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Climbing Smooth

“If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t even climb it!” unknown

I was watching a YouTube video about the hymn Amazing Grace with Wintley Phipps yesterday.  What an inspiring bit of film and song!  But I was struck by the proverb above that Wintley quoted in the beginning of  the clip.  How profound 10 ordinary words can be!

What are the mountains in your life?

Webster says:  “Adversity: (noun) a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty or adverse fortune (see adverse).                  Synonyms:misfortune, ill, knock, misadventure, mischance, mishap, tragedy Antonyms: fortune, luck, serendipity”

Did you ever try to climb up the slide at the playground?  I have.  Tough.  I remember a group of us kids daring each other to make it to the top.  There were dozens of attempts without touching the sides.  All unsuccessful.  It wasn’t until we used our hands to grip the edges of the slide that anyone made it to the top.  A smooth mountain would be like that.  Think of trying to climb the perfect triangle, we would crash every time.

Real mountains are not smooth.  Craggy, rocky, difficult, dangerous, murderous, majestic, beautiful, lofty and huge are words we use to describe them.  Rock climbers know that it requires the gear, the skill, the perseverance,  and the courage to undertake it all.  The climbers that tackle the big ones–K2, Everest, McKinley all know it takes planning and serious preparation to accomplish the task.  Most will also tell you it takes teamwork.  Your climbing partners and your base camp support folks they all have to be committed to the effort and work together.

K2 in summer.

Image via Wikipedia

Watching the news the other night I felt like the kid in the playground, surrounded by the “Super Committee”  trying in vain to climb the slide.  No one was successful.  No one worked together.  Everyone wanted to blame someone–someone else.  It was discouraging!

My own mountain right now has many sharp obstacles.  Kind of like the picture of K2 in Summer to the right.   After a long career of sitting in an office, I am doing retail sales and my body is revolting big time!  My bank account and my retirement account and my real estate are like team mates that are pulling the ropes that keep us together in all different directions.  How can we reach the summit with problems like these?

That’s when it hit me that the craggy bits and the sharp outcroppings and the difficulties with sore tired muscles and stiff joints are part of what makes reaching the summit the true achievement that it is.  The base camp team is vital–family and friends–cheering you on and making the assent possible.  If the way was smooth, how could you climb?

The other thing that hit me is that if you don’t work together, you can’t work at all when it comes to climbing.  The climbers that reach the summit know they did not get there on their own.  The guy at the peak had to have faith in the team, each one contributing their part and all contributing to the achievement.

So what then is the problem–how do we plan to achieve the summit here?  How can we get the team to work together so we’re not climbing smooth?  What can we do to conquer that adversity mountain that our country confronts?  The mountain that represents all the debt and loss of confidence in government and in ourselves?  How do we gain the courage to climb despite the partisan fear and destructive mistrust and being pulled in every direction by special interests?

Ideas?

Tin Foil Hat

Did you ever know anyone that took up the “tin foil hat“?  You know, that is the thing you construct for yourself out of abject fear–just like in the old black & white science fiction movies to protect yourself against the “rays”.  I heard about two things today to make me think of it.

1.  A state representative from OK confirmed bizarre comments about homosexuality being more dangerous than terrorism.  This is something she first said late in April and again during an interview last week. (I think the timing is right).  And it’s not the first time that she has been unkind and hurtful in public.  She also made racist remarks that caused a tearful apology days later.  Maybe the representative is wearing a tin foil hat.

2.  The “sacred” posts of the International Monetary Fund (traditionally headed by a  European) and the World Bank (traditionally headed by an American) will probably go to emerging and growing economy countries within 5 years.  I heard this on NPR while driving to the office.  The economists that study these things believe that the future of the global economy is a bit bumpy but will eventually lead us to more economic equality.

Tin foil hat 2

Image via Wikipedia

To me, with my mind on my problems, this sounded like excellent news for the emerging markets (China, India, Africa, Mexico etc.)  and time for the USA and Europe to start making tin foil hats.

I feel a bit “challenged” by the current environment and it is clear that

I am not alone.  How’s by you?

The long and the short of it is that trust and confidence is NOT in the tin foil hat, the IMF, WB, developed market economies, emerging market economies, a “good” job, saving money, spending money or anything else.  There is “no ground under our feet” which is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that Martin Marty used in his blog today.  Great blog! That is to say that the things in this realm are not the things we can count on.

When we revile and objectify the other most of the time that comes from the most primal of fears.  The kind of fear that encourages us to put on tin foil hats.  It is this same blind fear that is so very dangerous to civilization.  Instead of seeing ourselves as part of something, we see ourselves threatened by something and as history tells us that can lead to horrible consequences.

What are we to do?  Trust and dependence on the things that change with time and circumstance is misleading.  Trust and dependence on the God who transcends time and circumstance is the way to put some “ground under our feet”.  Do not be afraid, is the message I hear from the God of Love.

Guess I’ll take off the tin foil hat!

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