because it’s there?

I’m trying to resist the temptation to blog every second page of The Philosopher’s Dog (truly!). But I just have to share this:

Many mountaineers speak of their relation to the mountains in words normally used in speaking of relations to persons — they speak of respect for the mountain, of gratitude that though they were reckless in their climbing, the mountain had let them off lightly. Sometimes they speak obsessively of it as a foe to be vanquished. But of course no mountaineer believes that mountains are persons. Mountaineers speak in metaphors that enable them, sometimes in powerful ways, to express the fact that their will is limited by necessities that are nothing like the rules of a game and seem like nothing that a group could impose, and that they are driven by necessities whose nature is to be explained by things external to themselves. (pp 151-152)

This account of the givenness of mountains riffs on the familiar theme of the compulsion many climbers experience — ‘because it’s there’.

It made me think of Rowan William’s musings on art and love in Grace and Necessity. Williams insists that everything can exert the pressure of such necessity and givenness upon us. Even when we are creating, the products of our imagination are not simply obedient clay; they also possess a kind of necessity to which we must answer.

Williams suggests that the world exerts such pressure because it’s a gift not a given. It’s something to which we’re entitled. Or that we can expect to yield itself automatically to our mastery.

I think this emphasis on the gift-character of the world does a better job explaining the sorts of necessities we encounter as we move about in it: the many ways it goes beyond us, constrains our wills, denies us mastery and contests our sense of entitlement…

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