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Topic: Mountains (09/20/04)
TITLE: Of Mountains and Molehills
By S M
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At first, I simply disagreed with their assessment. My “mountains” were “mountains,” imposing and heart-stopping. But I couldn’t help wondering if my parents were right. Maybe I was allowing “molehills” to stand in my way. I got into the habit of scrutinizing them from various angles, sidling up from behind, taking a mental pickaxe and testing for substance and depth. Sometimes, to my amazement, I found the “mountain” crumbled away into a “molehill,” nothing more than a slight irritation. Occasionally, I uncovered Mount Everest.
Over time, I learned that mountains, while impressive, could still be conquered through persistence and patience. I learned that molehills often resolve themselves without much thought or attention. The trick lies in quickly distinguishing between the two from the beginning. Too often, I have reached the summit only to find I had climbed a molehill.
Now I wonder if it isn’t simply a matter of perspective. Up too close, a molehill appears to be a rather big obstacle; from a distance, mountains are tiny, almost insignificant. Stepping back or zooming in can bring it into sharp focus or distort it out of proportion. The view from the base of a molehill is much the same view as from its top; but a mountain’s top affords a far different perspective than that of its base. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get an eagle’s eye view while I’m still struggling in the foothills?
Different perspectives can reveal different approaches. A straight-up, head-on approach may be the quickest way over a molehill, but it makes for tough going on the slope of a mountain. Angling around a molehill too quickly brings me full circle before I know it, while a gradual circling up a mountain may be the surest way around and over. Then, too, sometimes, the loose dirt of an unrecognized molehill is more treacherous than the rocky slopes of a mountain.
Is this a mountain or a molehill? I try to remember to ask myself this question straight away. I find I have to ask other, probing questions to arrive at an answer, such as: Is it hindering my progress? Have I truly examined all available routes? Should I even be going in this direction? And if not, why am I still kicking at it, determined to barrel through? If it is, in fact, a mountain, how big is it? Do I have everything I need to surmount it? If not, what do I need and where do I get it? What’s the best angle of approach? What will I see when I get to the top? And why am I still standing here at the base unwilling to get started? If it’s a molehill, then I can’t help considering why I mistook it for a mountain in the first place. What was I afraid of?
Difficult as it is to determine my own molehills, it’s tempting to identify everyone else’s as such. From where I stand, nearly all their mountains appear as molehills to me. But I can never know if I’m standing too far away to see clearly, or if I’m standing too close to my own molehill to see anything else. I’m learning to suspend my judgment and check my tongue, while handing them a mental pickaxe to start them chipping away at it, probing for depth and substance.
Oddly enough, as the years have gone by, I find more molehills than mountains confronting me. Perhaps this is because I have achieved the perspective of wisdom. I’d like to think so. But I suspect this is not the case. More likely, I have merely succeeded in perfecting the ability to make molehills out of mountains—another problem altogether.