The Great Wall of China, the largest man made structure in the world which extends thousands of miles up mountains, through valleys and winds through desert. Built starting the 4th century BC to keep Mongol and Manchurian hordes out of Beijing, it took over two centuries to complete.
It is the only man made structure on earth visible with the naked eye from space. Man’s creations rarely impress me, but this one did. With a span of maybe twenty feet across and 40 feet high, it befuddled my imagination that people so long ago were able to create such a structure. The answer as to how, as often is the case in ancient times- slave labor. (Nike and Walmart are quite the history students)
But back to building the wall. Material other than stone and brick were often used to fill the wall by workers who wished they would just finish the damn thing so they could go home. Take two slaves, Larry and David. David nudges Larry and finds him unresponsive.
David: “Larry died!”
David then proceeds to encase Larry’s body in stone, and then hears a pounding from within.
Larry: “I was asleep you idiot!”
David: (pretending not to hear) “He will be missed.”
And Davey walks away from his best friend, leaving him in his stone encased tomb. Why? Cause it brought it him one ten-billionth of the way closer to finishing. And when he’s finished, Davey can finally go home.
Larry: “You idiot! You schmuck!”
|The heroes Sir Andrew Stern and Rich Birecki begin their ascent of the Great Wall|
The Great Wall runs up a steep hill, crowded with people beginning the climb. Each step is difficult, as stairs range in height from three inches to a foot and a half, and takes great concentration and focus to reach the next military turret on the wall.
As we continue upwards, the crowd thin. After 2,000 steps we reach the second to last turret. Drew suggested we return, as we had already used up most of our prescribed time.
“Chairman Mao said you are not great hero, until you climb the Great Wall!” (a true quote) I stoically replied. Thus, we began our final assault on the peak. The lack of oxygen makes every step painful, as though a knife were to have been plunged within our lungs. Our path is littered with the frozen bodies of climbers, who didn’t quite make it--- wait a second, that’s my climb of Mount Everest. The bodies here were not frozen.
But, indeed, we made it to the empty top, where only the hardiest 1% of all tourists manage to climb. (persistence, as in life, separates the wheat from the chaff)
The landscape- inspiring; the Great Wall twisting its way through the valley, as we rest contentedly, knowing that the only thing currently stopping the Mongolian hordes from storming China's new two true heroes standing upon the Wall’s peak.
|A view of the Great Wall from the it's peak|