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Burritos and Rock Piles

Cy Whitling

Random people on a random pile of rocks

Random people on a random pile of rocks

Once I thought I was having a mountaintop moment, but then I realized the burrito I had for breakfast may have just been a little too authentic. That’s sort of been a common theme in my life, both the burritos, and the lack of mountaintop moments.

I used to imagine that just the fact that you were standing on top of a really big pile of rocks meant that you would find some sort of inner peace, some kind of enlightenment, some affirmation of the motivation for your life. I thought if you walked up a mountain and took a picture at the top, you probably had it all figured out.

When I first climbed up a mountain, I was sort of expecting that feeling, hoping for an initiation to some sort of spiritual club.

Instead I got to the top of the (very small) mountain, and realized I’d left my extra candy bar in the car, and that it was probably melted. I walked down, ate my soggy Snickers, and then remembered I was supposed to be enlightened.

I wasn’t though. I didn’t have some grand moment of triumph. Instead I just wondered if that gas station with the $3 hot dog and slurpee special was still open.

Since that first mountaintop I’ve had a lot of good moments. A lot of moments that have shaped my life, my story as a person. A few moments that have felt like a taste of heaven, a taste of completion, a taste of perfection. But so far none of them have happened on top of mountains. Part way up mountains? At the base of mountains? Looking at mountains? Nowhere near mountains? All of the above, and more!

In noisy restaurants. On freezing chairlifts. In Walmart bathrooms. Around smoky campfires. In a crowded airplane. In my parents’ front yard. In the kidney-shaped swimming pool of a Las Vegas hotel that looked like a castle. On a long car ride that smelled like ski boots. Really everywhere, everywhere but mountaintops.

As I’ve started to notice this severe lack of enlightenment when standing on relatively higher bits of the earth, I’ve realized that it’s just another brand of shortsighted discontentment.

Everybody knows the kid that just wants to be a celebrity. They don’t want to do interesting things, they just want everyone to be interested in them. It’s that subtle distinction between “be” and “do.”

Much smarter people than I have pointed this out before, do you want to be a photographer, or do you actually want to take pictures? Do you want to be Michael Jordan, or do you want to play basketball? Do you want to be in heaven, or do you want to glorify and enjoy God? Do you want to be on top of mountains, or do you want to climb them?

A wise man once told me that everyone wants to save the world, but nobody wants to do the dishes.


I’d tweak that a bit, I think everyone wants to have saved the world, but nobody wants to actually do it. Because sometimes saving the world involves doing the dishes. And it’s easier to just let them soak while you admire how good that cape looks in the mirror.

So stop telling everyone what you’re going to be, and instead figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. And then go do it. Because yes, standing on top of things is fun, but putting in the time, doing the dishes is what actually changes you.