"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious" ~ Albert Einstein

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why Explore A Bit More?

Why do I like to explore?  To be honest, I don't really know.  I suspect I was born that way.  My wife thinks I was a Christopher Columbus, or a Magellan, in a past life.  As intriguing and romantic as that theory sounds, I'm not so sure myself.  I do, at least, recall my first memories in life where this impression, or character trait, came into my awareness.  It was back in 5th grade at Kimberton Waldorf school.  According to my Mom, it started earlier than this when, as a very young child, I would spend all my time exploring the back yard, or some nearby field, completely content for hours all by myself.  But, it was really at Kimberton where some of the same feelings I have today can be be remembered most clearly.

Kimberton Waldorf School was a private school located in the countryside in Pennsylvania.  I think most of my friends considered it a curse being stuck there, just as I did at the time.  It's funny, though. After talking with a couple many years later, it seems most now have two feelings about the place: (1) it was a special part of their schooling they'll never forget, and (2) the unique style of education planted some seeds that were life transforming and have stuck with them to this day.  The Waldorf movement was started by Rudolph Steiner, not too long before World War II.  At the time one of the worst evils of the world was raging war around the planet, many contrasting opposing forces arose around the same time period.  Life often seems to work by its own version of Newton's 3rd law:  "For every force there is an equal and opposite force".  At that same time, some of the best scientists, like Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger, arose, as well as spiritual movements like Anthroposophy, of which, the Waldorf school movement was born out of.  It's also the time America was catapulted to the true status as a world superpower and it was Nazi scientists like Werner Von Braun that came to America and kick started our explorations in space.  (Yes, being an astronaut also appealed to me as a little kid.  But, even more so, a jedi knight!)

The middle school class rooms at Kimberton were all in a large white building that to most would appear to be a mansion with large white columns and a glass ceiling.  I think it could equally well be said to resemble a temple.  At the center of the building and under the glass ceiling was the library.  The classrooms flanked each side.   Reading was always heavily encouraged.  I can't remember if it was part of a specific class, or not, but we used to have periods where we would go out into the library and read.

And, that's where it started - lying in some cozy corner of that library, with the light shining down on me, reading a book with my good friend Paul who had similar interests.  I'm sure we read a variety of books, but the ones that stuck in my mind the most were adventure books, specifically the Jim Kjelgaard series of adventure books, whose main character was always a dog.  The dog would usually have a human as a side kick but, either way, the stories always took place somewhere wild.  Other tales pop into my mind like Jack London's short stories, such as "To Build a Fire" and "Love of Life" and, of course, his novel "White Fang".  Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer" were also some of my favorites.  I also remember my favorite class was called "Farmer's Education", or something like that.  I don't recall learning a thing about farming, but I used to look forward to the hikes we would take as a class into the surrounding woods, which I often dreamily stared at from the school grounds.  To top off one of the hike's with more adventure, I remember Paul and I getting into a fist fight near the end of one - silly kids.

I forgot about these stories as I got into high school and college and settled into the usual distractions  somebody that age might.  Years later, when my wife and I discovered the High Sierra, the memories came flooding back.  The High Sierra is part of the Sierra Nevada mountains, defined to be that area which, on average, is over 10,000 feet in elevation.  They're rugged mountains with tall granite spires, thousands of alpine lakes, and a magical moment waiting for every trip.  We've spent over a decade climbing, hiking and backpacking there.  I like to say the feeling of that place resonates within my soul.  Again, I don't know if I was born that way, or can be attributed to these early childhood stories and fantasies.  Either way, I am at home every time I go.

Arrow Peak From Bench Lake, Sierra Nevada, 2005

So, why not call this Blog "High Sierra", or "Hike A Bit More",  or something really catchy, which I've used in other places, "Elation Through Hypoxic Contemplation".  Because, as much as I love it, the High Sierra and the high adventure that place provides doesn't quite capture everything about me.  The same appeal the High Sierra holds, has brought us to many far corners of the Mojave desert, as well.

Sandy Peak over Eureka Dunes, Death Valley, 2007

Over time, it became rather apparent that I'm not quite as physically resilient as the typical mountain climber, or even hiker, and health and injury have kept me away from these beloved outdoor places on more than one occasion, fortuitously forcing me to branch out into other areas, such as physics, which I have a degree in, so go figure!  Spirituality has also become increasingly important in my life and perhaps it is fitting that the same place I discovered those early childhood adventure stories was so reminiscent of a temple, which let the light shine through its glass ceilings from the heavens above, and was founded on a philosophy replete with spiritual ideals.   In both these areas, it is the same desire "to look around the next bend", or "see what's over the horizon" that fascinates me.  I love the most theoretical abstract areas of physics, such as quantum field theory, which really challenge the mind and get at the deepest layers of reality.  In spirituality, I am drawn to Eastern Philosophies and mysticism (from both the East and West) that stretch the limits of consciousness.

In short, I love a mystery.  And, every mystery requires exploration, whether it be exploration within, or exploration without.  I also liked the "bit more" part, because as I slowly encroach upon the Big 40, I realize I can't be quite as hardcore as I used to be in the outdoors.  But, as long as we continue to explore, even "a bit", it's all good.  As Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing".

Along the way, I realized what's the point of exploring if you don't share what you've found, inspiring others with the beauty of places like the High Sierra, or the mysteries of this miracle we call life.  Hence, a possible reason for my photography hobby and now my desire to maintain a blog.  And, if I am stuck at home injured and healing (or hopefully just taking a rest weekend!) why not have fun exploring health and cooking to further strengthen the body and mind for the next adventure!

I hope you all enjoy what will probably be silly ramblings, photos and even some of my favorite recipes ;-)

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