A brief note on the nature of religious experience aloft
by Dr.G.W. McSharkie
As every walker or climber knows, the oldfashioned Romantic hill-authors liked nothing better than regarding the peaks and ridges as Thronerooms of the Gods, home to Mysterious Spirits and unseen, other-worldly Denizens. Similarly, a modern-day collector and collator of Munros whose writings are to be found elsewhere within these pages, is partial to slipping in the odd evangelical exhortation here and there. But Dr G.W. McSharkie? Our very own sampler of all things secular? Has the doctor found religion? Heavens above! A miracle indeed!
Ben Lui is a remarkable hill. Not least because of its singularity, not least because of its extreme beauty under snow. It is a hill I have a particular affinity for. It is on Ben Lui that a great adventure befell me.
Consider this: a perfect winter's day, the air so crisp, so clear it was like another place and another time. The blueness of the sky a jolt and a shock and a reason to be glad. The snow shifting all into a newness and simplicity of form that was truly thrilling. The Sun shone and Life was a Good Thing.
As you may have surmised from the embarrassingly purple prose, I was an acolyte on the hill. My companion was an experienced mountaineer, and this in itself allowed pleasure to predominate over the anxiety of moving into the relative unknowns of snow and altitude. The other luxurious difference to the day was the provision of transport by McFaddyen's beloved, who generously donated her motor car. I was a pig in pigshit heaven.
You know that delicious adrenalin surge that on a good day starts as you pull on the trusty boots and faff about savouring and anticipating the journey ahead? At this point there was no especial contact with Deity, although a degree of Animism may have suffused my generalised and privately uttered Thank You. And what of religion? I'd better declare my usual faith: none.
Although nothing is that straightforward. For instance, I have certainly been God on a couple of occasions thanks largely due to the folk who made the Operation Julie wonderstuff (the poor sods really got thrashed for their trouble). Ah, I hear you say, blasphemy or psychosis, the doctor's sick. Uch, not really - and any shred, shard or speck of delusion was to be well dispelled by the day's events.
McFaddyen had a good laugh at the way I'd attached the borrowed ice-axe to my rucksack, and then we were off. The car was parked In Glen Lochy and we made our way onto the hill by initially tracking the Eas Daimh through the (not sufficiently) blasted forestry until open slopes greeted us.
Well, from then on all I recall was the sensual pleasure of movement. The snow was of perfect stepkicking consistency, the Sun continued to shine, and I felt like a cross between Indiana Jones and Sherpa Tenzing. As we neared the top and the slope became more pronounced, so too did McFaddyen's roleplay of wise old crag rat. We adopted a stern fifty-steps-and-rest routine which, I suppose, prevented us getting the bends or scurvy or the flu. Anyway, this was all absolutely fantastic and I was a very happy chap.
Without any warning whatsoever, God arrived on the hill.
This in itself may not immediately indicate the life-threatening ramifications that instantly came to pass. Suffice to say we are talking Old Testament. No cheery hyper Santa on this hill. The Mighty Yahweh first smote then He smit then He smat the mountain, and Yea, Verily did He not then repeat of the smoting, smiting and smating thrice times thrice. (And just in case anyone is getting the wrong idea, that was just fine by me.) However, I feel that for those less fortunate than myself and McFaddyen, some detail might at least give a humble simulation of our uplifting experience. If nothing else, the following may help YOU spot a religious experience aloft:
- Yahweh has a very very loud voice. It is beyond me to know what he was saying.
- He was accompanied by a mighty Host who did pluck and rend both us and all about us.
- We crawled on our bellies and clutched at the ground.
- As He drew breath to shout In His own exultation, the very air in our lungs was sucked forth leaving only dizziness.
- The half-seen presence stung and lashed our eyes until they swole to close out that which is not for human sight.
- Azrael considered us.
We made our way quickly (fell) down the hill. About a thousand feet below we careered out of the God Zone considerably the worse for wear, but, I'm sure, much better people. McFaddyen had a pair of Dachstein mitts and in the palm of one was a hole 10mm across. I looked as if I'd done a couple of rounds with an able and willing pugilist.
Both of us had clothing ripped by our intimate and highly frictional progress across terra firma. We estimated our acquaintance with Divinity to have lasted no more than ten minutes, although, to be honest, we both admitted to entering a strangely timeless state.
A final query: is auto-eroticism when you kiss a car?
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