Going to the mountain

Three and a half years since I wrote here, in the hot Northland summer of 2015. Now I’m stockpiling stuff for the cold. For a winter playing lodge manager (‘hut mum’ if the age or behaviour of the ski-schoolers calls for it it) in the Southern Alps. I’ll go fortified by kindness and comfort from friends and acquaintances: slippers crocheted by dear hands; cosy ski pants and thermals given by a member of our local ‘Buy Nothing’ group; boots lent by a friend in whose footsteps I’m proud to walk; skis, boots, goggles (albeit outmoded) from my father-in-law who possibly hasn’t quite given up skiing at 95.

I don’t love the cold, but I’ll be well prepared for it, and it will be in keeping with the quality of the air at 1400 metres and the wrap-around snow-peak panorama. It takes an hour or more to walk from the car park to the hut where I’ll be living with 7 other staff members half my age. From the bullet points on the website, the skifield:

* is not for the masses, you won’t find the white Spyder pants type here.

* comprises big and raw alpine terrain, very different from other NZ ski fields. You can see glaciers from the lodge windows.

It’s ‘rad’ and friendly and besides my other duties, I’m the bar-person. Yikes. I’ll keep you posted.

I listened this morning as two women discussed the concepts of Hannah Arendt, who wrote, among other books, The Human Condition, and The Origins of Totalitarianism, and who coined ‘the banality of evil’. All of which are pressingly relevant in our century. I was freshly struck by the assessment that a person who flees their own country, and is thereby made stateless, loses also their human rights. Which is a hard condition to fathom. Basically, they’re no longer entitled to any of the things that make your life and mine worth living. To quote Arendt concerning the plight of the 20th century refugee stripped of their statehood: ‘The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human’. It seems we struggle to understand that unless we (the world) realise and honour the something sacred in every human (of whatever persuasion, origin or circumstance), our current experiment called human life on Earth will end in failure, soonish.

Conversely, when every person on the planet is granted the same rights as every other human, nothing will be impossible — except war, starvation and the exclusion of our human kin from the essentials (and the joys and comforts) of life.

Mundanely speaking, it seems worth considering how I unintentionally subtract from the humanity of those I’m in contact with: taking someone for granted; treating another in utilitarian fashion; failing to look and see, listen and hear; failing to think and imagine on behalf of another.

And it helps to realise that by remedying the failures listed above, I can add an iota to the sum of our humanity.

One response to “Going to the mountain”

  1. Dearest Pen, how wonderful to have you back, to discover you’re on the cusp of a Very Great Adventure in the Alps. Not a bit surprising to think you’re reading, and may continue to read, Hannah Arendt, surely needed now. You will take your generous, tender, exquisitely attentive self out into the wider world and wherever you go, you will leave traces of kindness and awareness, empathy, compassion and passion, brushing as you hike the native plants of the place, spreading that good contagious pollen when you pass. Safe journey.