I set off for the second morning working with the kids gazing at the mountains, as I effing, effing love to do every day.
That day, like almost every day in the 5-million-human-dense industrial capital of Mexico, a haze of pollution clouded the steep slopes on all sides. Their heart-machine-pulse shapes, occasionally brilliant clear and peacefully pristine between the advent of a rainfall, were just phantoms of themselves, shadows made by 3am quarry explosions and poor traffic flow, both dumping a veil of lime dust and Co2 in the valley. But somehow, I still couldn’t stop gazing at those mountains.
Sparkling clear with the air of plant farts, the mountains offer cost-free therapy, endless self-reflection and golden-ratio type inspiration for the masses milling below them, and sucking wind on them: mountains make us feel small; they are immovable, timeless, all-generational landmarks orientation in our lives; they remind us to stop pussy-footing and start Sisyphus-ing; and are the only thing aside from a beautiful human figure or a vast, lapping tide-oscillating ocean that can fill a thousand-mile stare. A mountain’s endless lines of detail and four-dimension shape – which I can attest for since to me a mountain never looks the same when I see it, especially if my tiny, relatively frail human matter is on top of it (or if I go through Google images) – captures the eye and engages the human yen of incurable curiosity.
When that veil is dropped by the mines and mufflers obscuring that vision, millions citizens, and the day’s IG sunrises, are robbed of something.
The heat of a Mexican summer, bustle of industry, and a big city and bright lights makes far and distant that feeling of coziness given to pea-soup foggy days.
Instead, a resident working inside their office and looking for an answer to a fax malfunction, sales call, or life, might glance out to see the mountains shrouded from view and feel trapped inside Plato’s cave. In this case, the most elite might be content with a view of the traffic below or of clean interior white walls, and just quietly losing it while they finished pending items and faxed forms. Those walls were probably plastered and built with the same materials contracted to put finishing touches on the local mental institution’s newest ward, which has a great view of the forest behind it the board had insisted it was valuable for the mind. At any rate, an under-paid construction worker who lives in extreme poverty – his family put up in a roofless breeze-block box with a dirt ground – would also probably look up at the skyline hoping for a break from his thoughts about the lack of safety equipment required on site, and his wife’s new baby. With only the ghost of a mountain to entertain his rooftop work, he would not feel any better for stopping.
Yeah, I mean… We’re not all suddenly jubilant when small palm trees and neon strip club signs become visible from across the valley. It sure gives you something to look at, though, right? Maybe that palm tree will make us think of Hawaii, and a happy place not in an office or sun-scorched roof-top.
My point is, both demographic extremes in the largest wealth gap in Latin America spend time in Plato’s cave, and with just a small opening: a screen that can be as small as a flounder or as big as a Maui Maui. That window has the incredible capability to feed the hungry mind with any information at all, but mostly is feeds us the past and only offers glances at the present, small moments of our friends’ lives on Facebook, and some perhaps disorienting marketing messages.
Mountains are pretty sweet advertisements, though.
Case in point, the mountains are the reflections of ourselves, and when we are trapped in our own minds with blurry outlines, the image is only a upside-down flipped silhouette – the sky has fallen, and the peaks deceivingly far above and out of reach like the surface of a world apart hanging suspended above us.
On the importance of gazing at mountain ranges, we can do what we can. E.g., IG: Instagram is full of mountains towering above gorgeous lakes, and if you follow Ozturk, NatGeo and sherpa cinema like I do, these are great substitutes for the real world in those moments you can’t be in the woods or on the trail, like when you sit on the ceramic bowl at work and it may be shocking to other humans if you choose to poop outdoors with a view, say, off the roof, or in the yard.
The way I can explain the importance of gazing at mountains is a part of Vonnegut’s book Slaughter-house Five, which came to mind every time I drove to Boulder for work in 2012. The best part of my day was seeing the sun set on the expansive Rockies range, and I felt small, grateful for the outdoors, and empowered to take shit from non-one: like an Tralmafadorian, two-feet-high, green, and shaped like a plumber’s friend.
“The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.”