Tag Archives: Adventure

Blue Ground I

In 1977, I climbed Mount Taylor during the day and came down the mountain in the evening by full-moon light.  The coming-down at night was unplanned.

I still climb mountains, not with rope and anchor, but one foot in front of the other, up the trail to the summit where a cairn is located, signing my name on the log book tucked in a steel tin.  Mountaineering climbs test body, attack motivation; high altitudes increase depression, morbid thoughts.  One of my climbs, Mount Taylor near Grants, New Mexico, combined the usual test of fortitude with a special insight into mysticism.   Mount Taylor is the southern holy mountain in Navaho mythology and I was determined to see what was at the summit and, more importantly, what was on the mountain that made it sacred.

To be candid, the nature of man’s life is radically material.  For a short period of time, the individual is formed as an ensemble of perceptions and sensations, the life cycle, four score years or so.  Before birth, the ensemble, there is oblivion and after death, the same:  oblivion.  But during the ensemble, there is life, movement, talking, sensing.  Religion, magic, and witchcraft exist as explanations about oblivion, life, oblivion.  Saints, sages, and shamans that seek to explain are in the end, like Thomas Aquinas, swept away by the magnitude of life, the universe, that they become silent (or should) and express only that the ultimate mystery is ineffable [1].

That the ultimate mystery is unexplainable should not mean despair, immobility.  It often does petrify.  Nevertheless, take the body and place it there, here, over there, up there, down there!  Explore.  There is the mountain, desert, ocean, space.  Witness the inexpressible grandeur of the place.  It is all we have, but it is quite enough.

My reasoning, therefore, in climbing Mount Taylor was to put myself on top of the sacred mountain to encounter the ineffable or, at least, be present in nature at a high altitude, looking at vistas from the summit.  I would be a moving participant, a spectator, to the incomprehensible spirit that moves in all things.  I was not in search of the supernatural or mystical in the conventional, religious sense.  Within my life, I wanted to place myself in nature at her most inspiring locations.  That was all, but quite enough as it turned out.  For at the climb’s end, that evening, the coming-down time from Mount Taylor, I saw blue ground, but I did not understand.

(Next, Blue Ground II)

Notes

[1]  Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in Mysticism and Logic. See also Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path of Guatama, “The Benares Sermon of Buddha–6th century BCE,” in Elsa Nystrom, Primary Source Reader for World History, Volume I to 1500, Wadsworth, 2006, pp. 38-39.

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