Monday, August 05, 2013


Piton, noun: a peg or spike driven into a rock or crack to support a climber or a rope.

I've never actually climbed a mountain, and in truth have never had the slightest interest in doing so. But if you've followed my blogs for any length of time, I'm sure you've noticed that I occasionally like to wax philosophical...or what passes for philosophical with me. This is one of those times. And on a philosophical level, I look upon the world as the sheer face of a mountain wrapped in a thick fog, and I have spent every day of my life struggling to climb it. Words are the pitons I use to try to to anchor myself to it in an effort to comprehend what I'm doing, where I'm going, and to give my life meaning to myself if no one else.

All this was prompted by trying to thinking of a subject for my first regular blog since returning from my recent trip. As so often happens when I try to think of something, an avalanche of thoughts sweep down the mountainside, threatening to sent me plummeting into total confusion. I found myself grasping at the pitons associated with my all-time favorite topics, my own life and experiences, which I justify with the logic that I am hardly qualified to talk about anyone else's.

And I realized that of all the myriads of sensations washing back and forth through every human's life, the single most predominant sensations of mine are, and have always been, those of alienation and being lost. Of having no idea of where I am in the overall scheme of things—if there is, indeed a scheme of things—of how I really managed to get here, of what is expected of me, and of why I am so eternally confused. Everyone else seems to climb their individual and seemingly far less steep mountains with relative ease, and without worrying themselves excessively about what pitons they use in their climb. I know this isn't exactly true, and that everyone faces their own challenges as they climb their own mountain in their own way. But again, since I only have my own perceptions to guide me, I have to rely on them.

My life has always been, to me, an endless string of unanswered questions, of utterly failing to comprehend the actions of others...especially those whose entire purpose in living seems to be to take advantage of the weaknesses of others and to spread hatred, misery, and mistrust. Honor, compromise, respect, and common courtesy are obviously unknown concepts to them, and their number, sadly, is not only legion but apparently growing rapidly.

It takes a lot of concentration and willpower to keep the sense of hopelessness with which we are bombarded daily on TV, magazines, newspapers, and on the streets themselves from becoming totally overwhelming. It's not easy to observe our fellow humans routinely behaving shamefully, doing the most egregious things to others with utter impunity and with no real concern about having to pay for their actions. There is probably some small comfort for those with strong religious beliefs to say “Oh, they'll burn in hell,” and at times I do wish I could share their conviction in an afterlife. But I can't. When these loathsome creatures die, the only thing their death accomplishes is to remove them from the world.

That humans tend to be naturally optimistic is evinced by the simple fact of wondering why we assume that life should be anything other than what it is...a constant struggle...and why it bothers us that it is. Being human involves more than Mark Twain's clever observation that “Man is the only animal that blushes...or needs to.” We also are apparently the only species to be aware of moral issues. Apparently only man lives not only on the physical level of all other living creatures, but on a mental one as well.

Awareness of one's self and one's surroundings is probably universal in all creatures with other than the most rudimentary of brains. And because Man is assumedly the most aware of all creatures, he is the most plagued by question.

And what of pitons, which assumedly was the subject of this blog? Well, glance down through the fog: we're standing on them.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

You do realize if you'd walked around to the left of the mountain that there's a lift that will take you partway up? It's there where you may then catch an escalator the rest of the way.

But I suspect we climb because the mountain is there. We cannot go through it, so we therefore must scale it. Ever wonder what's at the top?