The Sides of the Mountain
“It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top,” writes Robert M. Pirsig in the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This adage can be applied metaphorically to our journey through life, where the value of our experiences often lies in the path we take, not just the destination we reach.
Just like a mountain, life presents us with diverse terrains, from gently sloping hills to steep, rugged paths that challenge our determination and resilience. The sides of the mountain, filled with thick forests, running streams, and a myriad of life, represent the vibrancy and richness of our daily existence. Here, we encounter a diversity of experiences that help us grow, learn, and evolve.
These are the moments that often shape us—moments of joy and sorrow, the friendships forged and the heartbreaks, the lessons learned, and the personal growth we experience. It’s these trials and tribulations, the highs and lows, which fill our lives with depth and meaning.
Contrastingly, the top of the mountain, often desolate and uninhabitable, signifies the end goal or destination. Though the view from the summit might be breathtaking, it is not where life thrives. Yes, achieving our goals brings a sense of accomplishment, but it is fleeting. The real essence of living is in the journey, not in the arrival.
Living On The Mountain Sides
Consider this: the mountaineer who reaches the summit quickly realizes that the peak is not a place to dwell. It’s a moment of celebration, sure, but also a place of departure. The goal is reached, the view is admired, the achievement is celebrated, but then we must return, back down to the side of the mountain.
Why? Because that is where life is lived. And the moments of struggle, exploration, and growth occur on the slopes, not at the summit. The beauty of life lies in the journey, in the climb, the experiences, the growth, and the people we meet along the way.
Can we appreciate our journey on the sides of the mountain and embrace the opportunities, for that is where life truly thrives?
“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire.
The reality of your own nature should determine the speed.
If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down.
You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself.
This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow.
It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”
— Robert M. Pirsig