We live in a world of wonders. Every day, every moment, we walk disinterestedly amidst miracles that would leave our ancestors slack-jawed and profoundly aware of their own smallness. Towering buildings of steel and glass, super-computers in pockets, an entire world mapped, diagrammed, and drained of adventure. These are the trappings of our average Tuesday.

But time does not stand still. The present is a blip and all its marvels are soon replaced by feats that even we, the brilliant, jaded, altogether average people of our age and era, could never begin to believe. Today’s triumph might be yesterday’s science fiction, but it’s also tomorrow’s sixth-grade science project. Progress is eternal. We are not.

To counteract our misplaced ennui, we must actively strive to separate ourselves from the apparent drudgery of daily life. Take a step back, tilt our faces upwards, and behold the sheer achievement of our forefathers and contemporaries alike. We must inhabit the spirit of society’s doers and recognize the ferocity of determination, depth of ingenuity, and purity of desire that was necessary to conquer their respective challenges.

Hudson Stuck and the Ascent of Denali

Take, for instance, the tale of Hudson Stuck and his motley crew of mountaineers. An Alaskan missionary with a taste for adventure, Stuck led the first successful ascent of Mt. McKinley on June 7th, 1913 (a mere 99 years ago). This was a journey fraught with peril and hardships unimaginable to our delicate modern sensibilities. Swirling, frost-tinged winds buffeted their progress at every step and their equipment, while state-of-the-art in 1913, was a far cry from the Gore-Tex parkas that swaddle modern climbers. But the spirit of man is indomitable. This band of hearty souls soldiered on and made their mark in history by reaching the summit of North America’s tallest point. They conquered the seemingly unconquerable and proved once again that something is only impossible until it isn’t anymore.

The steep slope of technological progress and rapid pace of change are miracles unto themselves and should be treated as such. Someday we’ll be riding our hoverboards to the Starbucks at the top of Mt. McKinley. That isn’t meant as an indictment or an endorsement. It’s just something that’s probably true. But that doesn’t excuse us from taking a moment to think back on the victories that seem less impressive with age.

Braving the great unknown just because it’s there to be braved, and in the process, recalibrating the idea of human possibility? Now THAT’S a reason to drink!

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Mt. McKinley |
Hudson Stuck