There’s something about dragging yourself up a steep hill for several hours with 30 pounds on your back that clears your head and makes you require some distraction. This distraction comes from whatever random thoughts flood the mind as you drudge onward and upward. I don’t mean to make it sound like the shakedown hike was a terrible chore, it was quite the opposite, but I do want to make it clear that this hill was not what made it so. The challenge becomes organizing these thoughts into something meaningful, productive, or at least interesting, as each step on the switchbacks becomes nearly involuntary.
Not long after the beginning of the hill to Landour it was the steps that my thoughts were focused on. It is an odd feeling when each difficult step becomes nothing more than a result of the previous step, as if the feet would leave me behind if I needed to stop. Is it will, a greater intention, or will from that intention? Intention and will, not words I’d typically associate with myself, not words Gallup Strengthsfinder would likely associate with me, but somehow, they come up in a shakedown hike. Both those that know me personally and the Gallup test will acknowledge that I can appear to lack direction, and I would be hard-pressed to argue otherwise. Though, somehow this drive was there yesterday. Was it external direction from the rest of the group? Perhaps it comes from necessity? I find neither of these answers satisfying. It might be more accurate to describe this uphill stretch as a means to an end, but this requires further qualification, as nearly everything is a means to an end, so where was this drive at all other times? What I’ve come to think is that the uphill stretch is a means to an end with no further intended ends. The step after step clears the head, but there is no intended outcome from the clear head. Although it is this conclusion that is because of the clear head, there was no attempt made to make it here. It just came about from a clear head, so that drive looks for that freedom of thought or whatever it may be. In other words, I intend to wander.
Our guide, Shantanu, is an interesting example to follow, as he often asks for our own leadership. Of course, this is by the design of the course, but I imagine it would still be the case without the academic leadership component. There is something about leadership that is focused on the future, as it is not simply about completing a task, but also growing a team, and it is necessary for a leader to follow a member’s leadership for this growth. Shantanu often asks whether his teaching style or activities are being effective and prompts us to take some control of what’s going on. Originally these questions were meant with silence because it was so unusual to us, but the results in how quickly our team has been built cannot be argued against.