February 10, 2012

Black Toenails, and the Pursuit of Happiness

There is nothing obviously pleasurable about running 31 miles. This fact is magnified, when one considers the 5,000 feet of vertical gain; the rocks, roots, and otherwise formidable terrain; and the temperature, which will likely by less than 10 degrees.

Such an undertaking is, on its face, foolish, ascetic, and perhaps masochistic. Humans and other organisms seek homeostasis, to preserve equilibrium and resources. To undertake such a taxing ordeal is to run counter to one's base physiology, to risk harm for very little potential reward.

But this is precisely what I aim to do this Saturday. It is a pursuit not constrained to that day, however; if you hope to run well, you have to run quite a lot beforehand. And so I have, spending a great deal of time training that might otherwise have been devoted to eating coconut milk ice cream.

I want to win, of course, and to hit some arbitrary time goal (under 5 hours). If I do this, and avoid severe injury, I will feel that this whole endeavor has been a successful one. Fueled by this realization, I will begin the process anew, targeting another race - again, at least marathon distance - a couple of months in the future. I will do this, and I will not spend nearly as much time eating ice cream as I might like.

I am not compelled to do this by any outside force; and even the racehorse, when it feels the sting of the crop, can choose not to run. This is the exercise of free will; though it does not begin to account for why. That answer is an old one, and fundamental too. It has been uttered in every tongue, and darts from infantile lips to this day.

Why? Because. Because I can. Because I should. But ultimately, because I want to. Because, while we are pain avoiding creatures, we are equally compelled to pursue meaning, achievement, and purpose.

There are any number of quotes on this subject I could invoke, and many wise words spring to mind. And yet, from that noble pantheon, a simple phrase stands out: Do epic shit. This is borrowed from a facebook friend, and is probably not a reference to anything that ever appeared in Latin. But nonetheless, that's the idea.

Of course, epic can refer to scale, but also to more mundane greatness. And so I've occupied today with that kind, grinding and tamping, twisting and tapping, pouring and pulling. So yes, do epic shit. But also, make epic coffee. That's more than just the idea; it is, instead, my ideal.

No comments:

Post a Comment