BowMaki 07-12-127  

Making the Climb

What a Novice Climber Learned about Life on Mt. Kilimanjaro


John C. Bowling

Beacon Hill Press, 2007, 190 pp., ISBN 0-8341-2326-7



Dr. Bowling is the president of Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.  His book gives a very interesting description of his trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro on the border of Tanzania and Kenya with a group of people he had never met.  But it also provides inspirational lessons he learned in the process.


IMAX theaters have a showing of a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Bowling says the movie makes it look easy. 


Here are some of my favorite quotes.


"Created by fire and now crowned with ice, Mount Kilimanjaro rises 19,340 feet, making it the tallest peak in all of Africa and the highest freestanding volcano on earth." (11)


"To scale Mount Kilimanjaro is like walking from the equator to the North Pole, that is, from the tropics to the tundra, in just one week.  This arduous ascent will consist of nine days of climbing, camping, and mountaineering in the open air.  The climb covers 65 miles through five climate zones." (12) 


"I also view the mountain and climb itself as metaphors for life as a whole.  All people, young and old, have mountains to climb.  Nearly every day we face issues, obstacles, opportunities, and challenges that dominate the landscape of simply being alive.  Life is filled with mountains." (12)


"The question lying at the heart of my climb is this: What can be learned from climbing this mountain that might help me reach other goals and conquer other mountains?"  (13)


"To experience life differently, even for a few weeks, can enrich one's understanding of life from that moment forward." (13)


"Mount Kilimanjaro was born of the catastrophic movements in the earth's crust that created the Great Rift Valley, which runs from the Red Sea through Tanzania to Southern Africa.  The Rift Valley is an example of what is known as a constructive margin where new crust is exposed as two continental plates pull away from each other." (23)


Three weeks prior to his climb, three American climbers will killed by a rock slide.  "…life itself is unpredictable and the world is a dangerous place.  This is true, yet we need not be paralyzed by what could happen and miss what can happen amid the adventure of life itself." (40)


"Ordinary days have a way of becoming extraordinary for good or ill.  Keeping one's balance, as a person navigates the journey from ordinary to extraordinary and back again, brings both challenge and energy to life.  Who knows when an ordinary moment, or an ordinary day, or an ordinary life may be transformed in an instant to something quite extraordinary." (42)


"Living in a busy, noisy world can lead to losing a keen awareness of the nearness of God." (45)


"Many search for happiness as we look for a hat we are wearing on our heads." (45)


"Someone once said the only way to survive in such a job is to start out running as fast as you can and then, over time, pick up the pace!"  (69) 


"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." (87, quoting Victor Borge)


"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." (111 quoting Henry Miller)


"Much of life comes down to taking the next step and letting the small things add up over time.  No one reaches the summit in one sprint or one giant step.  Instant success isn't instant.  Progress comes gradually at the price of consistent effort in the same direction." (115)


"God cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence." (127 quoting Mother Teresa of Calcutta)


"Things look differently once you have stood on the top of the mountain.  Having done the difficult thing, all other things seem less menacing.  Life is hard, so what?" (149)


"We are all defined, to some degree, by what we carry, what we refuse to carry, and what we cast away."  "And we certainly do pick up things along the way.  We pick up responsibilties, influence, and authority.  We carry added financial pressures and sometimes a health issue.  Over time we gain relationships, successes, and failures.  We carry memories, scars, and lots of incidental cares and worries." (153)


Pages 158 - 163 provide a rationale for missions to rebut those who think it is strange or fanatical or patronizing or intolerant, etc.


"If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.  Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk." (quoting Raymond Inmon)  "My father used to call it 'lookin' out the window time.'" (168)


"There are three types of people who are most likely to get trapped in a rat race existence.  First is the individual who has a driving need to be successful or a passion for achievement.  Second is the overcommitted individual, the person who cannot say no.  And third is the person who must always live up to an unrealistic self-expectation of perfection or to the desires of others." (171)


"There are four stages of the human rat race.  First, there is a task or a challenge.  With this comes a sense of excitement and the anticipation of achievement.  The second stage is commitment; the decision to pursue the goal.  After a time, however, the pursuit becomes routine and perfunctory and leads to the third stage of the rat race, which is containment.  We are trapped and driven by what we once pursued with energy and joy.  Fourth is collapse.  We quit caring.  We burn out.  We quit.  It is a moment of implosion and exhaustion of body, mind, and spirit.  Too many folks experience this pattern: challenge, commitment, containment, and sometimes collapse." (172)


"Oscar Wilde, the playwright, once suggested that most people are other people.  By that he meant their thoughts are someone else's thoughts, their views the view of the crowd, their lives a mimicry, and their words mere quotations.  Although Wilde had a cynical streak, he was perhaps correct in observing how easy it is to live our lives in the third person, rather than discovering and nurturing our true selves.  'One's real life is often the life that one does not lead,' he wrote." (178) 


"Someone has suggested that misfortune does not change people; it unmasks them.  The same thing could be said about meeting a challenge in life."  (178)




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