chapter  3
17 Pages

Why Nature Matters

Chapter 1 included a reference to the 1921 British Everest expedition and the lone Mongolian pilgrim its members encountered crossing their path. All those present at that strange rendezvous were pushing, or would soon push, at the boundaries of what their own physical being could possibly stand, in terms of nutrition, exertion and mental endurance. They were not doing so just anywhere. The Europeans and the Mongolian had chosen, broadly speaking, the same remote place. On the face of it, their reasons were quite different. Among the climbing party, those reasons included imperial ambition, geographical survey, mountaineering achievement and making a subsequent living-none of which would have meant a great deal to the pilgrim. However, the climbers had loftier reasons too. In a moving passage, Davis (2011, pp. 250-251) describes fi rst the pilgrim, and then the expedition leader, in the following way:

From a standing position, he would look ahead, lift his hands touched in prayer over his shoulders as high as he could reach, and then, bringing them back to his forehead, throat and chest, he would bend forward to the ground. Touching the earth on all fours, with hands fl at and squarely on his knees, he placed his forehead on the ground, making fi ve points of contact. Thus he would purify from his being the fi ve poisons of hatred, desire, ignorance, pride and jealousy, that they might be replaced with the fi ve corresponding aspects of wisdom. Standing once more, he drew his hands again in prayer to his chest, a symbolic gesture indicating his willingness as an aspiring bodhisattva to take on the suffering of all sentient beings. With each silent prostration he moved that much closer to his goal, which was not a place but a state of mind, not a destination but a path of salvation and liberation that is the ultimate quest of the pilgrim.