I am actually Re-listening to Zen and the Art of Motorcyle maitainence on tape. There are a few concepts I feel I missed or did not appreciate fully in their place in the philosophical puzzle....and also I had a few long lonely drives lately, so I am listening to the book a second time.
One thing the book mentions is how people who climb mountains, even a figurative moutain, for reasons of ego inevitably fail. People who attempt some challenge to make themselves seem "big" or to massage their ego, inevitably spend most of their time defending their image rather than taking the necessary steps to complete the goal.
I would like to think that when I applied to law school, it was not purely a matter of ego- that I did of some humble notions and that I did want to challenge myself academically. I recall telling Russell on a cell phone call one day on my lunch break outside of GE in Enfield, my first job out of college, "I feel like this might be my last shot at academia, so I better make good use of it." But I am also man enough to admit there was some ego involved in my undertaking of a legal education. It is amusing to me now because in the climb over the metaphorical mountain of getting through school I have had to leave the baggage of ego about school behind. It was heavy baggage that served little purpose that was sapping my strength and causing my back to ache and my body to sweat when I needed my strength just to get to through the next day without giving up-- I had to leave those things by the wayside and realize I would not be coming back for them either, they were not worth it. I am not the only person like this either, if you could see this metaphorical trail you would see a lot of abandoned ego by the side of the trail.
At this point I have finally isolated something, which is the emotion that at one time could honestly be categorized as loathing or maybe a mild form of irritation at the many people my age who seem to prefer to remain stagnant rather than look for a challenge- not because of contentment, which I have no qualms with, but rather because their ego causing them to be so cautious about avoiding a potential failure, that they hardly move at all. What I realized was that these people were still attempting to hike over the mountain with a massive amount of baggage. Perhaps I underestimate them- perhaps I am weaker than they are and they are perfectly capable of carrying all this baggage- I just do not understand their methods. However, I expect that as weak as I may be, they are not too much stronger than I am. As I turn around and look back down the mountain at them so far back in the distance I want to scream back at them, "Leave that stuff behind- you will not be needing it!" but I get the sense they do not believe me or think that I am lazy.
There are still others I see on parallel peaks. We have all done things in a different manner. I took my own path, which others travel close by, but we are somewhat off the beaten one. The main thing I have learned is to travel light, to take it slow, and that it is much less grueling when you are not traveling alone.