Deepest, Tallest, Longest, Highest

What is this fascination that we have with record-breaking things? The tallest building. The deepest ocean, the longest bridge, the highest mountain. We often visit these things when we travel. It’s like we can then claim them. By being there, we win some sort of psychological prize.

When I see the pictures of the crowds of people trying to summit Mount Everest, they make me cringe. You’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to risk your life. You’ve given up weeks of time to acclimate to high altitudes. And there you are, scuttling amongst a bunch of other people in crowds that are better suited to Times Square during a New Year’s celebration. It defies logic.

We may think we are some higher form of animal, but what we seem to be doing is marking our territory like the average stray dog. I don’t really understand the instinct. It’s exceedingly strange.

But I can’t say I’m immune to it. I recently gazed upon the largest Ponderosa pine in the state of Oregon, and crossed over the longest continuous truss bridge in North America (the Astoria-Megler Bridge). While we didn’t go out of our way to cross this particular bridge (it was on our route), it was beautiful. We did go out of our way to see the tree, which was also pretty amazing. If I had seen a tree that was six inches shorter, though, I’m sure it would have been equally amazing.

You know what? I didn’t feel like a different person after either experience. Neither one was transformative.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from traveling. It’s my reason for being, so who am I to judge? But I think this instinct to see the biggest and the best often makes for a letdown.

This… thing that many of us seem to be searching for is elusive at best, and profoundly disappointing at worst. Nothing tops our imaginations.

Everest

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5 thoughts on “Deepest, Tallest, Longest, Highest

  1. Helen

    When I first saw this Everest photo, my jaw dropped. What are these people thinking, risking their lives to stand in line, freeze to death or experience any of a million hazards? And those sherpas who come up after them to remove trash and feces. YUK!! I’d never go near that mountain!

  2. Angiportus Librarysaver

    Ne meither. I think the reason people seek out superlatives is that they on some level think that the power of the distinguishing quality will somehow rub off/infuse into them and make them feel superlative in a way–if only by the mere reward of being able to brag about the thing they have seen. A lot of people don’t think real deep into stuff like this, and they just want to brag to their families, and it seems to me that if something is that important to you, you should really find out why it’s so dang important. Maybe you won’t feel like you have to climb that mountain but might instead support the cleanup effort, and so on.
    Our schools don’t, or didn’t, teach us to really dig down into essences like this, which I still can hardly describe. You get these people who camp out on the sidewalk because they want to be the 1st to get in to see some much-touted movie–but do they really know what “firsts” are about? Don’t get me started…However, I must say that when I saw the world’s tallest hawthorn, I was quite impressed.

  3. Angiportus Librarysaver

    Volunteer Park, that’s where it is, or was. On that road that runs N-S just downhill from the reservoir, I believe. Just keep your eyes open for a whopping big hawthorn and an even bigger one to the N. Wrong time of year for the fragrance though…

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