There is this guy, Reinhold Messner, who climbs mountains without supplementary oxygen despite intense danger and loss (he lost his toes and his brother climbing). Why does he do it?
I heard this story long ago and has stuck with me because of the message about why we do the things we do. Some years back, Messner was featured in National Geographic Magazine and I saw the article and tracked down the original NPR interview that had made such a dramatic impression on me.
What was it that was so cool about this story? it is not just a cool adventure story about persistence in the face of danger. It is a story with an intensely spiritual theme about Messner’s motivation for climbing.
He says in the interview that it is not in the sense of conquering the mountain but the sense of joy in returning from a barren, sterile, hostile place to the normal world – the joy of feeling the first warm air, seeing the first insect, and the first green grass. He climbs mountains because it intensifies the joy that he finds when he returns to the normal world.
By approaching our dangerous, violent, human limits, we are able to more fully live in the real world.
That’s what I find mesmerizing about Messner.