It’s a long way from Pennsylvania to Mount Everest. I’m still on the road (a bit closer – now living in New Zealand) but don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It’s not unlike the journey from being born to understanding, or at least making peace with, the meaning of life.
I’m an American man married to a Kiwi woman, retired from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2013. My first novel was published a few months ago. It’s called Everest Rising, and the plot is relatively straightforward – the Earth is pregnant.
The idea came from a few different places. I am always searching for the new storyline– a tale that hasn’t been told and an engaging core around which to build a compelling narrative. I want my characters to grapple with both the commonness of existence and the wonder sneaking in around the edges. This wonder serves as a catalyst for transforming the human experience; a transformation revealed through the senses, understood by the mind, and confirmed by the heart.
The ‘pregnant Earth’ construct allowed space for various themes to intermingle and for passionate conflicts to play out. There’s conflict concerning the Earth: a living, possibly sentient entity about to safeguard its existence against humankind’s wayward stewardship. There’s conflict among the characters, many of them scientists who must decide how to deal with an unprecedented, physics-defying chain of events. At its center, the story is about acceptance. Accepting how little we know, and in that unknowing choosing how to use our energies and where to direct our focus. Where can one find answers – or some version of a contented frame of mind that reconciles what we guess is true with what we realize will always be mystery.
My aims in writing Everest Rising were simple. To entertain, to nourish hope, and to encourage the acceptance of the unknowable. I would also add I believe this ‘unknowable’ is a positive, never a threat. It speaks to and requires a great reaching, that pulls and propels our mind and spirit up and out, higher and wider, away from the self and the ego.
It was wonderful to explore the musings of so many characters, trying to depict a cross-section of world views and personal ‘what is the meaning of life’ explorations, along with attempting to describe the prescient transformation made possible when individuals are graced with profound realizations.
In doing so, I could explore my own experiences, consider others I’ve been privileged to hear or read about, and maybe lament the dead ends I have stumbled into.
The following is a short overview of the significant characters in my story and a look at the arcs they travel.
James Von Kamburg
A scientist who understands the world is being undone by humankind’s indifference, James is also a man confused by his own heart. He is adrift in his marriage because he doesn’t want to bring children into the painful future on the horizon, allowing the tenets of commitment to his wife to be blurred by the attentions of another woman. Yet, he has a core of integrity as a backstop, and an important opening in the lockbox of his memory that speaks to something beyond what science, and his own senses, know as physical law.
(In the story, James relates a memory from his young adulthood about a celestial event witnessed that itself defied physics. This memory is from my own life, and reminds me that wherever I manage to get to in my ‘knowing’, some things will remain unexplainable.)
Maggie Von Kamburg
James’ spouse is an artist, who entered the profession after an initial foray into science during her university years. She desires a family, environmental Armageddon notwithstanding. More than anyone else in the story, Maggie has known frightening and exhilarating exhortations urging her to embrace a different level of consciousness, and in the end, she succumbs to the risk. On the other side are things both wonderful and terrifying.
Griffon is the antagonist, a man of money and power, and spiritual unconsciousness. He would see the world bend under the rule of science, and yet there are hints he might stumble into a more compassionate space.
Finch, Griffon’s paramour, is a woman driven to find professional success. Yet, her emotions lead her into dangerous terroritories. She has flashes of insight revealing that much of what she does and thinks is not in her best interests, but cannot find a path that will save her.
A Sherpani physician, Maya embodies hope and tenacity. She is a forthright, steadfast helpmate to her community and her friends. At odds with the western-intoxicated influences of an Everest located luxury lodge and its owners, she is drawn into the escalating crisis, and called upon to navigate with both her sharp psychological instincts and formidable physical prowess the astounding events at hand.
A long-serving man of the Buddhist cloth, the Abbot finds the very basis of his spiritual and earthly existence under attack. His contract with a western firm means money for members of his order who live under oppressive rule, but the firm’s emerging defilement of the land faces him with a collision of doubt and faith. His world– the Earth, in upheaval– he must counsel from a place of great apprehension to help bring about a morally irreproachable, if uncertain, outcome.
These players are cast beside and against each other. The slow transforming of minds and mindsets bends the plot and drives the denouement. Mother Earth herself does not go without a voice.
To summarize, my novel is a stage where individuals must reconsider their hard-earned absolutes in the face of contradictory evidence. The unfolding events bring each character to a critical juncture that requires a new manner of thinking and, indeed, being.
Though the physical realm may bruise and bite, bringing even death, the greatest battles are fought in the mind and spirit, where compassion and grace and wonder stand their ground against selfishness and ego and absolutes. Everest Rising stages an animated tableau where this engagement is laid bare.
My life has known the strange trajectory that delivers one from existential conviction (via science and religion) to the place of uncertain yet greatly comforting hope and acceptance. I won’t ever know what I once thought I did, as far as where I arrived from and where I may end up. But I can accept and revel in the miracle of being at all, and warm to the nudges that our existence is blessed and ever-evolving.
My hope as the author is that readers will be philosophically moved by the revelations inside the hearts of the story’s players. And, maybe, recognize in their own lives the profound opportunities glimpsed when the soul, with its wider, searching consciousness, is given purchase on the multi-textured, wondrous pathway from Birth to the Beyond.
About the author
Matt Kambic is a writer and artist who hails originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Visit Matt’s website at mdkambic.com
To purchase a copy of Everest Rising, click here