The End of Life

The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use’. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.
George Mallory

One of my high school friends died a few days ago.

Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a child, she finally succumbed to it at the age of 31 — several years more than the typical patient.

I have tried to put myself in her position periodically since I found out Tuesday.

Of those who have the condition, a slim number survive past 23 or 24. Basically, from the time we parted at graduation, she must have known with striking immediacy the clock was ticking. When her sister passed away several years ago, I would imagine there could have been little doubt she was on borrowed time.

It seems she managed to hold on to happiness through it all.

She went to college.

She got married.

She affected other lives in a positive way.

She did stuff we consider “normal,” little things most of us take for granted assuming our lives will take us nearer to 100 than 35.


I would be remiss in attempting to answer for her, but she could have made different choices. She could have run through the last decade or so without a care. She could have been angry or defeated or bitter. She could have withdrawn into herself and waited for eternal slumber.

What I believe, though, is we are all ultimately driven by the desire to have thousands of heartfelt experiences permeated by a fullness of spirit as indefinable as it is universal. It is as though, in those beautiful moments, we are able to breathe in a soulful truth and feel it sweep through every cell in our bodies.

We are forced, if just for a second, to acknowledge something we instinctively know:

Joy is the end of life.


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