Ben Saunders: Why bother leaving the house?

Speaker

Ben Saunders is a pioneering polar explorer and a record-breaking long-distance skier, covering more than 6,000km (3,730 miles) on foot in the polar regions since 2001.

Summary

Ben was posed the question: with constant information supply nowadays – why bother leaving the house? He uses a quote from George Mallory – possibly the first man to reach the top of Everest (he died near the summit, with conflicting evidence about whether he had reached it or not).

“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”

Ben relates his own experience on a solo arctic expedition, disagreeing with Mallory’s quest for “joy”, and instead saying he felt only terror before his own journey. However, in his 10 weeks he saw a shifting and unique arctic landscape that noone will see again. He cannot explain it to us, we’d need to be there ourselves.

He also talks about another Mallory quote – about being driven by the challenge of climbing the mountain. Ben feels this – he is drawn to complete Scott’s walking journey to the South Pole and back to the Antarctic coast- a feat that has never been completed on foot. He will be blogging an reporting on the journey every step of the way- so people will be able to experience the journey to some extent through his eyes.

However, true inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and challenge – by stepping away from what is comfortable and familiar and into the unknown. We could all benefit from stepping out of the house if only we could find the courage.

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