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What do you seek in life? I am not speaking of financial or material gain or outward physical fitness or attractiveness or credentials granted by other individuals or organizations? What do you, or would you devote your time and passion toward...regardless of the obstacles? Who would you willingly serve in life, no matter the hardships and danger?
Philosophers, theologians and psychologists in the last few thousand years of human existence, have surmised that human beings are driven by quests for love, for pleasure, for glory and for power. These are temporal, secular searches with the exception of 'love' which can be expanded to: "service above oneself for others" and may include "loving God with all your heart and soul" and therefore serving God as a holy quest and purpose. One defining difference of our species is the capacity to reason. We can choose what to do by making decisions based on our thinking, be they minor or major judgments. We can decide to reject or avoid going on a quest, or distract ourselves from the request (note the root "quest") to seek, as well as accepting the challenge of a quest.
A "quest" may be undertaken on behalf of others or one's family, community or nation; or as a search to find out who one is in the world and or for what tasks and purpose they are living. These are significant questions. (again, note the root "quest") To go on a quest implies there is risk and courage needed to follow through on a route which diverges from most other paths in ordinary life. For most it also includes faith in powers higher than human beings for guidance, protection and clarity on a quest.
If you are fortunate, you may have read, seen or heard about great quests. The stories brought from European and British lore (Arthurian Knights, Parsifal) from the East (stories from Hindu and Buddhist literature, 1001 Arabian Nights) or Native American ceremonial stories (Vision quests and battles) and reports of the explorers may have inspired you to one day pursue your own quest. One may never go on a such a quest in their lifetime, or one may be called for a number of quests at various times in their life.
Throughout written and oral history, quests have been recounted by those who witnessed the return of the seeker or were the seeker themselves. Important quests require preparation, usually involve suffering, sacrifice and the individual undergoes changes which may "break" him/her or forge a stronger, more capable and possibly wiser person afterwards. Quests into nature and the outside world may be concurrent with quests on the inner landscapes and between the "realms" of time, space and consciousness. Venturing into deep forests, down dark caves, climbing up hills and mountains, bearing physical pain, freezing, sweating, bleeding, crying, praying, meditating, hallucinating, ecstatic joy-even dying-may be part of an individual's quest. There are no templates or guarantees for authentic quests. Each one may appear "classic" yet each one is unique.
There are also no shortcuts on authentic quests. In some cultures, initiation ceremonies are part of a life quest. The rituals for these are passed down through generations. Ancient languages are often used during these rites and various "tests" of bravery, fortitude, perseverance, discipline, knowledge and commitment are given by members of the tribe/society in the presence of others. When they have successfully completed all the tasks demanded of them, the individual is presented as an "adult" or a "wise one" or a "messenger" to the tribe and/or community. 'Hazing' in the military, in university clubs, in secret societies and sports groups are a washed down version of these ancient rites of passage. Showing the group administering the "rites" that you are able to perform and complete all actions asked of you, means you have the pre-requisite qualities and capabilities to join them and the resilience to 'bounce back' after difficulties, struggle, humiliation, fatigue and pain. Questing for profound love can also compel you to experience all the aforementioned challenges and rewards. Yet all gains are temporary.
You may lose your hard won love, victory or enlightenment then life may re-direct you to chose another direction, fight more battles, follow another quest or repeat one again. All these pursuits and exertion have one common element-they are undertaken of one's own free will. The labors and searches are done with volition. Motivation must be self generated as well as supported by others. Quests are voluntary journeys...be they quests for knowledge, power, service or romance. If you choose to quest, you must achieve the goals, complete the mission(s), summit those peaks - or die trying.
Some who are bold, competent and brave never make it back from their quest. This past week another three intrepid alpinists and world class climbers died while attempting a treacherous route (MI-6) in the Canadian mountains. One of these young men was an American named Jess Roskelley of Spokane, Washington, USA. He came from a mountain climbing family, and his mother was an educator - like ours. His father, John Roskelley was a renown high altitude climber who took Jess when he was only 19, to climb with him on his 4th attempt to summit Mt. Everest. They both summited making international news. Jess Roskelley was the youngest American to successfully climb, summit and safely return by the time he was 20. His mother, Joyce Roskelley, was a teacher, traveler and capable trekker, among her other talents and skills. His sister Jordan, was a college athlete, who then attained her Masters in Sports Science, and is now at 29 years old, a yoga/meditation teacher for university sports teams.
Jess was a professional welder as well as labelled, "The second most adventurous person in the world...". https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/may/08/spokane-alpinist-jess-roskelley-named-second-most-/ Jess Roskelley married a woman in 2015, he described as his soulmate, Allison (32). They did not have any children.
Although it was Jess and his mates choice-(two Austrian young men-one, David Lama, whose father was a Nepalese mountain guide and his mother a nurse) to attempt a very risky route on the ice in those mountains; the ones who need the strength and courage for resilience now are those they left behind.
I know only too well how hard a climb through life will continue to be for them. My own son, Denali would have been 31years old later this week. He was born on April 27, 1988 in Macksville, Australia and was killed on K-2 along with his father, Marty Schmidt, who was attempting his personal quest of trying to summit K2 for the third time, in July 2013. He took our son with him on his quest...all the way to their deaths.
It is haunting to see the prophetic painting Denali did entitled: "Buried" and the photo of Jess in a red outer jacket and black frame goggles shortly before his death where he likely was "buried in an avalanche" this past week. In addition to their mothers, they both left grieving sisters behind, too. (see photos below) At least Jordan Roskelley has both her parents and her older sister, Dawn still living. John Roskelley is now 70 years old.
There are holy grails in many forms as quests.
My thoughts and prayers extend to the Roskelley, Lama and Auer families and those who know them. I truly hope that now they have found the bodies of their family members, as well as some personal items including phones/photos of their last hours, this will help with the agonizing grieving that is sure to come after the shock wears off. www.khq.com/news/family-of-spokane-climber-jess-roskelley-issue-statement-after-his/article_0b42c8a6-6467-11e9-bed2-531c0a1e2f79.html
Now that Easter and Passover have been celebrated around the world and the message of survival, resurrection, Spring and re-birth has been proclaimed; I hope each of you will continue or begin your quest, if you so choose. Even if you decide not to proceed, perhaps you can support those who choose to endeavor or continue on their quest.
This week I include music from the Wagnerian opera, Parsifal. This was Richard Wagner's final opera and he wrote it when he was quite desperate having experienced death in his own family, poverty, brutal reviews of his work and scorn. As a person, Richard Wagner was very controversial and unfortunately others appropriated his music for their own nefarious and brutal aims, after his death. However his music is sublime. Wagner's compositions stand the test of time.
The person who posted this music/video (linked below) included photos of mountains-including K2 and Mt. Everest-in the video. It seems a fitting tribute to all those who have crossed the threshold this week and to remember those who crossed over before, and their impact on the living.
Other reference sites about the remarkable Alexandra David-Neel and about Richard Wagner, are included this week for a number of reasons. Alexandra David-Neel's books and Wagner's music inspired me when I was a teenager. They either wrote about, composed or hiked themselves in the mountains of the world.
In remembering those who have crossed over I want to mention a teacher who also had an deep impact on my life. Dr. Dobson, taught a year long course on Wagner and music drama my first year at university. He played all the Wagnerian lietmotivs on the piano and required we knew every one by ear and heart. He would have his back to us sitting at the piano with his long white hair, as we entered class. He always began with at least one musical phrase before he ever uttered a word. Dr. Dobson created a reverence in his classroom seldom achieved anywhere. He demanded exact listening and memory skills and instilled in us a love for expressive music and story telling. Dr. Dobson could separate the genius of Wagner from the flaws he had as a human being. www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/Teutonic_Mythology/wagleit.html
Please take a few minutes to read of their extraordinary lives and contribution to all of humankind. The links are posted below.
Please also take a moment to hold those who have been killed by terrorists, accidents, illness or other means this week, in your prayers. Hold those left behind in your thoughts as well. The struggle of those who survive requires enormous resolve, restraint and resilience.
From central Texas until next Tuesday, may God bless you and yours,
Mountains of the World:
Music by Wagner from "Parsifal": www.youtube.com/watch?v=f841xVf39KA