Ascending the Heights

Posted on 06 December 2010

Historically, mankind has conceived of God or gods in a heavenly realm above the earth.  For this reason, in order to better communicate with God or ancient deities, men have ascended to high places.  As early as the fourth millennium B.C., the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia built temple towers called ziggurats. 

Raised temple areas were also part of Mayan, as well as Jewish and Christian cultures.  Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.  In the Gospels, Jesus is often portrayed as going up a mountain to pray.  Most churches have some form of steeple that towers above the rest of the structure.

Our fascination with ascending hills or mountains is not limited to communication with God, it is a metaphor for our attempts to advance, overcome obstacles, and improve ourselves.  In our lives, a hill or mountain can be a problem, a grievance, an illness, a fear, or a host of other things.

Oftentimes, we cannot seem to “climb this mountain” ourselves.  We need the help of another or others to provoke a realization, change our attitudes, guide our paths, cultivate our skills, or bolster our confidence.  And, absent such help, we may be doomed to failure.

Would Columbus have discovered the New World without the funding of the Spanish royal family?  Without the financial assistance of the great Italian statesman Lorenzo de’ Medici during the early career of Michelangelo, would the world have been robbed of the magnificence of his painting of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling?

Interestingly enough, the people who help often gain as much as the individual assisted.  For that reason, it is said that “When you help someone up a hill, you get that much closer to the top yourself.”

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