Monday, December 11, 2006

The Mountain Climbing Club: a parable

There is a mountain climbing club at the base of an imposing mountain. The members take pride in their knowledge of mountains, climbing, techniques, gear. They spend evenings in debate over which is the best method for going up a cliff face or a crevasse. They are often well-versed in the climbing exploits of famous and relatively unknown expeditions, and are capable of providing detailed criticisms of them. Those who attend the club as guests, spread the word far and wide that it is the best place to learn about mountain climbing. There is no place remotely like it.

An individual from a distant country hears of this wonderful club, and makes considerable effort to journey to it. There aren't any mountain climbing clubs near his home, there being few mountains worthy of such enterprises in the region. Yet there is the innate desire to climb, to scale to the peak, to pit himself against such a task. He knows he will find all he needs at this club, fellows to learn from and scale mountains with.

When he reaches the club, the first evening of discussions make his head spin. The members know so much, and it is impossible for him to tell where to begin. He stays as a guest for some time, and begins to learn in bits and pieces, things slowly making sense. He begins to ask questions, and finds that the members are quite fond of certain kinds of questions, but don't seem to hear others. But he is learning so much, he doesn't mind such a small eccentricity among foreigners.

He expects that the members use the mountain towering over the club to practice on. Yet no one offers to take him with them. He doesn't hear anyone talking about going. Never sees anyone prepare to go. In fact, he never hears anyone talk about or see them prepare for any expeditions. This strikes him as being odd, but is one of the question areas where the members don't seem to hear out of some polite embarrassment for him. And not wanting to be a fool, he stops asking. He knows that there must be some way that these are arranged, and if he waits he will see it. But he never does.

Gradually he begins to make an acquaintance with one of the servants. Something clearly not done. But he plans on using his status as a foreigner to explain it if anyone learns of it. And so, over time, the servants being well trained in propriety, by kindness and attention he finally gets to speaking terms with one of the servers. At first the servant also does not hear much that he asks out of the same polite embarrassment. But slowly, by way of asking surreptitiously about particular members, he learns that none are planning expeditions.

After puzzling over this for some time, the servant shares a bit of back room gossip, that the members are to extend membership to him. Flabbergasted, he replies that he has yet to set foot on a mountain. The surprised servant says that none of the members have ever done such a thing. Not believing this, he goes directly to members and insists that they respond when he asks them to go on an expedition he is forming. They all decline, shocked at his behavior. And, he is quickly “asked” to leave.

Many explanations are offered for such strange behavior and outright rudeness from someone they were considering making a member. His status as a foreigner is considered, as is the possibility of sudden insanity, but the explanation that settles in is that the poor man never understood what mountain climbing was all about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it.

I see this over and over again online. I have formed a monthly meetup group with the expressed purpose of living Gnosticism rather than endlessly talking about it.

It is the difference between collecting butterflies and flying like one.