Torching Everest

It’s interesting how news reaches us, even in today’s world of instant gratification and technological interconnectedness.  Take the recent Everest record-breaking that’s been going on.  I had no idea that before Mr. Sherchan, the oldest man to climb Everest was 71 years old and Japanese.  And while I may have guessed that a Sherpa held the record for the most times to the summit, I wouldn’t have known that the amount of times was 18, until today.  I also would have had no idea that as many as 80 climbers might reach the summit on one of its busiest days.  Just think of it – one of the loneliest, most desolate spots on the face of the Earth, and now it has up to 80 people trudging up and down on it.  In the scale of the mountain, that’s not many, but it’s still many more than I would’ve expected.

Also unexpected, and garnered from this article, was the fact that the Chinese carried the Olympic torch to the summit.  A poetic gesture, I’m sure, but a little ridiculous to my mind.  Why not take it on a space shuttle, or to the moon, since the Chinese have so recently been there, and let it burn in a special case with just enough air on that desolate surface.  Or are the Olympics strictly an Earth-bound exhibition of talent?  And, in protection of the Everest relay, why did the Nepalese government ‘close the mountain’, hoping to bar torch relay protesters?  In addition to the fact that the Chinese relay team accessed Everest from Tibet (which I find highly amusing, under the circumstances), which we can assume the Chinese government would prevent any protesters from accessing, were there really threats of opposition climbing Mount Everest just to thwart torchbearers?  What are they going to do at the summit?  Grab the torch and roll down the mountain?  Throw it off the side in a gesture far from media or any kind of real publicity?  Do we still lived in the crazed, competitive era of man that compelled slightly neurotic men to run off towards the North Pole in order to get there first?  What is this intense need to win we seem to all have, and what are we all really fighting for?  Recognition?  Fame?  Pride?

I would like to see the world strive a bit more, perhaps for the greater good or just for personal ambition, but without trying to rip itself apart at the same time.

The Art of Craft

One of the reasons I got out of the architecture field after my undergraduate studies (other than the realization that I would never be the type of grade-A professional my perfectionism wanted me to be) was my experience as an intern at an architectural firm.  It was not a bad experience.  The work I did gave me a very true picture of the profession as a whole.  I enjoyed my co-workers and spent a good deal of time that summer with the other interns at my firm.  But it made me realize that the true joys of my schooling would be even fewer and further between once I got out into the ‘real world’.  Hampered by dealing with a variety of contractors and businessmen and even other architects wanting to do things their way, and hedged in by building codes and various zoning laws, I would never be able to reach over to a client and come up with a solution thi their problem that merely suited us both.  I would never be able to express the extreme edge of problem-solving that comes from a truly artful and delicate solution – something that works in addition to being beautiful, or is beautiful for the way it works so effectively.

Is this not true in every profession?  Are we not all weighted down by some nameless, faceless redundancy that seems to make all our effort for the greater good, or even the focused, honest use of our skills, in vain?  Doctors and nurses deal with the insurance industry, teachers deal with various administrations and school boards, and even librarians must deal with the furor of local politics.  The complexity and density of modern life requires that we have certain structures in order to interact with each other.  These bureaucracies are often handicaps when immediate action is needed, but I think we would ultimately fair little better without them.  If so, how can we do the best for our world?  Pushing forward, one mired step at a time?  Individually or in small groups bucking the various systems in place?  What is progress, and how do we move forward from here?  I would like to think I could do a little more than give money to a good cause.  I would like to think that by doing what I loved, by taking my skills and using them, by making the world a little more beautiful and therefore perhaps a bit better, that I am accomplishing something with lasting meaning.  But I don’t have the scope to understand my own actions on a daily basis, let alone the true worth of one human life.