Monday, June 18, 2007

Ends v Means

“The only reason to go on vacation is to see all that stuff in the middle”
-Overheard on an NPR interview with the author of the Lonely Planet travel guides-

About every other year we take a two week long road trip as a family. In 2003 we drove out to Oregon for a family reunion. Along the way we went to several great sites in the middle of the country. On the way out went to Nauvoo IL, Badlands SD, Devils Tower WY, Yellowstone and several other neat places. Then on the way back we visited some family in Utah and then went by Bryce Canyon and The Grand Canyon. In 2005 we took the southern route and went to Carlsbad Caverns NM, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and Mesa Verde. This year our plan is to hit an area that we haven’t been and head up to New
York and Canada, again with several neat places along the way.
Our original goal in breaking up the trip and doing so many things en route is was to make sure that the kids would be okay for the extended traveling. It turns out that they are all very good on road trips.
It seems that in both of these trips the final destination is somewhat overwhelmed by the stuff we did along the way. I could not help but to wax philosophical on this point. Never have I been the type to justify the means by the ends. In fact I believe that the two are just different parts of the same thing. Without the path that leads you there the destination has no meaning. It’s what we learn along the way that adds meaning to the destination. If we had chosen to simply fly to Oregon for our 2003 vacation what would we have learned? Well we potentially could have learned a little bit more about Oregon but at what cost? By doing it the way we did I believe that my children have a much better love and appreciation for this wonderful land.
I recently read in a climbing magazine about a new remote controlled helicopter that can safely hover at altitudes well above 30’000 feet. Technologically speaking a rescue is now plausible from the very summit of Mount Everest. Some are concerned that the helicopter will be used not as a rescuer but as a mountain tourist attraction. Those with the cash to pay for it could just have this chopper drop them on the summit for a few snapshots and them pick them back up. Theoretically they could even spend more time at the summit that true climbers since they had such a faster return to a safe altitude. I doubt that anyone would feel that these tourists would have the same type of experience on the summit as one who had climber under her own power. In comparison I sure don’t feel any sense of accomplishment after driving 26 miles. But ask a marathon runner about his experience along the same stretch of road.
When I see people hoping to win the lottery or in some other way try to cheat their way to success the first thought that comes to my mind is pity. What they didn’t have to work for very hard to earn the esteem even less. In a very real sense they have cheapened the final goal. It will mean less to them because of their means of achieving it. For me the final goal typically turns out to be rather immaterial in comparison to what it took to get there.
I have many personal, spiritual, and professional goals. Sure it would be nice to accomplish them all. But does it really matter? Not if it means that I have to take shortcuts along the way. If I can learn more and become a better person along the way them what is the real goal anyway? I have attempted to climb far more mountains and rock faces than I have actually succeeded in summiting. However I would not trade the lessons that I learned on those failed attempts for any collection of summit photographs cheapened by shortcutting the path to the top.


  1. This philosophy and way of life is part of the reason I have so much respect and love for you!

  2. Rodrigo7:10 AM

    Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.