Monday, April 16, 2012

There are Nowadays...

"There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but no philosophers" - Thoreau

I recently decided to go through and begin compiling a slew of text that I've written over the past two years.  I am still not entirely sure just what sort of medium it will all end up in, but I know if I don't at least take a little time to assemble it all, it will forever live on as an unorganized cloud of thoughts.  Most of this text comes from either journal entries, posts from this site, or from notes I had written related to my PCT thru-hike.  Over the past couple of days I quickly began to notice a theme in the thoughts I've had over the past couple of years.  I've been desperately trying to understand and conceptualize a feeling I've had that has been quite pervasive and consuming.  People have asked me many times why I choose to take on the adventures that I do now, or to challenge myself in the ways that I do...and I've never had a very good and complete answer for them.

I still don't.

But, I can say this.  I came across some text I wrote while sitting in the Chicago Airport back in 2010.  I guess you might call it a poem?  Although I've never really written any poetry.  I was on my way back from Antarctica and had a single 2 hr flight remaining back to Rochester, NY.  I was nearly home.  I was sitting in the airport chair, slumped over, and half asleep, when something dawned on me:

In our small little lives that we all lead here, I believe that there is a natural "pull" or tendency to the "routine".  A pull to what I call the "mundane".  I know...I'm getting a bit existential here, but hear me out.  Think of it like this.  When you are driving down the highway and you let go of the steering wheel, the car will naturally pull one way and drift preferentially.  The only way to keep it straight is to willfully grab that wheel, and force it against that "pull", back to a direction you want it to go...against its natural tendency.  Similarly, while sitting in that airport chair, I realized that there is a natural pull for me (and probably most of us), to the "routine" to the "safe".  It is so simple for us to fall into the routines of day-to-day mundaneness and comfort.  For years, I lived that comfortable life, without every grabbing that wheel and forcing it to go somewhere different.  

Blah blah what you're saying John, is that we all just need to take more risks?  I suppose.  I guess I don't really know what I'm saying other than I know it would be so easy for me to give in and simply fall back into that life of routine.  BUT I refuse to.  This is my one little speck of time in this place, I want to experience it, risks and all.

So I invite all of you to keep fighting against that pull, and as I posted on here two years ago...make your lives extraordinary.

There have been many throughout the years who have easily understood this.  Those like Thoreau, Muir, Kerouac. of the original all-time classics, Don Quixote, was about a man going out to experience the world through impassioned eyes (albeit a bit off his rocker).  For me though, I need constant reminders, or I risk so easily falling back into that path of comfort.  

As Thoreau said in Walden (last Thoreau quote, I promise) - "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation".  It really is so true.

Here was the Airport text/poem I wrote:

"What is it...this pull?
This dull and unyielding gravity?
A persistent weight quarreling with me.
So easy it is to give in. surrender.

But what would this momentary capitulation 
give me save a temporary respite?
In what form or manner would I emerge from this reprieve?
Or would I emerge at all?

I choose to move forward...through it...against it.
A journey replete in its rewards, is one marked with trials.

It is a blink of existence we are so graciously afforded.
Would not an impassioned and spirited earnestness,
Be what our souls were intended for?

So walk,
Walk with me.
Move forward, against the pull."

Perhaps I am just having a mid-PhD existential crisis here. On to some running updates......

The return to normal running has been a little slower than I would have liked.  The feet are taking their sweet time to peel and heal, post-Barkley.  This is all a very new experience for me.  I've never had any sort of foot problems this extreme before.  Ever.  I'm learning-as-I-go with it.  I did go out for a nice and easy 19 mile run in my favorite of backyard playgrounds yesterday (Rothrock State Forest), but opted to sit today out.  It was absolutely refreshing to be back on my favorite trails again.  No matter where I go, what races I take part in, it's always nice to be back in my own woods again.  It just feels right.  Anyhoo....

The 2012 ultra season is creeping up on me fast.  I am actually scheduled for a 50k next weekend (Hyner), but I'm undecided as to whether or not I'll run it.  If my feet feel ok this week, and I can get in a few runs, I'll go for it.  Otherwise, I may actually sit it out.  I have no doubt I could run it, and it has lots of good climbs, but I just don't know if I'd actually be able to "compete" in it.  If that makes sense.  I guess if anything, I could always just take it easy and treat it as a "long training run".  Like I said, there are some rather hefty climbs and it is a good course.  Massanutten is still on for May, and I've got a month to get back into peak shape for it.  Should be fun!

At any rate, here are some new photos from the Barkley that I recently bought from one of this year's photographers.

About to start Loop 5

Finishing Loop 1

Coming down Rat Jaw

Rat Jaw

Rat Jaw


Nazzer said...

I think thats a wonderful poem, and even if most ultra runners and adventure racers aren't able to elucidate those thoughts, many likely run for the same reasons you express.

Donald Voigt said...

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield". We could use some Tennison here too. Your train of thought is strikingly familiar to mine at times, without the ultra-marathons. But still... I hope I have been successful at not being trapped in a life of quiet desperation and have passed that on to my kids.