What is the meaning of life?
As a climber or the more broader “outdoor adventurer,” it is clear that anyone can point a finger at us and say what we do is not purposeful. They can say we are selfish, and what we do does not feed the poor, help the sick, or bring peace. Or flatly, they can state our lives have no meaning. How could we argue? It’s best not to. That settled I, am not writing this to ruffle feathers.
Meaning in life is defined by those who live it. Do and live the way that makes you happy, because you can’t chase someone else’s reasons to live. Do not act in such a way that keeps others from pursuing a happy life (I have just stated “The Golden Rule” but reworded it). You may replace the word “happy” with “meaningful.” If you let people vote on your actions, or your life, as to whether it is meaningful, you are set up for disaster. Don’t let a book, a weeklong retreat, nor my words, tell you the meaning of your life. Be OK with “the meaning of life” changing over time.
I find goals for myself and then I pursue them. I don’t always reach them. I find great purpose, reward, and even meaning in the cycle of: name a worthy* goal, work towards it, EARN IT, or achieve it, and repeat. For many climber’s they are obsessed with their efforts over a simple 60 ft route they are trying to red point (I am one of them). Or a 14 ft boulder problem (I rarely do this). I believe it is this simple cycle of a goal, be it easy, hard, or not reachable, and attaining it, or not, that keeps climbers loving what they do.
It may be that climber’s work as nurses, firefighters, humanitarians, priests, scientist, actors, or stock brokers when they are not adventuring in the outdoors. If someone were to say that Jane does not have meaning in “some parts of her life.” I’d say, “who cares?”
Life is hard. Existing and “getting through life” is lame. Having a happy meaningful life is hard work. If it was not, then everyone would be doing it. You are born and then your “job” is to get over obstacles. YOU might think that is not very inspiring or even depressing. I do not. Those people that avoid obstacles, that take undeserved hand outs, that try to find the “cheating way” to get pleasures, wealth, or material possessions, have never, in all my encounters, been happy people or people who have a meaningful life.
*”worthy,” to one person, might be to “spread the word of Christianity to those who do not know it,” and to another person, it might be to “put shoes on every kid in the neighborhood within five blocks of Third and Main Street.” Someone’s goal might be to “inspire those around them to have meaningful lives,” “pick up all the trash at Timbuktu State Park,” or to “red point every route 5.11 and below at Rifle State Park.” THE most important thing is that YOU decide the goal is worthy/meaningful and you don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise. It is your life, not theirs.
~Hans Florine is a speed climber, professional speaker, author and thought leader in speed and efficiency. Hans has repeatedly set and broken one of the most coveted speed records in the world: The Nose of El Capitan, a 2,900-foot monolith in Yosemite Valley. He also holds numerous speed records in Yosemite National Park and all over the globe. Hans won the first International Speed Climbing Championships in 1991 and has held the U.S. National title eleven times. He won gold at the ESPN X-Games three years in a row.
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