A piece for Sunday. In a 2004 Vanity Fair article James Walcott wrote: “Mass culture secretes condescension and borderline contempt for any quest for artistic expression that requires discipline, difficulty, sacrifice, and a devotion to traditions larger than oneself.” It is an apt description of the darker side of the self-oriented, ADHD, individually rewarded society.
Thus, the same society which allowed lenders to separate risk from mortgage approval – after extracting profits – by bundling and selling the risk downstream until all connection to the original transaction had been completely severed (net effect: a society-wide housing collapse) is the same society which, to date, has held no one individually responsible (except the sodden fools lured into the quagmire). Instead the putative powers-that-be saw fit to bail out the culprits, because the culprits continue to control the reins of power through their brib — campaign contributions. And we wonder why faith in the underlying system has eroded, and abject cynicism is so rampant.
Absent Ron Paul, politicians on both sides of the aisle cynically tell us what they think we want to hear. Then, when out of recording range continue to go along to get along as the rewards are all in the running rather than the governing. Yet the path to achievement in the sport of running, itself, is grounded on individual responsibility and dedication to a process of tension and release in an orderly fashion over an extended period. That is the lesson the sport teaches, no secrets, no shortcuts, no easy ways up.
In many religious sects humility is considered the primary virtue, and anyone who asks WWJD should expect an answer that involves service in the most menial of tasks. That’s because one’s lot is enriched through selflessness, strength increased by an awareness of weakness, while leadership is best exemplified as an instrument in a larger cause. He might not have been born at altitude, but you get the feeling Jesus might have been a heck of a track club teammate, helping pull you through those last brutal interval sessions.
In a passage from Tony Hendra’s 2003 memoir Father Joe, Hendra described the special nature of Benedictine order, which Father Joe belonged to.
“Benedictines were the first people in history to claim that work is sacred. But work in the Benedictine tradition, enjoyable or not, exalted or humble, is in no conflict with the spiritual. Indeed, it too is prayer, a principle best expressed in the classic Benedictine dictum: Laborare est orare – To work is to pray. There is no separation between work in the sense of secular, non-spiritual toil, and the spiritual in the sense of uplifting relief from its tedium.”
And thus one can make the case that Currere est orare: To run is to pray, as we push, jog, hustle or hump through our cathedrals of trees and transepts of concrete toward the mystical realm of fitness. But so, too, does congruere, to run together, lend a congregational connotation to the exercise. And thus,
This is how I commune with the land,
Its spinning, my turning,
Its rhythms, my pace.
I run for exercise, I run to compete,
I run to remember, I run to forget,
I run to foreswear, I run to forgive.
I run with anger in search of solace,
In peace in order to slay,
I run until I’m transported
Beyond the prosaic, and
Nearer the profound.
Politicians and candidates, please, for all our sakes, not the least your own, nota bene.