I am haunted by the stories of people who make the summit of Everest. Such incredible devotion is required, such total focus of body, soul, and spirit. Reaching the top of the world's tallest mountain becomes for those who try the central driving force of their lives. The goal is so remarkable and the journey so uncertain. Many climbers have been lost on the mountain. Those who reach the summit and return safely are among a rare and elite group of mountaineers in the world. Why do they do it? How do they do it?

John Krakauer recounted the desperate tale of the ill-fated '96 expedition in his book Into Thin Air: "There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act—a triumph of desire over sensibility." It is a feat begun in desire that can be accomplished only through desire. Krakauer explained how one of his climbing partners attained the summit: "Yasuko had been propelled up the mountain by the unwavering intensity of her desire."

Desire—it's the only way you will ever make it. Take marriage, for instance. Or singleness. Either makes for a far more difficult and arduous ascent than Everest, in large part because it does not seem so. The struggles are not heightened and focused into one month of do or die; rather, they stretch on across a lifetime. So it is with any act of faith or of hope—anything, in other words, that makes a life worth living. How can we possibly sustain such an intrinsically irrational act as love if we've killed our desire?

 
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