nor to prove how tough I am.

This does not imply a lack of ambition, nor a lack of determination. Indeed, I have both – it’s just that the mindset is a little different. In particular, I give myself different priorities. I want to reach my goal, but if I don’t it does not matter. I think I’m more attuned to my own safety, and perhaps that of others. I hope I can be receptive to the feelings of others, too.

A good example in the climbing world is that of the mountains in Nepal that climbers are forbidden to reach the summit of, due to the belief that they are the abode of gods. Theoretically, a climber will stop some 10 meters or so short of the summit. Opinion is naturally divided over whether a climber would, or wouldn’t, in the absence of any witnesses, respect that ban.

I would respect it every time.

The mountains, of course, are inanimate. They do not wish me harm or otherwise. Neither do deserts or oceans. Even the most inhospitable of landscapes is neutral. It does not care whether I succeed in my aim to reach or traverse a particular part of it, and it will not hinder or help me in the attempt.

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My feelings about a landscape are just my reactions to it, and if I should choose to give this landscape a kindly or vindictive character, I am only projecting my own feelings onto it.

This may give me comfort, or otherwise, but will make no material difference.

Maybe I am simply suggesting it’s good to travel with humility.

I have touched upon that before!

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32 thoughts on “All Hail The Conquering Hero!

  1. Your comment about the mountains and other aspects of nature having no malice (or any other feeling towards we humans), reminds me of the following beautiful lines of Housman:
    “For nature, heartless, witless nature,
    Will neither care nor know
    What stranger’s feet may find the meadow
    And trespass there and go,
    Nor ask amid the dews of morning
    If they are mine or no”.
    http://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/tell-me-not-here-it-needs-not-saying/.

    I agree with your view of the matter, Mick. Although I, also have done stupid things in the past. Best, Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kevin. I have not heard that poem before, but it does sum up the thought very well. As much as I love nature, I always feel irritated by people who overly sentimentalise over it. Like the idea of ‘conquering’ it, it seems they need to somehow take possession of it in some way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have to respect nature and there’s no alternative. It’s a bigger force than mankind, something that we all have found out over the course of time after tampering with things. We all have to abide by the law of the land, I guess! No second thought about it. I can very well recall your previous post on Oman adventures!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think remembering to be a visitor on your best behavior is a good, clear rule. If you can pass through the scene and not leave a trace, that’s admirable.
    In New Mexico and Arizona, the Apaches don’t want you to even photograph certain sacred mountains. I don’t claim to understand that, and I wasn’t there long enough to learn much about their beliefs, but I respected their wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Traveling with humility is so much more rewarding because you stand to be enriched by the experience. The other approach feels like plundering. Never understood what humans really hoped to gain for their souls with that kind of attitude. But many seem to have it now as much as ever … to the moon and beyond!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, Monica. Travelling with humility means you leave yourself open to all sorts of experiences you might otherwise miss. Stomping through in huge boots wearing blinkers means you miss everything except what you’re focused on.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. People get lost in the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa every year, Mick. People underestimate nature and they also underestimate how far things are and how long it can take to get to a certain point and back. YOur attitude is very wise.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mick, how true to always respect nature and explore our surroundings with humility and safety. Like children who at times feel no sense of mortality, I guess desires to achieve ones goal drives one on recklessly! Beautiful and awe-inspiring photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You put your finger right on it Mick, you can’t conquer nature. Perhaps you can conquer your own nature, but that’s something else entirely. And as for the attitude, traveling with respect should go beyond the mountains and include those who dwell within.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re as much a part of nature as are the mountains – so, indeed, why not both be neutral?

    I also wonder about the expression of ‘conquering’ something… it’s only in English, isn’t it? Or do other nations use the same idea?

    Liked by 1 person

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