There Are Dreams and Then There Are Dreams

I pass by this plaque every time I visit the post office in Kent, Washington.

Plaque

I have very mixed emotions about it.

Of course I’m happy that coworkers cared enough about Douglas J Hansen to memorialize him after his death. I do like the quote, “Don’t ever give up on your dreams.” But the older I get, the more I realize that there are dreams, and then there are dreams.

Doug Hansen was 46 years old when he died. No one should die at 46. My life was only just beginning at that age, and I’ve had so many amazing experiences since then. Life is priceless.

He died after having climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. That’s a formidable achievement, especially when you consider the fact that it was his second attempt. He died on the way back down the mountain.

Normally I’d say good for him. He had a dream. He went for it. And he reached his goal before he died.

But the story is a little more complicated than that. According to Wikipedia, a storm was headed toward the mountain, and everyone knew it. They just didn’t realize how severe it would be. As it increased in intensity, one of the most experienced Sherpas on the mountain that day encountered Hansen and ordered him to descend. Hansen shook his head and continued upward.

He took too long. By the time he reached the summit and started his descent, in a raging storm with depleted oxygen reserves, it was too late. He paid for it with his life. A total of 8 people died on that mountain that day. Ignore experts at your peril.

I understand why Hansen would be reluctant to give up. After all, it was his dream, and he’d already failed once. Also, climbing Mt. Everest isn’t cheap. On average, it costs $70,000 to $100,000. It must be frustrating to shell out that kind of money twice only to fail twice. Obviously, he was very determined.

But was it worth his life, or that of the guide who stayed with him? I’m thinking no. I say, live to dream another day.

Do I think we should all huddle on our couches, afraid to take risks, devoid of aspiration? No. But you should do a thorough cost/benefit analysis before putting your life on the line. I think it’s foolhardy to give up everything, absolutely everything, especially when you have no idea what your future holds.

Life is full of possibilities. But instead of exploring those possibilities, Doug Hansen’s body has never been found. It’s frozen stiff somewhere on Mt. Everest, and there’s nothing but a tombstone for him in the same graveyard in Renton, Washington where Jimi Hendrix is buried, and a memorial plaque outside a post office in Kent. That seems like a poor trade off to me.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “There Are Dreams and Then There Are Dreams

  1. Angiportus Librarysaver

    I pretty much agree. They say the reason mountaineers are roped together is to keep the smart ones from going home. My own much more modest ventures in that area revealed that the views from the 360-degree point really are worth it, but I was not putting mine or anyone’s life in danger. I’d not do that until/unless I really was thru with all my other living and ready to go–by which point I most likely couldn’t even make it up there with a jetpack, anyway…
    Just saw something about how glacial melting is going to reveal a lot of bodies up there…that and all the garbage and other waste matter left behind by people who just have to bag the big one. A revision of practices seems indicated.
    Don’t worry, I won’t climb on any of your bridges!

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