Monday, February 24, 2014

Krakauer made me want to climb, Jamling made me want to become a Buddhist.

My first reaction to this book was, why is Krakauer always writing intros for people? His intro follows a foreword by the Dalai Lama—an interesting juxtaposition. Anyways, Kraukauer’s introduction irked me because he starts off recounting all the books that have been written on climbing Mount Everest. He writes, “A half decade after the fact, one would be forgiven for wondering why anybody other than the most obsessive Everest fanatic should bother reading yet another account of that infamous season on the world’s highest mountain” (p. xiii). It’s like Krakauer is saying, why are you people reading this? Wasn’t my story enough for you?

Introduction complaints aside, I enjoyed this book because it turned out to be much more than a personal narrative about Jamling; for me, it’s about something greater than climbing: Buddhism. Buddhism is about being mindful, which is something I am trying to be better at myself. I’m reading a book called “The Buddha Walks into a Bar,” an introduction to Buddhism and living a mindful life with compassion for others. It’s teaching me how to control my thoughts and basically chill out when I feel up to my eyeballs in stress. The practice of Buddhism guides the climb and narrative. Jamling’s wife says, “If my mother and I had known you were going for the summit today, we would have done more rituals and said more prayers.” Jamling and his family have a different—possibly greater—perspective on the climb than anyone we have read thus far. They realize that the mountain is bigger than them. Jamling writes, “My father knew before he ever set foot on the mountain that it had to be approached with respect and love, the way a child climbs into the lap of its mother” (p. 257).

What is Jamling saying about climbing mountains? Jamling says that a goal can never be reached through force. He writes, “But anyone motivated by compassion and a desire to help others will see the fruits of their efforts—though perhaps not in this lifetime.” This makes me think of Herzog’s ascent of Annapurna, which was achieved through force, and if he was satisfied with it. I wonder if a climb in this spiritual sense—in the name of something greater—is more fulfilling. 

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