Not so much. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to make positive changes in your life? The striving, the discipline, the commitment and dedication to advance, to get ahead takes everything you’ve got, and most of the time, more than you even believed yourself capable of. Why is that? Why is it that each painstaking, tiny step towards progress, towards evolution, towards our goals is agonizing? Especially when we all know the way back to our former, lesser selves is a fast slide down a steep incline with us ending up in a battered heap at the bottom.
Are we predestined to fail then? Are we hard-wired to be content with the status quo? Nature and evolution would dispute that conclusion. Has mankind not evolved over the past few million years or so into a better version of itself? As a race are we not better off now than we were as cavemen? So how did we get here when the getting here was so hard and the falling back was so easy?
Darwin makes a valid point. The strong survive and the species advances by pulling from the best of who we are and pushing us, kicking and screaming more often than not, into our better, future selves. Evolution apparently is not for the weak-willed or faint of heart. I tend to agree with Darwin on this one. Ascension and progress is hard work. Good intentions are not enough…remember the old cliché’ about the way to hell, etc. etc.
So how do we become a better version of ourselves? Well, to be blunt…We work at it! Yes, it’s hard, it’s supposed to be and the higher we go, the harder it gets. Think about a mountain climber. Down at the bottom, things are relaxed and jovial. At the wide base of the mountain, there’s plenty of time and room for error. The focus is still on preparation, on checking to make sure the climber has the right supplies before he attempts the ascent. Likely, this final check is being conducted only after long weeks and months of training, because the dedicated climber knows much better than the weekend warrior that once he sets foot on the mountain the margin for error is reduced and the price of a mistake grows more perilous with every step towards the peak.
The same principles apply when you embark on a spiritual journey. The casual initiate approaches the path to wisdom as a lark, or a curiosity, perhaps at the urging of a more spiritually minded friend. When the going gets tough, when true change and commitment is demanded, the casual participant falls away. Ascension is not a gentle path. It is steep and largely unforgiving. It doesn’t matter if we had a really good excuse, if we were too busy at work, at home, at whatever. When we fall, we fall…hard…harder and more painfully than the indifferent initiate who turned aside because he was not as vested in the journey to begin with. He has no real conception of his loss because he had no clear vision of what he sought. It’s difficult to mourn what you never had and what you never aspired to in the first place.
But for those who glimpsed the summit, for those who for a moment held its potential within their grasp, the slide down the mountain is cruel indeed. The thought of starting over is inconceivable. Impossible. To begin again, to start over, to prepare, to study, to train and then to gather the courage and the determination and the will to take that first step back towards the mountain that defeated them, that humiliated them the last time they attempted it takes an extraordinary act of valor, because this time around they fully understand the potential for loss and what the price of failure will be. Emptiness. Devastation. Pain.
So then do we simply wallow around at the base of the ascent with dreams of what might have been replaying again and again through our thoughts? Or do we gather our courage, collect the remnants of our scattered wills and try again, even knowing it will be more difficult this time around to keep our footing. Even understanding that the closer we get to the top one mindless, stupid moment of inattention will send us plummeting in a dizzying descent back down to earth?
Something to think about. Like I said earlier, evolution is not for the faint of heart.
Down is easy.
Up not so much…
So why does anyone make the attempt in the first place?
The answer is simple. To anyone who’s ever glimpsed the summit, even for a moment, nothing else can compare.