Anyone can hike up a mountain. There is one trail, and no matter how fast or how slow you go, you will always reach the top if you just continue.
Regardless of if you run, or walk, or carry a child up, or sing, or sweat, or dance, or talk obnoxiously on your cellular phone (how do you even have reception up here?), you will reach the top. The runner and the walker will both see the same view in the end.
But there is a big difference between the one that runs up that mountain and the one that walk up the mountain.
The first will sweat, and breath with difficulty, and down giant bottles of water. As they go up, the mountain will become more and more difficult. At some points, they will want to give up, collapse. For the runner, the mountain is not the monster to be conquered; the body is. The mountain, for the runner, is simply a harmless object that is working towards the same goal they are: to rule the body, to control the breathing and the perspiration, to mentally and physically do what they could not do yesterday. When the runner reaches the top, they will sit with their head in their knees for a bit, as they collapse to the challenge for a little while. The runner, at first, does not see the view. They see first the ground and the rest. Then, after catching their breath, the runner looks up and sees the view. The view, for them, is equivalent to the breeze on top: a nice side effect. For the runner, the real prize is the end. And they run back down quickly, without so much as a photograph.
The walker, however, looks at the mountain differently. For the walker, the mountain is a thing to be conquered, a means of attaining a goal. The walker will go up, and as he travels up the mountain, he will stop often, and look around, and catch his breath, and drink water in the lazy way that people who do not need water drink. As the walker goes up the mountain, it will become easier for him. For the walker, the beginning is always the most difficult, and the end the easiest. Motivation pushes the walker on, but more than motivation, the walker continues because he knows just how good and sweet the view from the top is. The walker conquers the mountain because he wants to feel the air, feel like King of the World. For the walker, the view is unparalleled. but more than that, the walker feels the top. He feels the peace and calm that comes from tiredness and satisfaction. And, no matter how many time the walker gets to the top of the mountain, it will never be enough. The walker’s eyes lust for the world beneath them. When the walker reaches the top, he first looks out into the horizon, and stands, but does not sit, until his thirst for beauty is satisfied.
The walker, sometimes, will look at the runner. Why does he kill himself so? The walker wonders. After all, the walker received the same end as the runner, perhaps in more time, but the reward was the same. There is no need to work so hard, if you can achieve the same with greater happiness, he wants to say to the runner, but does not for the sake of peace.
The runner looks at the walker. He too is out of breath, the runner thinks. He too is tan, and sweating. Does it matter that the runner is sweating more, drinking more, breathing more? The man who walked up the mountain worked hard, too. Perhaps I am not superior, the runner thinks. Why shouldn’t I walk slowly and breath lightly?
But then, the runner looks up. He sees a view. Stronger, he feels his heart beating. He touches his warm arms, inhaled air into his burning lungs. And he knows, in that moment, that he could never be happy walking up the mountain. He lives for this feeling, this euphoric pain that comes with being The Best. He looks at the view with different eyes, with eyes that are passionate and motivated, eyes that do not lust for beauty but rather appreciate it. He has worked for his reward, and now it is given to him in a much different way. He feels the mountain in his blood, he feels the sun in his eyes. He regards the mountain as a friend, as an equal. It is only his body that is the enemy, and yet, he loves it too for it presents a challenge.
The walker looks at the runner put on a baseball hat and begin his decent down the mountain. The walker looks up at the sky. In his heart, he feels whole. He looks at the mountain. I am your equal, I have conquered you, and I have loved your view from the top. The walker knows the mountain is working with him, challenging him every time to conquer the top. As the walker turns around, his heart aches with longing. The way down is not nearly so sweet as the fight up.
At the bottom, the mountain beckons all. “Climb Me!” it says to the people at the bottom. “Climb me, and see what you find!”
And the walker and the runner know that there is so much more than just a view at the top.