You only have to walk down a city street or sit in a shopping centre to see one of the most destructive elements in modern society – the quest for more, more, more. Why am I saying this? Because society today never seems happy unless it can have the latest gadgets and accessories. I have to ask ‘What happened to the simple things in life..?’
The reason I ask is simple. As a mountaineer I have been lucky to see beautiful things in this world, met wonderful people and found a sense of peace with it all. Now don’t think I live in a cave and shun all of life’s luxuries, but I feel that I know where to draw the line in my life. Let me give you an example. Some of my friends are stunned because I don’t own an iPad or a Kindle. When I ask them why they have one (or both), many say “because I want one!’ Here we have the classic issue over wants and needs. (Abraham Maslow proposed his Hierarchy of Needs in 1943, which explains much). Now I use technology, but I only have two hands (and much of those are missing), so why would I want lots of gadgets..?
What happened to sitting quietly in the woods, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds sing? This was a lesson I learned the hard way in 2000 as I sat in my wheelchair. Up to my 30th birthday I did what I wanted, when I wanted and answered to few people.
When I suffered severe frostbite on Mt. McKinley I was thrust into another world, where I was told what to do and when to do it. The following spring I was able to walk a little and decided for the first time in years to watch the season unfold. I had always been rushing around at 100mph with too much to do to take note of the wonders of nature, but I’m glad I did. Suddenly I heard the birds singing, saw buds bursting into blossom and smelt the first fragrances of the season. To this day I still sit in the woods I played in as a child and sleep, surrounded by bluebells and birdsong. In an afternoon I can recharge my body and soul for a whole year. I wonder how many of you reading this take quality time out for yourself..?
Happiness is something I have long studied in people. More and more I see people traveling to work looking sad and insular. They can’t survive without hiding themselves behind their mp3 players, and heaven forbid you say ‘good morning’ to them..! They live in their own little world and I wonder what true friends they have..? Do they really appreciate them or is it easy come, easy go..?
Recently I was staying in a Brazilian Favela, surrounded by people with little in the way of possessions, but big smiles..! Children screamed with delight in the streets, people laughed and danced together and there was a tremendous community spirit. People in the Favela appreciate every precious minute of their lives. Do you..?
As I write this blog it is exactly 13 years since my record breaking high altitude airlift from Mt. McKinley, and once again I am on crutches after surgery. It’s irritating being told to sit down and do nothing whilst you recover, but I have a roof over my head, food and warmth and a loving family to help me. Friends are also playing their part and I feel extremely lucky to have such support.
When I first told people about my operation, many replied ‘How will you manage?’ or ‘Won’t you get bored?’ Well, I am experienced in post surgical recovery, but yes, it is irritating to be forced to sit down. However, my mind is still active, but more importantly it’s my attitude which will see me through. Remember, there are many times in life when you can’t change your circumstances, but believe me, you can change your outlook.
Appreciate what you’ve got and your life will be rewarding and happy – two things that don’t need an upgrade…