If you’re lucky, sometimes when flying into or out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport, the pilot will take you in a pattern that circles the mountain. As a great reminder that awe is relative, you’ll be flying at over 10,000ft, but still not be above the mountain. On a clear day its as if you can reach out and touch it. Then you remember that while it’s the tallest peak in the continental United States, it wouldn’t even stand out if among mountains in Alaska, or the Alps, or the Himalayans. As tiny as you feel circling the immensity of nature below you, that mountain would feel tiny when compared with its much older, and larger, siblings elsewhere on the planet.
If you listen closely you might hear the mountain. Sometimes it speaks. Though not a particularly old mountain, as far as mountains go, it is very very old compared to a person. It speaks slowly, having learned to take its time because it has so much of it. But it speaks nonetheless, if you care to listen.
One might think that mountains have a lot to say. That after witnessing all of history, or all of our history, that it would want to tell of it. Perhaps other mountains, but not this one. This one, as the native people’s learned before Columbus was even born, doesn’t say much. But it does ask hard questions. This mountain always seems to know the question you need to hear, if you are patient enough to be listening for it.
We are called human beings, but we don’t seem so good at the being part. Always doing, doing, doing. In truth we’ve become human doings, and have forgotten how to just be at all. Our parents, our teachers, our bosses, all remind us every moment that ‘if you can lean you can clean’. Keep working, keep moving, stay productive, or at least continue consuming.
Just don’t stand there, do something. But I am doing something. I’m standing here. I’m not standing over there. Or sitting here. I’m standing here, on purpose, because right now I’m just being. I made a decision, and decided not to do, for a few moments at least, and to let myself be.
Mountains don’t do. Oh sure, a long time ago there was some doing, and like someone settling into a comfy chair, there are still shifts now and then. But on the human scale of things mountains aren’t about doing. They are all about being.
This gives the mountain great perspective. Spending so much time being, and not doing, the mountain has learned a few things. Perhaps only a few things as compared to some other mountains, but an eternity’s worth when compared to what we know, as humans.
The mountain has come to understand that we can’t be told to just be, that we have to discover it for ourselves. And the best way to help most people find their own answer is to ask them the exact right question, at exactly when they need to hear it.
But only a small number of people ever hear the mountain these days. More than at some times in its long history, but less so too. Sometimes, the lucky few, flying into or out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport, happen to be looking out the window just when the pilot is sweeping around the mountain. And sometimes, someone is paying enough attention to hear the mountain when it speaks to them. If they are listening, they are granted a gift. A gift only they can unwrap. They are asked the question they need to hear, so they can continue the process of being who they were meant to be.
I know this because the mountain asked me a question, and I’m grateful that it did. But that is another story.