The title of this book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder comes from the Haitian proverb, Beyond mountains there are mountains. What does the saying mean in the context of the culture it comes from?
"I'm glad we came, because now we know how grim it is and we can intervene aggressively." These are the words of Dr. Paul Farmer, a specialist in infectious disease, toward the end of Tracy Kidder's book about him, when the two visit a Haitian family whose father he has treated for tuberculosis. At the risk of oversimplifying a very complicated man who is leading an extraordinary life helping some of the world's most poverty stricken, suffering people, Farmer's approach toward this family, and thousands like them that he has worked with, is to first solve the symptom/cure the disease (TB) and then being working to correct the conditions that allowed the disease to attack. In short, the proverb could mean literally that there are always more mountains beyond the ones Farmer traipses every opportunity he can to make house calls; figuratively, Farmer is fighting a battle where, for every person or family he assists, there are hundreds, maybe thousands more requiring treatment. In the Greek mythological tradition, Sisyphus was punished by being forced to push a rock up a hill every day, let it roll to the bottom, and push it back up again--over and over and over. This is not unlike what Farmer seeks to do.