On Providence

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

William Hutchison Murray was a mountaineer, a writer and a soldier captured during World War Two. The quote above originally appeared in his first book, Mountaineering in Scotland, which he wrote—while still a world war two prisoner—on the only paper available. That paper was toilet paper. That fact alone shows that WH Murray was himself a person of commitment and resolve.

As for the quote itself, well, I simply love it. From the first time I read it, over twenty-five years ago, in a book called Being Happy, it has stayed with me, resonating as strongly today as it did then.

There is power in those words. There is truth too.

The passage, which describes a climbing expedition WH Murray had planned, actually starts as follows:

…but when I said that nothing had been done, I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness…

And so, what Murray ostensibly describes is the power of a first step. Dreaming of something? Desire something? Something big, something scary, something seemingly insurmountable? Then just like WH Murray, who took a first step toward a climbing expedition, we must all, in our own way, take own own first step.  And soon, just as Murray suggests, Providence will awaken. Then, before long, we too will be standing atop our own, heretofore, unimaginable mountain.

And hey, whatever personal mountain it is you’re planning to climb, please make sure it’s a big one.