Five Lessons from the Mountain

I read things every day about how we're supposed to behave in the face of overwhelming social and environmental injustice. 

But what is the appropriate response to a melting Arctic, all-consuming wildfires, unprecedented floods and mass extinctions?

How do we react to immigrant children being caged and women denied basic rights?

It’s really hard to know what to do and how to go about doing it. But the mountains have much to teach us. Here are five invaluable mountain lessons for our times.

Bedrock Values Matter: Mountains can only rise as high as the thickness of the bedrock they stand upon. The thicker the Earth’s crust beneath a mountain, the taller the mountain. Your bedrock (core) values provide the foundation you need to rise tall and make a difference. If you don’t know what you care about or value, you will never have impact you long for.

Creativity is Dynamic: The first 700 million years of Earth history were placid:  There were no mountains and no continental collisions. A flat calm pervaded. For the planet to thrive, it needed to experience a dynamism of creativity and clashes. This is power that returns to the root—posse, potere, pourvoir:  to have the potential, or to possess and use one’s energy of creation. This is what we are being called to do, right now. No more calm passivity!

Energy is Everything: Mountains create their own weather. When air-currents collide with an immovable mountain, they’re thrust upwards. As they rise, they cool. Clouds form, rain and snow fall. Mountains impact their environment, simply by the stand they take. When you stand in your own authentic power, you create an energy field around you. You, too, make a difference, simply by the stand you take.

Change is Dependent on Friction: Mountains are formed through constant friction, collisions, and eruptions. We may want everything to be nice and smooth, for everyone to get along, but mountains tell us that if we are to change the topography of our world, we cannot be afraid of conflict. Sometimes resistance is essential.

Deep-Time Thinking is Vital: Mountains are ancient beings; they were here long before humans. They remind us that the actions we take now will have consequences many years into the future, though we may not be around to see the results. So while we act in the present moment, like the Iroquois, we base our decisions on the well-being of the Seventh Generation. We think long term.

These are all mountain principles that can guide your path. As Ursula K. Le Guin wrote,

That's what I want - to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don't know the power in you - I want to hear you.”