Manifest Destination

Manifest Destination

I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

No, wait—this is how I actually feel about it:


One thing I am not doing, however, is conquering it, despite various accounts, brochures, guidebooks, websites, and general proclamations that I will do that very thing.

Really, though – how does one even conquer a mountain?

Conquering implies something nasty: a war, a power struggle, a loser, a sort of implicit violence.

Prepare yourselves, troops, as we begin our final assault on the mountain…

Perhaps many people feel they are, indeed, conquering the mountain by slathering it in their own sweat-splattered versions of manifest destiny:

I took two weeks off of work, I depleted my savings, I bought a bunch of stuff coated in Gore-Tex, I took malaria pills, and I spent all of this time training for thisonemoment…I BETTER get to the top of this damn thing!

I suppose being descended upon by umpteen-million porters lugging tents and toilets and tea and oxygen canisters and stoves and fluffy down sleeping bags for endless streams of would-be mountaineers could be seen as a conquering of sort. If I was the mountain and this insanity was happening on my trampled slopes, I’d probably feel pretty damn defeated.

Mountain throws up hands, shrugs shoulders, slouches against the ground: “Go ahead, guys – have at it. I surrender.”

I will not conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Instead, I will enjoy it. I’ll look around and marvel at the sheer beauty and foreignness and get high in the altitude, literally and figuratively. I will laugh and sweat and ache and yawn and yowl and hurt and probably even cry. I’ll talk to people. I’ll talk to myself. I’ll talk to the monkeys, the trees, the rocks, the dust, the sky. I’ll be present and aware, appreciative and grateful.

And if that combination of sheer charisma and unbridled enthusiasm, coupled with a bevy of load-bearing / meal-cooking / tent-setting-upping porters and every fiber of thigh muscle available should grant me passage to the snow-capped tippy-top, that will be the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae. The journey is the destination, not a battle to be fought.

A good metaphor for life, no?