Standing just below the summit of Mt Hood in Oregon, we are looking up at the climbers making the final approach. This is one of my favorite pictures. This is a picture of me not summitting Mt. Hood in Oregon.
We had been training for the whole season. Mt Hood is an excellent training hike for other higher, glaciated climbs in the area. We drove up from Seattle and arrived at the trail-head at 10pm. Then we slept in the car. We woke up at 2am. It was very very windy and quite cold. We started going up at about 3am. Alpine start. My body was cold. I was very exhausted and sleepy. And every part of my being told me to get back in the car, turn on the heat and sleep till sunrise. But the right thing is often larger than us.
So ice axe in hand, crampons on our shoes, we commenced climbing on the icy incline. It was steep. A very perfect mountain in many ways. If I was asked to draw a mountain when I was 3, this is what I would have drawn. Straight inclined edges. Ending with a nice tip on the top.
At 5:30am we paused for a bit. The light was beginning to break over the horizon. It was beautiful. Surreal.
We continued climbing, and we finally reached this spot. 4,400ft / 1,300m of climbing on full deep snow.
This was just below the bergschrund. It was dangerous to continue. It was too icy. And too busy. Too many people. One slip by you or someone else and you could go tumbling down the gully.
To continue we’d have to rope up. We didn’t have time. We had to get back down in time to meet some friends for brunch at noon in Portland. And we had absolutely no cellular network. So we couldn’t get in touch and let them know we would be late. So we decided to turn around.
We had failed at our original goal of summitting. But we got the gift of extra time to enjoy this spot. It was awesome. You could smell the sulphur mixed with the icy alpine air. It’s an active volcano. And that’s when I took this photograph using my 70-200mm lens.
Coming back down was fun. And we made it to brunch on time. We were exhausted. And had built up an appetite. And the food tasted delicious.
We sometimes focus so much on the end goal, we forget to notice all the gifts we receive along the way. Almost never is a failure a dead-end. It always opens an opportunity for something else. If we can adapt, adjust our goals, then we may end up turning failures into cherished successes.
I am glad I didn’t summit Mt Hood that day. I was able to shoot one of my favorite pictures as a result. The mountain still stands. And I’m still alive.
I moved to the United States because it inspired me. No where else in the world did I find the security, equality and opportunity to positively impact the world that the United States provides. Something I still entirely believe today, which is why I have made this my home. When I moved here, I was impressed by the humility of the Americans I met. They were self critical and had the objectivity to focus on continuing to improve the system. This was refreshing. Where I came from, there was not much civic engagement, and people complained without taking much initiative to actually do anything.
However, many of my American friends nowadays have become more cynical than ever, focusing entirely on the negatives and have lost the appreciation for all the good this system has brought to the world. Countless people around the world (including me) have come out of poverty and exploitation because of the American system of liberalism and economics. Yes, the United States has been involved in some really bad situations and has caused great harm in many instances. But there’s absolutely no doubt that it has been a net positive influence on the world as measured by most metrics we all care about.
We may not realize this but cynicism is often a sign of privilege. If we can afford to be cynical, maybe we haven’t experienced how bad and unfair life can be without the imperfect systems we criticize. And maybe we have less to lose regardless of the course we take. Before we promote huge course corrections, or propose booting the current orders in favor of alternative systems, we have to do the research to understand humans, to recognize that we are flawed, acknowledge that no system is ever going to be perfect, and that it’s a function of the fundamental nature of reality itself, not due to a lack of effort or foresight.
Many of us Americans like to believe that we are some of the most ignorant people in the world. This is good self-deprecating humor, but this is actually not true at all. We can’t keep criticizing ourselves while incorrectly idealizing everyone else. That actually makes us dumb. There’s ignorance everywhere. But an ignorant farmer in India has less impact on the world than an unfairly self-critical American. So the burden is very high on us here to understand the harm we bring by our cynicism, and our actions and inactions.
Quotes from the article below:
“The dramatic change of course after 1945 was not due to some sudden triumph of our better angels or embrace of Enlightenment principles that had been around for centuries, nor was it the natural unfolding of Universal History in the direction of liberalism. Liberal ideals triumphed because, for the first time, they had power behind them. A new player arose on the international scene: the United States. It possessed a unique and advantageous geography, a large, productive population, unprecedented economic and military power, a national ideology based on liberal principles, and a willingness, after the war, to use its power to establish and sustain a global order roughly consistent with those principles.”
“The architects of the new order were not utopian idealists. They believed in the inherent sinfulness of humans, the competitiveness of nations and the tendency of all orders to collapse. They had stared into the abyss and seen the depths to which humankind could fall. They knew the world they created would be flawed and costly to defend, but they believed an imperfect liberal order was better than none at all.”
“We tend to view the decades after 1945 through the lens of the Cold War, and Soviet communism certainly preoccupied Americans. Yet the response to the Soviet threat, which included the deployment of U.S. forces permanently in both Europe and East Asia and the creation of the global alliance structure, produced a geopolitical revolution. Within the confines of that system, normal geopolitical competition all but ceased. Nations within the order, in Western Europe and East Asia, didn’t compete with each for military superiority, form strategic alliances against one another or claim spheres of influence. Since no balance of power was necessary to preserve the peace among them, as it always had been in the past, they could shift substantial resources and energy from military to economic and social purposes.”
“Yet American hegemony was never so intolerable as to drive other members out. On the contrary, nations banged on the door to come in. Participants in the order, then and now, have shared the implicit understanding that however flawed the American-led liberal world order might be, the realistic alternatives would almost certainly be far worse.”
“Today many Americans seem to have lost sight of that eminently realistic judgment, and this has happened, unfortunately, just at the moment when the world is slipping back into old patterns. Autocracy, not so long ago dismissed as an anachronism, has shown a strength and resilience that Franklin Roosevelt’s generation would have recognized, while the democracies suffer from paralysis and self-doubt, as they did in the 1930s.”
Facebook is investing in features that are bound to reduce “engagement” as it was measured the old way. The old metric was “time spent”. Now the new metric is time spent “with intention, being inspired and feeling positive.”
Short-term investors saw this and decided that it’s a bad thing – as engagement goes down, so will revenue. And FB stock took a hit. But if we take the long view, we can see how this strategy is like to pay off.
(FB’s revenue model was similarly questioned several years ago when users were moving from Desktop to Mobile. The fear then was that they couldn’t show as many ads on mobile as they could on desktop. But what actually happened is that as the number of ads went down the price of ads went up as there was limited space to show them on mobile.)
There’s this guy that stands at a busy intersection in Mumbai. He is there every day. Smiling. I saw him the first time in 2006 or so. He has been doing this for at least 12 years now as one of my friends confirmed today (July 12, 2018) that they saw him there!
The sign reads:
Follow your own dharma (duty / virtue / morality / religion).
Having a positive outlook is the most important predictor of resilience. This is something I always notice, either consciously or sub-consciously about people that I meet. Being optimistic is a choice that is often entirely within our control. And it demonstrates the work one has done to confront one’s own self, and the ability to act on a longer term, holistic view of things.
“Pi says, “You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better.”
“Pi’s resilience is incredible once you realize what happens on board the lifeboat and how Pi copes with the tragedy that he witnesses and endures. There’s more to the story than the boy and the tiger. Though what really happened is terrible, Pi chooses to tell a different story. His story parallels what really happened, but is beautiful not bleak, transcendent not nihilistic.”
In Mumbai, you experience a lot of poverty everywhere. It’s a very hard place where we have to confront our darkest and most difficult truths.
Jeremy Horner/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images
Most traffic lights have panhandlers who walk around asking for money. The ones who stand out are the women with babies in their arms. You feel terrible for the children and you give money to those mothers, hoping it would give the child an opportunity at a better life.
Talking with friends and acquaintances who do humanitarian work in this space, I learned that this is just a business. Panhandlers have a “license” to “work” a neighborhood. And a percentage of their revenue goes to the local underworld. Babies get rented out, drugged, and used to increase the earnings by the panhandlers. Often times the babies are abducted. Many times they are hurt and intentionally disfigured and maimed as that means even more collections at the traffic lights.
This made me realize that my actions coming from a moral dilemma of trying to help a child can sometimes be putting more children in danger and not doing much to solve the real problem behind the issue.
This was our campsite in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The “black” triangle in the top center is Brokeoff Mountain (also known as Mt Tehama). This was at 4am. We had just woken up to an “alpine start”, to try and summit the peak while the snow was still hard, before the sun came out and turned it into something too slushy to ascent in. The moon had just set in the West behind that ridge – and its afterglow still leaked into the sky, leaving only the brightest stars visible.