Monday, January 10, 2011

Off And Running Monday: Maintaining Balance In Life

A balanced life: Body, Mind, and Spirit.

I believe in that trinity as a model.  It goes along with other things I believe in, such as secular transcendentalism and a modified literary naturalism, in the Jack London sense, as opposed to idealism.  Our bodies are animal, a part of the material world, and we should not forget it.

The body is the temple in which the mind and spirit of the individual reside, just as on a larger scale, the garden of the earth is the body/temple in which mankind resides, in a Wendell Berry agrarian sense.  We are,  or we should be, the caretakers of that body, that wild garden.  So I run, not to win races nor to set personal records nor to collect trophies, but simply, deliberately, and with a sense of responsibility, to take care of this body as long as possible.  There are also the benefits to the mind and to the spirit, for all are one.

George Sheehan wrote, "There are as many reasons for running as there are days in a year, years in my life."

Unfortunately, not all reasons are good, as running can become addictive, no longer deliberate but compulsive.  Some runners become addicted to the endorphon rush experience, some become addicted to the competition and the glory of winning, an ego thing making them prone to knee injuries.  Some runners run only for fun, socially, the rear echelon of any popular road race becoming something of a moving lawn party.

Some eastern American Indian nations employed runners to carry messages between villages.  My wife and I got a feel for this wilderness trail running in the Hocking Hills Indian Run, which we attended in Ohio years ago.  You don't run it in packs, but with an individually staggered start.  The trail winds its way up hill and down,  through beautiful fall woods and beside quiet waters.  The trail is wide enough to pass and be passed, but there is the opportunity to run entirely on your own.

The movie adaptation of Walter Edmonds' classic, Drums Along the Mohawk, has scout Henry Fonda run fourteen miles to the next fort.  The Indians send a triune of Indians to run him down, a sprinter, a middle distance man, and a stayer.  This is handled differently in the book itself, where the scout is chased by 40 Mohawks.  The movie version is not only more realistic, it makes for a better running story.

Running for your life is also an element in Samuel Fuller's little known western movie,  Run of the Arrow, starring Rod Steiger, Brian Keith, and Charles Bronson.  An arrow is shot, and Steiger and Keith are given a head start, the Indians not taking pursuit until the mountain men have passed the arrow.  The movie was a 1957 precursor of Dancing With Wolves.

Benjamin Cheever, son of the famous novelist and a fine author himself, details the history of running in cinema along with many other things in his memoir, Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete.  Recently I read Cheever's contribution to the anthology entitled The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them.  His choice was  The Denial of Death by Pulitzer Prize winning psychologist and author, Ernest Becker, a book that helps to explain, among many other things, why some runners might compulsively take their running to extremes.

The trick is to find balance in the trinity.

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