If one does not climb tall mountains, one cannot view the plains. - Chinese proverb
When you encounter people who obsess about minutiae such as calculating the proportions of Barbie dolls, or who claim to have been mortally injured by dumb jokes, do you find yourself thinking that they must not have any real problems in their lives? I know I do, and in fact I have a name for the phenomenon: Driskill Mountain syndrome. What’s that, you say? You’ve never heard of Driskill Mountain? This fabled peak is the loftiest prominence in my home state; here’s a photo of its Himalayan majesty:
Driskill Mountain soars above the surrounding countryside by 69 meters (225’); its apex is thus a dizzying 163 meters (535’) above sea level. Oh, you may laugh, but in Louisiana that’s the closest thing we have to a mountain (and nomenclature notwithstanding, it would be called a hill anywhere else). See, Louisiana is just about the flattest state in the union (by some measures it loses to Florida), so a person who had lived his entire life there might indeed be impressed with poor Mt. Driskill’s rather anemic eminence…though virtually nobody else would, and in many places a point of that altitude would constitute a valley, or even a pit.
Every person’s life is different from everyone else’s; some lives are smooth and flat, while others are as full of ups and downs as a young mountain range. I once knew a girl whose great trauma, the most horrible thing that had ever happened to her (by her reckoning), was that when she was about 12 one of her adult neighbors made a sort of pass at her. He didn’t touch her, and she realized it wasn’t right and never let herself be alone with him again. But the rest of her life was so wholly flat and uneventful that this non-event stuck out in sharp relief. On the other hand, my second roommate at UNO was molested by her own father for over three years, and another friend lost her virginity to a rapist at gunpoint. I never ridiculed the first girl nor belittled her experience, despite the fact that even my lesser traumas were several orders of magnitude worse; in her Louisianaesque life, Mt. Driskill was as high as it got.
If everyone blessed with a flat life were also blessed with a sense of perspective, there would be no problem; such people could look upon those with rougher lots and say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Alas, this isn’t usually what happens; instead, they angrily insist that Driskill is indeed a mountain in the literal sense, and that those who tell them of Everest, Denali and Kilimanjaro are either lying or exaggerating. They insist on recognition of its place among the giants, and demand sympathy for the colossal impediment it represents in the landscape of their lives. We might even be able to humor them on this account, except for one thing: those who actually abide in mountainous regions tend to say little about it, with the result that one who didn’t know better might believe that Driskill was indeed taller than Aconcagua, and conclude that mountaineers and equipment were more vitally needed in Louisiana than in the Andes.
One Year Ago Today
“The Versatile Blogger Award” is a device by which bloggers draw attention to each other, and an opportunity for me to tell you seven things about myself you may not have known.