Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strong Drink and a Peer Group

Do you do what you do because you are compelled by personal accomplishment, a curiosity or inquiry, or for Fame and Glory?

If you do it for the first reasons, then failure does not bother you. You try, you fail. You try again. And again. Fame and Glory will come of the own accord, when success is reached. Failure, is always an option. If you do it for the latter, what price, what lengths will you go to, to succeed, or gloss over a failure? Do you make excuses, try to find the silver lining, or partial success?

In an adventure, I have heard it said, the two best times are the planning, and the bragging once you get home. I think that is truly the scope of the Fame and Glory seekers. It seems this is a modern, or recent thing, but then again maybe not. Did old-time explorers trump up their accomplishments? Did they do it for fame, or to satisfy the pressure of investors looking to cash in on the publicity?

I read Admiral Byrd's account of his time on the south pole. He really was driven by a curiosity, but then he also had to answer to investors. That is a pressure I'm sure he would have done without, if he could have.

Are we satisfied with our adventures? Or do the accolades of our peers mean as much as the thing itself?

It's a hard question. And be careful when alcohol is involved.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Raging Bull

I ran the Kettle a few weeks ago. The whole thing. Southern Kettle Moraine forest, end to end, and back again. 63 miles. It took 15 hours, but time was beside the point.

It wasn't much. It was not a big thing. It was a small thing. Big things, personal things are shock waves through your system. Those things that you never forget. The birth of your children, the death of your parents. Marriage. Divorce. Big gain. Big loss.

Still, it meant something to me. I struggle all the time with trying to verbalize why, and what it meant to me.   The questions come up about it. The usual questions really. "Don't you get bored..." Do you listen to music"... "why did you do it..."

Hard to answer, even to my running friends. But the answer to the 'why' is hard to verbalize for me, and when I try I get some quizzical looks, like I am some kind of spiritual kook. So I just shake my head and say "No, I don't get bored, or listen to music, I just run, and I just wanted to see if I could do it".

It's a hard thing for many to understand, but the first thing that had to go was other things to distract. Aid stations, drop bags, people. When there other people there, no matter how tired you are, you still hold onto that semblance of self, the persona you want other people including yourself to see. I needed to remove that. All of it.

When you push yourself long enough and hard enough, you will start to strip away who you pretend to be, and see yourself for who you are. Push long enough and hard enough, and your mind will collide with your ego, and your soul will have to referee. When you are that tired, you lose your past, and have little regard for your future. All you have is you. Small, so small, yet so big. It's all you got. No desire, no hope, no dream. The raging bull stops crashing through the china shop. If even for a short time.

I didn't want distraction. I wanted the empty. I listen for it. That moment when your mind finally shuts off so you can pay attention and listen. It is a wordless, quiet thing.

It wasn't about the mileage. It wasn't about conquest of a trail, or any competitors. I wasn't fighting, I was embracing. I wasn't turning away, distracted, I was looking. Really what I was after was something deeper. I wanted to open wide, and have the trail swallow me whole.

It all sounds kind of hokey. Kind of new-agish. But it's the most real I can write it.

Addendum, a quote lifted from iRunFar:

…the moment we peer beneath this surface of things, the moment we look through the tranquil reflection of ourselves and the clouds above us, down into the clear, fluent, unfathomable depth of nature, how startling is the silence of it, how amazing the flow of life, how absorbing the mystery. Unceasingly the essence of things is taking shape in the matter of things, and this unspeakable process we call birth and growth. Awhile the spirit and the matter fade away together, and it is this that we call decadence, death. These two happenings seem jointed and interdependent, blended into one like a bubble and its iridescence, and they seem borne along upon a slowly moving air. This air is wonderful past all understanding. -Louis Sullivan