running philosophically

Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, in "The Old Fisherman", addresses the hopes of enhancing one's merit and fame. What runner doesn't relate to that first part? (Some say the second, too?!) The illustration he gives of the vices that can ensue from the incorrect way of pursuing these goals is of a man so afraid of his own shadow that he runs to escape it: of course, to no avail (4). The lesson is that any man who neglects to improve himself will be bound to expend energy in such a doomed, needless way.
But what is this elusive "right way", I wonder, if improvement functions on several levels (physical, mental, dispositional, etc). I think sometimes I live my life in such a way that I do everything wrong the first time round, throwing myself into something, learning along the way. I am not like Murakami, who, before taking up running, read about it. To my mind, my "right way" was more complex: I was first running to keep running, because I was going through a tough time and I needed the daily long journeys to distant landscapes. I really related to Puzey's Arizona recap (posted at Swiftwick), where he writes about not only getting through the physical wall in running, but those of petty intrigue and power struggles in academia. To my mind, running right for me as an undisciplined beginner was to first help me through that second, not first, wall.

Puzey writes: "Academic politics is the most vicious kind because the stakes are so small." On the surface, many aspects of this world are narrow-minded and one-tracked: like the man running just to escape his shadow.
Through consistency and sincere application, though, I think we get beyond that surface perspective. In my case, while I have passed through some of the workplace walls, I now see the physical one as a wall that is still requiring me to engage with it. It's not enough to plod out the door at the same pace, despite the longer distances, one year in. The "right way" of the physical, as opposed to mental, part of running continues to haunt me like the man in the illustration is haunted. 
In the Zhuangzi story, part of the problem is thought that entangles. The goal is to reach thought that frees. But the only way I can see to make one's way through this is patience and perseverence, to expose oneself to the principles until they make sense (I have now read a book on running like Murakami, but I can't say I understood it, and understand less how it translates to the physical execution of the principles in terms of feel and experience). To me, the right way is to know that I am running my own race, that includes parts of an equation that might not always be visible to others; to not worry about the "fame" - which I translate to mean, not worry about how silly I look running in a city of few runners especially when I am not talented, and to keep on keeping on, doing the best I can by trying to focus on new aspects of running, thinking along the way.

Brush: Misprinted Type.
View: the freedom I reach through my own effort.


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