Find something you would die for, then live for it

A woman on a hike. (Courtesy/iStock)

To be passionate about something is to have an extreme interest in, or wish for doing something, usually a hobby. The thing about passion is it often does not make sense to people who have no such devotion especially because the passion looks like suicide mission.

Think of deep sea divers, or sky divers. Because the above activities are hard to relate to for Kenyans, think of something close to home – mountaineering. I will get back to that in a bit.

In June 2023, a group of wealthy people died when the vessel they used to look for the ill-fated Titanic, malfunctioned. We did not understand what could make any human being take on such a mission.

We called them mad and stupid, and we were not far off because passionate people appear mad and stupid. We judged them, we made un-informed comments, and there was a general feeling of ‘good riddance; what were they thinking?’ We moved on, thinking a lesson to never do that again had been learned, but a year on, two people curious enough to try it are going to do it. It is the same week that Kenya has lost an amazingly passionate adventurer, Cheruiyot Kirui, to the high heights of the world.

His long term dream was not just to climb Mt Everest, but to scale it without oxygen, which again, to an outsider, sounds like an extremely crazy thing. But here is the thing – the world is propelled by overzealous crazies. If there were no crazy people, there would be no electricity, Internet or automobiles.

Back to Cheruiyot, who only had 48 meters to get to the top before his body gave up, it has been an interesting week of commentaries.

He has been called crazy, a fool, suicidal and even selfish. Perhaps he is selfish, because for one to even consider such a fete, they would have to detach themselves. They would have to play deaf to what loved ones think of their crazy mission and I can bet you nearly 99 per cent were against it.

Being a mountaineer myself, I understand Cheruiyot. I may not have enough guts to want to attempt to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, but I have enough guts to want to attempt Everest. I know what my loved ones think, yet that does not cool off the desire. You would think that, because Cheruiyot’s story ended in tragedy, nobody would attempt, but only a couple of days after his death, somebody summited without oxygen.

A couple of local mountaineers have since expressed interest in attempting the same. Passions drive people mad, or perhaps, only the ad can have passion. Cheruiyot died seeking his thrill.

He, like all thrill seekers, knew all the risks he was taking, all the possibilities, including his own demise. But when you are passionate, you are fearless, and you feel invincible, indestructible, and it is the only way to feel if you are going to attempt doing great things. Nobody however, expects that they would be the unlucky card, but such is life.

Cheruiyot joins hundreds of other bodies frozen in time on the mountain. His family has already made a decision not to retrieve his body, he becomes part of the Everest landscape, his body forever used to mark the Everest path. Those bodies have been there for years, and they have not been anywhere close to being deterrents because passion, apart from being deaf to naysayers, is also blind to evidence of danger.

Passion is focused. It is beautiful. It is dangerous. It changes the world. Cheruiyot’s death has certainly changed Kenya, because it has sparked a conversation on mountaineering. It has made people curious.

The same passion streamlines mistakes made by predecessors. Passion is the reason people are going back under the deep sea to look for the Titanic, because those going back believe they have rectified what went wrong the first time. Find something you would die for, then live for it, but sometimes you die from it, then again, we all eventually die. That is the principle of passion.


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