Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer.
My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Néel.

I’m not sure why, but over the last few weeks I rediscovered a passion for adventure literature. Re-reading Heinrich Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet” led me down the rabbit-hole towards lesser known, but no less epic, tales such as Alexandra David-Néel’s “Journey to Lhasa”. Right now, I’m halfway through “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage”, which details the horrors of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and just when their ship finally gets crushed and the crew is forced to flee into the freezing wilderness of Antarctica, the central heating in my house breaks down.

On a Friday afternoon. Amidst a pandemic.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

Turns out, perspective is a wonderful thing. Sure, a weekend in a cold building isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. But then, am I not tremendously lucky to have a house, a warm blanket, a set of dry clothes, at all? The Endurance-crew had nothing more than thin tents and drenched sleeping bags–completely useless against the wet cold of their camp on a floating sheet of ice. Alexandra David-Néel describes in the most grateful words how happy she was whenever she could spend a night in rock-cave, as opposed to out in the open, exposed to the harsh Tibetan winter. Harrer sings the praise of Tsampa and rancid Yak-butter–because that was his only source of nutrition for months.

Maybe we should also apply a healthy dose of perspective to our personal situation in this pandemic. Sure, it sucks that we can’t see each other as often as we’d like. That bars, restaurants, theaters, and concert halls have been closed for almost a year. That working from home is stressful, both physically and mentally. But while we’re lamenting those inconveniences, countless people are suffering from the deadly consequences of this disease. Many more have lost their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods, or their loved ones. The heroes of the day are at the brink of exhaustion trying to keep ICUs running, ambulances on the roads, and vaccines flowing. How small is the price that we–the privilliged few–have to pay compared to any of that when we’re asked to please spend a couple more weeks within our own four walls?

Now I’ll be crawling back under my soft, dry, warm woolen blanket to learn about the end of Shackleton’s icy tale. My own cold adventure will also sort itself out in a matter of days, I’m sure. The only puzzle is if the new heating unit can be installed in time before spring is about to diminish it’s importance anyway. Also a question of perspective.