I like emotive music. Some would say it is depressing, but I appreciate it because it builds an atmosphere and stirs my imagination. In an interlude to the Mountain Leader posts, I want to explore something more reflective and poetical, emotions, feelings and thoughts which  have been prompted as I have come into contact with nature and the elements.
An atmosphere can be experienced both physically or emotionally, and it can be created. The word ‘atmosphere’ literally means ‘air sphere’ (from the Greek words ἀτμος and σφαιρα). The question is, then, in your particular spheres (work, family, leisure), do you choose to react to, or be governed by, atmospheres?

Last weekend I spent time at the local climbing wall. I felt the fear. “I can’t hold on.” Sweaty palms. “I don’t want to fall”. “What if I fall?” My muscles were quaking, but my mind was lucid. “Focus. You can do this.” The top was close and so too the prospect of fulfilment. So then, do you allow fear to conquer or force it to submit? When I next climb, fear will not be far away. However, the exhilaration of overcoming a challenge is powerful.

My body needed rest from its’ exertions. Forearms screamed, muscle fibres torn; I could barely write my own name with a pen, but the satisfaction was sweet. So too was the unconscious exodus into slumber, which inevitably drew the day to a close. Indeed, Sleep is described as a welcome victor of the vanquished in Macbeth:

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

I needed rest, yet I had no control over it. Submission is healthy according to circumstance, but in contrast to Macbeth, Sleep is also described as the destroyer of the gluttonous in Works and Days:

Dawn advances a man on his journey and advances him in his work,
Dawn which appears and sets many men on their road, and puts yokes on many oxen.

Beware that to which you submit. Anger is recorded clinically in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the active feeling provoked against the agent; passion, rage; wrath, ire, hot displeasure’. In its own way, anger sets an atmosphere too, and yet are you conquered or the conqueror? It is said:

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

Like sleep, I cannot survive without the planetary atmosphere. I must breathe. If I do not breathe, I die and become lifeless. To breathe is to be alive; to feel is to be alive. However, to be overcome by fear, sleep or anger is to die. To be a slave to a master, be it physical, mental or emotional, is to lose your freedom, unable to be true to yourself or live as you ought.
A mountain tests one’s fear and body’s mettle, but knowing when to submit is most vexing. Whatever atmosphere you set or encounter, learn when to be a master and when to be a slave.

2 Responses to Atmospheres

  1. Alistair says:

    superb little post. Look forward to lots more like it. Philosohpy + mountains is a rich vein to mine.

  2. Simon Cox says:

    Thanks, but I think it's premature and needs more work… Might remove it for a bit and give it some more thought.

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