Heroism or heuristics
This is the moment I decided to stay here for the night. Alone, 4km from anyone, unable to hear anything because the glacial outflow was so noisy. Dumb-struck by the scale and beauty of the place that I had brought myself to, I decided from somewhere deep inside and not from my head. Every decision about this two week trip was made from deep inside me.
The decision to walk a long way around Mont Blanc by myself over two weeks might be understood as yet another heroic adventure amongst the many featured on social media. And, honestly, as the kid who never got picked for sports teams at school, I did get a kick out of it. But that is not the power of the experience. When I first heard the words ‘Tour De Mont Blanc’ I knew I had to walk it. The only problem being I had no experience of extended mountain walking alone and I had no idea how to do it. The ‘decision’ to walk it had been made for me.
What I now understand is that something was calling me. I was being asked to move closer to myself and the work that I am here to do. Depth psychologist James hillman calls it the ‘soul’s code’. Out on the mountain I did a lot of wandering, wondering and imagining my place in the world. My mind freewheeled in a dance with the birds overhead on mountain thermals.
Outdoor educationalists might call it ‘edge work’. It’s the theory on which the whole Outward Bound movement was founded. I was taking my body to it’s edges, moving through them again and again with every turn uphill, every decision to do what I needed in response to the extreme landscape. I was giving myself an isomorphic experience that gave me courage and edge when I returned home.
Otto Scharmer might call it ‘presencing’. The ability to sense what wants to emerge next in the world and my part in that. Walking alone in mountains brought me alive and with that comes a sensory sensitivity to the interconnectedness in which we all exist. With that comes a systemic intelligence which isn’t about being in the mountains. It’s about being alive wherever we find ourselves right now.
Heroism or heuristics? Some heroism (hands up) but mainly heuristics. Following the call to adventure meant I came to know myself and the world differently. I found myself to be scared, vulnerable and in physical pain. But I was also resourceful, courageous and imaginative. I evolved during the 2 weeks to know my work differently. I found the world to be fierce, beautiful and vulnerable as the glaciers recede markedly each year.
The End. 15th September 2018. Les Houches, Chamonix.
On 15th September 2018, I walked down from the mountains a changed person. Not because I’d been heroic but because I’d decided to adventure and explore the world. I remember that every day when I take as little as a 10 minute walk from my house. That me is the one that shows up every day.