Saturday, October 20, 2012


What's with this obsession with hiking? Well, what's with anyone's obsession with anything? What gets us "hooked" and what keeps us coming back for more? Why did I arise at ungodly hours to load (alone) crates and dogs and equipment and often offspring into the van to drive (through blizzards or driving rain, darkness or road construction) to distant venues to run around a dog show ring, more often than not returning with nothing more than a satin ribbon for all that effort and expense? What drives others to hop on motorcycles and risk life and limb to travel cross-country for rallies? To sit in slips of plastic and play rodeo in raging rivers? Or for that matter, to sit atop actual bulls in actual rodeos?

What are we all after, with our obsessive quests? Are our modern lives so damn easy we have to artificially create the stresses that once were a daily occurrence for our ancestors? No doubt our bodies crave the endorphin rush, our brains lighting up with the "hit" of neuro-chemicals. I can readily attest to the addictive quality of my own pursuits, more noticeably so now with my hiking morphing into trail running...but I suspect there's more going on.

Some of it's escapism. Things are tough, life is messy, it's a relief to just delve into a hobby or activity than to address the worries or grapple with the uncertainties. Are we, perhaps, hoping to encounter something real, as if we can keep doing whatever we happen to have gotten hooked on and Presto!, by accident one day it'll hit us -- we've stumbled onto something deeper, encountered something of substantial Meaning, something akin to actual living?

Perhaps consciously we would never cop to that. Yet, underneath, is some aspect of ourselves pushing us into pursuits that could do precisely that? It occurs to me that it does not matter what one does, from digging ditches to painting murals to building particle accelerators... the opportunity for achieving your best and highest self exists in every moment, every activity, every breath we take. So, we push and persist while our subconscious screams at us to sit up and notice, whatever it is we're doing, just really be there, participate fully, not on auto pilot but actually in the now. To do it as if it's our only moment to do so, as indeed, each moment is.

Viewed this way, the point, the goal, is not the satin ribbons, the next speed record, conquering the class five river, or managing a 25 mile hike in a day's walking. It's every aspect of each of those things. Each step of the trail becomes a means of honoring the life that I'm granted. The cool mud soothes my feet, the jagged rocks energize my thighs, the tree canopy enfolds and protects. Each view is a wonderment, each breath a cornucopia of delight. I want for nothing.