Monthly Archives: December 2013

Soliloquy

I think that track and field is one of the most interesting sports, when looked at from the perspective of a philosopher. This is mostly because philosophers spend much of their time asking “why?”, and I did a lot of the same when I was participating in track and field. I can’t really imagine why you wouldn’t. I mean who would repeatedly subject themselves to the torture of intense physical activity five days a week for two to three hours a day. And not just intense physical activity, but running, which is extremely abusive to things like your knees, arteries, and other items that generally come in useful later in life. Plus it’s just darned hard. There’s no way humans were supposed to be runners.

The only positive is runners high. However, this only kicks into affect after you’re already run five or six miles, and seeing as most novices start out with one or two, it does not benefit the runners who need it most. And don’t even get me started about hills. Oh my goodness. I’ve lived in Florida for three years now and I can tell you Florida is a state built for runners. Except the life threatening levels of humidity. In any event, Florida has absolutely no hills. The whole state is like, four feet above sea level. It just doesn’t change. It’s amazing. Everything is flat. Great for running. If you live in a state other than Florida, like, Colorado, there’s hills which are the arch nemesis to the runner. When man said, “Oh I think I’ll go for a run today”, God replied by conforming the Earth to include hills. More proof that man was not meant to be a runner. And if you’re of the church of science, there’s those physics laws that say a body in motion will stay in motion and a body at rest will stay at rest. Now when you and I popped out of the womb into the world, we sure weren’t moving. Regardless, it’s something that we’ve convinced ourselves is a good thing so we do it, and that leads to some interesting parallels, when the philosophy thing happens.

See another reason that running may peak the interest of your average, everyday, run of the mill philosopher, is that a runners life is a lot like…life. That was a horrible way to say that. What I mean is, running has a lot of parallels to events in life, and the different things that we experience. There are highs and lows, good runs and extremely horrible ones. There are good times and bad times, and good times and shin splints. There are the things that we can control, and the things we can’t. Like how much reflective spandex you wear, and how close the snowplow comes to slicing you in half. Running actually parallels a lot of things that we all experience in everyday life. To those who say after reading this that you could really make this argument about anything, I say, yeah, well shush and let me make it about running. So there.

There is a particular occurence in running though that I’d like to call attention to on this particular evening, or whatever time it is wherever you are. Being in track and field in high school, I would occaisionally run in races against other people. As anyone who has ever been in high school or track and field knows, everyone always seems to run faster in the races. This being the case, many race runs often leave the runner feeling terrible, even on a day with the wind in their favor. When the wind is against them, it can be just horrible. The mental capacity to simply put one foot in front of the other becomes somthing that requires excessive willpower and mental toughness. It is these tough races where something happens that is very interesting. See, whether the runner knows it or not, they will rely on the laws of physics (seriously, physics is everywhere) to help them in finishing the race.

The last 100 meters of any race always seem to be covered with air that is pysically thicker than the rest. There always seems to be more resistance there than any other part. When the runner gets to this part, on these bad days, especially if they are neck and neck with another runner, then will throw their upper body over their feet, in a maneuver that changes their center of gravity so much so that they would literally fall flat on their face if they didn’t take another step. The reaction to this CG change is hardwired in the brain deeper than the things that make them want to stop running, so they keep going. They keep going just far enough, until they have thrown themselves across the finish line in a heroic dive, and get far enough out of the way so as to not get trampled by other runners. And then, they collapse in a pile of heaving, sweaty, pimply, adolescent flesh just lying there on the rubber (or cinder, if you’re old school) gorging their lungs on the sweet, sweet oxygen that the red blood cells in their veins are so desperately screaming for.

This, this is the part that’s so interesting. Because the thought process at this particular moment, is,”Oh my goodness I’m so immensly happy that that experience is over and I really never want to do it again.” This is followed by, “I don’t care how I did, or what my time was, I just want to lie here in my little pile and maybe I’ll try and move in a few hours.” This event of incredible effort and work ethic has just reduced this bit of matter that matters into a hopeless, discouraged, and relieved pile on a high school track. It just so happens that being in a pile on a high school track is an amazing place to have some time with your thoughts. In which, inevitably, the runner will ask the question in the second sentence of this post. Why? Why are the forcing themselves through this torture five days a week, two to three hours a day just to be subjected to this on raceday? Why are they even running in the first place? Why does it matter? Why should they keep going?

I’ve been told recently that some of my writing is lacking in the part where I actually get to the point. And I suppose that that’s true. Many times I do miss the point, arrive at the wrong one, or never get to one at all. Getting to the point is something that I think…well…should be done. I mean, it’s a very good question, what’s the point? One that’s often hard to answer. One that we’re often scared to ask. One that I am scared to ask. It’s easy to be fluffy. It’s easy to make stuff up to fill the space around the infintesimal part of the world where there’s actually a point. Just take a read through some of my posts. The thing is that here, at this point in time and space, I think that there actually IS a point.

It’s ok to be the pile of flesh on the high school track. It’s ok to be down and hopeless and deflated. It’s ok to ask why, to wonder what the point is. It’s even ok to not know the answer sometimes. The critical moment for that runner, is the moment when he (or she, but in this case it’s a he) get’s up. All of the things in the beginning of this paragraph are ok, if the runner gets up and there is resolve and new hope and track practice tomorrow. It’s ok if there is resolve and new hope and a choir practice information session tomorrow. It’s not ok if there’s no new resolve. It’s even worse if the runner doesn’t get up. We all fall down. We all have those races. We all end up in a heap at some point in our lives. But people who love us and care about us help us back up, and give us water, and a towel, and an energy bar. And we help the people we love get back up, and we give them an energy bar in return. And the circle of pointless points goes on and on, round and round. Oh, and Matt, I looked it up, it’s called a soliloquy. Thanks for reading everyone, goodnight.

20 Seconds

In following with the previous post, I should mention that yesterday was one of those days for a good friend of mine, Kathryn Turley, who left on a year long adventure in Australia, because she’s always wanted to. So, shout out to you Kathryn, it’s going to be awesome, and don’t get bitten by anything poisonous. Also here’s a link to her blog, check it out.

Things that are on my mind here as I sit in Florida on this Tuesday the 3rd day of December, are bravery and courage. In fact, 20 seconds of it. Now, I’ve never seen the movie that that somewhat famous (thanks to the internet) quote came from, but my friend showed me a youtube link once, so I feel absolutely qualified to write a post on it. The thing about bravery and courage that I find, is that they can be very elusive. At least, I find them elusive.

All throughout schooling in the wonderful American public school system, we learn about people who made history. We learn much about people who make history. At least the history making people deemed worthy of inclusion into the textbooks. But that’s neither here nor there. The things we learn about these people, both men and women, are seemingly great and made history. It isn’t the whole story though. There’s another side of it that you can’t really find in the books. It’s very easy to walk through life without any empathy and never imagine what it was like to be the people in history…to feel what they felt and to do what they did. It’s very easy to slip into the warm fuzzy blanket of ‘oh that was something that happened that’s nice’, and just end it there. But it’s not the whole story.

I love the photos that are often found in museums or history books, of the ruff and ready men of the past, ready to go do manly things like be lumberjacks or go mining for coal or wrestle dinosaurs. Like this one. Obviously not liberal art majors, these men are completely unfamiliar with the concept of a “selfie” or actually any photography or just art in general. And the one guy with a camera (because it’s like 1834) has managed to corral all these guys into the aperture of the camera, and actually arrange them in somewhat of a pose, and snap a picture. And that’s all we get. There are no movies, no sound recordings. These black and white photos of grizzly men (and grizzly bears) that are scattered through the pages of texts that high school students lie to their teachers about reading, that’s how we remember the great men of history. There’s one thing though that these photos do not capture. Though the looks on the faces of the subjects of these still-lifes are pricelessly captured for eternity, the feelings and emotions that these guys felt go missing. This is problem that has been solved in recent years by all the silly “blogs” that have been popping up and polluting the internet. Seriously, it’s blasphemy.

In any event, the feelings and emotions that the guys felt has not really been documented, we just get to sit here and speculate. Thank goodness for this, because heaven forbid we Americans must do anything other than speculate on the actions of others, but I digress. The thing is, and this is the part that the pictures don’t really capture, is that the people in those photos, they were scared too. It was no less scary to live back then then it is now. The things that make it scary are different, but part of being a human and living, a part of being bold, is overcoming the fear that tries to stop you. The ones throughout history who have made bold statements, who have changed the course of history, they did overcome the fear. They found courage and bravery and even though they were scared, muddled through and made history. And now we get to learn about them in high school, and museums.

Now-a-days, we live in a world where people are more selfish than before, more unwilling to experience discomfort than before, and it seems that there are less people willing to be bold than before. The easy route, the selfish route, the comfortable route, is also the safe route. It’s also the one where you don’t have to be scared, because there’s nothing that scary waiting in the corner. But if everyone throughout history took that route, then there would not be as many pictures of manly men in mines, and we would not be enjoying all the comforts that we do today. And we would be forced to be uncomfortable and bold, as opposed to enjoying the luxurious choice that we do.

I guess the point of all this is that being scared is well, normal. We all experience that fear of being known, or that fear of jumping off the metaphorical cliff. Or the physical one, if you’re a BASE jumper. There are things like courage and bravery that help us to get through the fear and make a statement and be something. Because the thing about courage and bravery, is that for those two things to work, there must be fear to be overcome. Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid, and courage is doing something even though you’re terrified. And, while I have certainly become familiar with the fear, I have yet to have my ’20 seconds’ moment. The ray of hope in all of this is people are having them every day. Like Kathryn, who went to Australia. I don’t know when my 20 seconds moment will be, and I don’t know when yours will be either. But when ever it is, wherever, or whatever it is, seize it, take it, and don’t regret it.