Jon Krakauer's life's pursuit was to successfully scale Mt. Everest. In May of 1996, he did just that. Disaster struck during the descent, and twelve of his team members were killed. For that his expedition became famous (or, infamous, as it were). The actual ascent became lost in tragedy. Nevertheless, he recalls it in the first pages of his bestselling book, INTO THIN AIR:
Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet. I understood on some dim, detached level that the sweep of earth beneath my feet was a spectacular sight. I'd been fantasizing about this moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. But now that I was finally here, actually standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn't summon the energy to care. … I snapped four quick photos … then turned and headed down. My watch read 1:17 P.M. All told, I'd spent less than five minutes on the roof of the world.
Few of us will spend even five minutes on top of the world. But should we be so fortunate, we have no reason to believe that our experience will be any more fulfilling than Joh Krakauer's. That's because the meaning and significance we long for can't be found atop Mt. Everest, or in any other experience. It is only offered to us in the person of God Himself.
No matter how grand our goals or how spectacular our accomplishments or how hard we work to achieve them, they will fail to fulfill us in the way we hope. These are but vain idols, they will leave us, like Mr. Krakauer, standing there staring "absently at the vastness" below us.
"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Matthew 16:26).