The View from the Middle of the Mountain
Welcome (back)! Thanks for taking the time to click on this article. As always, please take a moment to clear your mind, rid yourself of distractions, and enjoy the next 10 minutes. Today, we go hiking.
“It’s so freaking hot. There’s shit on my shorts and my calves, mud under my socks, and we’re still nowhere close to the top of the mountain. This was a horrible idea – I don’t know why I even entertained it, let alone agreed to it. I could’ve been at a brunch place right now with a Macchiato. Look at Sonny. He’s such an idiot. I have no idea where he gets his motivation and determination,” Jack whispered to himself.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Gosh, what a Debbie Downer, this Jack guy. I would hate going hiking with such a bitter soul.” While your reaction is perfectly normal and expected, what you probably don’t realize is that most of us, including yourself, is doing this very hike (figuratively) every single day of our lives. What’s perhaps even more striking is that there are far more Jacks in the world than there are Sonnys. The difference between them is subtle. In fact, it’s so subtle that the way people like psychologists have rationalized this difference is by labeling the groups as “cynics” or “realists” versus “optimists”. I don’t actually like the label “optimist” too much, because I always feel like there’s an undertone of naïveness attached to it. The more precise trait that I hope to inspire is “aware” – you’re welcome to continue using Sonny as a visual reference if that’s easier to grasp in your mind.
What our character Jack is experiencing is the feeling of getting stuck in the grind, lost in the details, getting caught up – or more eloquently, he is stuck in inertia. He’s performing the same task repeatedly (i.e., staring at the dirt path immediately in front of him), without really realizing or appreciating the ultimate purpose of what he’s doing, and he’s getting frustrated. He notices all the inconveniences and stresses of the process (the analogy is the mud on his clothing and the hot weather) he has to face, but he’s lost sight of why he even started in the first place.
Sonny notices his distraught buddy who he had brought along for the hike and feels partially responsible. He stops in his tracks, turns around with a genuine look of concern and understanding, and walks towards Jack.
“Hey buddy, you all right man?” Sonny says.
“Yeah, whatever. It’s all good. It’s a pretty tough climb, not going to lie. I didn’t expect it to be this hard. Whatever, we’ll finish it,” Jack replies with a forced chuckle.
Sonny notices the twitching in the corner of Jack’s mouth. He can sense the unspoken bitterness.
“Do you see that flag, over there?” says Sonny as he points to a small flag, barely visible to the naked eye. “That’s where we began, 4 hours ago. Even though we’re still quite a ways away from the top, don’t you think it’s impressive how far we’ve come? I mean, not many people make it this far, if you think about it.”
Jack squints at the flag in the distance, pausing for a moment.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right…”
Sonny smiles, slaps Jack on the shoulder, and assures him, “You’re good man. Don’t sweat it. We can take a break over there by the big rock. I’ve got a clean towel you can use to wipe off that mud. After all, it’s just earth bro! Good ol’ mother nature!”
A peculiar wave of reassurance and newfound energy runs down Jack’s spine, and the duo resumes their trek.
We often get caught up in the daily grind of our jobs, classes, responsibilities, and chores that we forget where we came from, why we started in the first place, and where we’re ultimately headed. If every so often, there’s a Sonny in our lives to yank us out of our inertia, our burned-out heads, and to remind us to appreciate the view from the middle of whichever (metaphorical) mountain we’re climbing in any aspect of our life, how much more assured, confident, and energized would we be?