Two Mountains

I heard this metaphor from a friend the other day and it really has stuck with me. It is a bit abstract so please try and lean in if you are taking the time to read this and explore this rabbit hole with me.

The metaphor, and I am sure I am butchering many of the stylistic details (but at least hoping I am getting the essence of it right), goes as follows: life is a journey of sorts, where you are climbing two mountains. The first mountain represents part one of your life. It is the mountain that was given to you by society (and whatever social systems you partake in). It is the mountain that is pre-defined, it is generally linear in nature, and you can see the top from the bottom. You can see the journey. There is a ladder to climb. And all you have to do – I say all like it is easy but rest assured it is not easy – is execute against the coordinates on the map to make it to the top of the mountain. That is mountain one.

Mountain two is life after recognizing that mountain one — the one handed to you by society — is not actually healthy for you. Mountain two starts to come into view once you realize you want to get off of mountain one.

The problem, or opportunity perhaps rather, is that mountain two looks different than mountain one. You actually cannot see mountain two very well — it is covered in fog. You know there is a mountain there. That you are sure about. But you have no idea what the journey will look like to make it to the top.

You realize you want to get to mountain one at some stage in your life. At least a lot of people do. I am not sure everyone does, but I do anecdotally know a lot of people who have come to me expressing general discomfort with their current system. Their current infrastructure is not meeting them in any capacity — they want to make a change. A change bigger than switching tactics. They want to switch the goal posts and switch the rules of the game.

And thus, they begin to think about mountain two.

The problem for many is that mountain two is not particularly close. Like, you may be able to see it in the distance, but there is this potentially long and winding valley that sits between the two mountains. Thus, getting to mountain two is a journey.

Many people start the journey and then retreat back to mountain one. Mountain one has a lot to offer. Your ego, in particular, honestly loves the rigidity and certainty of mountain one. Your heart, and your body more broadly, however, know that that rigidity is what is killing your soul.

And so, you are in conflict. Your soul wants to escape, but your cognitive self is racing towards the logic-based mountain one.

This is the journey of life. Figuring out how to cross that chasm — in a way that is authentic to yourself — and then climb the mountain — again in a way that is authentic to yourself — may take time. It may take an amount of time that you are uncomfortable with and not prepared to or interested in signing up for.

You may be interested in making the switch — as many people eventually are — but underestimate the challenge. They also underestimate the power of the ego. The ego finds ways and fights with you to get back to mountain one. It makes up all these stories. Stories that sound nice…in theory…but are still soul killing in practice.

The journey to mountain two is long and hard. People go at it their own way. They may do a harsh switch. They may get there gradually. But once they get there, there is one big obstacle to overcome — at least one, right from the start.

Which is that there is no map. There is no pre-defined journey. You can turn to religion for guidance, they have tried to map it out, but most religions effectively teach you that accepting the mapless identity of mountain two is one important piece of being able to scale the mountain.

Mountain two is not LIFE, it is YOUR life. There is a difference.

You can always turn back to mountain one. But once you get hooked on mountain two, you will not.