Climbers and Astronauts
One finds both climbers and astronauts also often have medical expertise. Rather than being doctors, members of both groups have learned as they go. They find themselves mentally in tune with their bodies, closely aware of their physiology, and thus end up learning about their own biology.
Upon flying in space, astronauts become international ambassadors of the future, international representatives of all mankind. They too travel worldwide -- and further -- quickly learning new languages, inspiring minds of any culture, forging bonds when politics are building walls. They all become geographers; they live in international space stations; and they spread knowledge and goodwill.
Astronauts start with or soon acquire as broad a technical background as possible. They too have raw physical wonders and calculations thrust irresistably on their senses and in their minds by the stunning facts of nature and by the sheer boldness of what they attempt. They are experts in space science, experimentors in microgravity, and, often, they were first trained as physicists.
Climbers thrive on controlled emergencies. Their skill is in making rational decisions in the face of extreme conditions, challenges, and handicaps. Like astronauts, they live closely with others' personal habits. Their tolerance, diverse experience, and happiness make them friendly with anyone honest. They are at peace with the world.
Maybe more than any other two populations, climbers and astronauts know how to work to maximum efficiency in small groups. They are leaders.
Climbers are one with their equipment. They are inseparable from their ice axes; their climbing shoes are extensions of their bodies. Similarly, every second of an astronaut's survival depends on the correct functioning of the most advanced integrated technologies of humankind. They practice and repractice every detail of the use of each of their tools. Travel and survival are impossible without these extensions of their selves.
For food, climbers and astronauts reconstitute dehydrated meals.
Astronauts too bring back a new awareness. They experience life intensely in a tiny ecosystem. Despite all their anticipation, each one is still changed, almost suddenly, by the sight of a fragile Earth from above its atmosphere. Like climbers, they are endlessly fascinated by the beauty of their Earth and, viewing it from a great height, can almost see Everything At Once.
I first read the following on the web page of an accomplished climber, Tuan. I next heard it when Jeff Hoffman, one of many (physicist) climber-astronauts, read it aloud -- just as he did to the rest of the crew on STS75 just before deorbiting. This probably inspired me to write.
You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place?
Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.
-- Rene Daumal