Have you ever had a great idea that could not withstand the push-back of your Brethren in the Lodge? Yet even though you were not able to get your point across, you knew you were right? You are not alone. Some-times we just know that we are right, but we cannot explain it — at least not intellectually. It is like falling in love, when you just know that he or she is the right one.
It is also true that most people, including Masons, want a guarantee that our efforts to change will bear fruit. However, this is not how life works, which may be why we have such a hard time effecting change. Change and growth take place in sustained periods of distress. It is about being afraid. Uncertainty and discomfort — even pain and severe suffering — are actually good signs when you are following your heart.
One person who knows this well is Reinhold Messner, a mountaineer from Italy’s German-speaking Südtirol province. Someone once calculat-ed that Messner had a 99.9% chance of being killed on his expeditions. Yet, until today, he is the only person to have climbed the extremely dangerous Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat and probably the only person who ever truly will climb Mount Everest alone. He was the first to climb all 14 “eight-thousanders” and was the third person to finish the Seven Summits. All this has made him a living legend among climbers.
Yet when he first proposed to climb Everest without oxygen in 1978, people told him it was not possible, that he was risking his life. They said he would suffer irreparable brain damage at such heights. Indeed, uncer-tainty, failure, and hard work filled his path to success. After his first two expeditions to the Himalayas, Messner lost three teammates, including his brother Günther. He failed on several other expeditions in the 1970?s.
All this did not deter him. When he lost seven of his toes on Nanga Parbat and small parts of his fingertips, he knew he would never be a great rock climber — so he specialized in high-altitude climbing and developed a 15-year passion for it. In 1980, he made his first solo climb without oxygen. Messner described himself as “nothing more than a single narrow gasping lung” as he summited Everest. “Climbing Everest solo without bottled oxygen in 1980 was the hardest thing I’ve done. I was alone up there, completely alone. I fell down a crevasse at night and almost gave up,” he told the Guardian’s Observer magazine.
I know what you may be asking yourself right now. Why would a man go through this severe torture and suffering? Perhaps because he just knew he had to do it. Already when he was a child, he could find a good route without even thinking. He understood the weather quickly, and he just knew that “this rock is good, this gully will go to the left.” He just knew. His father was the same way. Messner remembers: “Until I was 20, my parents helped me with my climbing. When my father realized it was going to be my life, he tried to stop me, but it was too late. And when I went to Everest in 1978 to climb it without oxygen, he would sit in his local bar and say I was crazy. When I succeeded, he said: „I knew he would do it!?”
Messner always takes the same perspective with each new adventure: “I put myself in the position of being at the end of my life looking back. Then I ask myself if what I am doing is important to me. […] If you look at my life, then one thing is clear. I did one activity at a time, with all my willpower, all my money, and all my time. Complete commitment.”
There are areas in our Lodges we might like to change, whether it be an increased focus on service, encouraging a greater feeling of comradery among Lodge members, or ensuring we live out and not just memorize our Ritual. Members often prefer stability to innovation, and thus changing Masonry — or perhaps emphasizing further the implementation of the Craft?s values — may be our mountain to climb. As long as we know that we know we are doing the right thing, we must not let our fears allow us to stop. Let us gaze upwards with complete commitment, all our will-power, and all our time. We will succeed!