I don’t like to romanticize running. Sure, I get long-winded and descriptive with my posts, but I assure you, all the experiences and emotions I convey are genuine and free of hyperbole. Even moreso, I don’t like to politicize running. I do draw connections between running and veganism or running and liberated living, but I do so as an extension of my way of life, not to find something that isn’t there. I guess I DO politicize my running, but not because I’m trying to find worth in it that isn’t already inherent, but more as an expression of my motivators or values I realize are a part of my experience, that make it that much more valuable, rich and personal. I appreciate running for the very physical act of just doing so, but let’s not pretend there isn’t so much more to it as well.
A friend posted this on Facebook today – “Running is the part of my day that I own in that it is focused on my own health and happiness” – and it succinctly expressed a lot of my thoughts I’ve had on running lately. Let me elaborate.
Our lives are incredibly pre-determined to an extent we probably don’t want to admit to. We never sign a detailed social contract that agrees to certain parameters of expectations and behaviors, but we often find ourselves at odds with culture as if we had. It is in this omniscient, but unstated social contract that we find ourselves “owned”. We have expectations to work for others, pay taxes for institutions we fundamentally oppose, participate in economic systems we may or may not find morally sound, etc. Then there are expectations of behaviors, whether those are gender roles, how we conduct relationships, the types of foods we eat, etc. All these ways of living and thinking that are foisted upon us as we develop as individuals all comprise a social contract, of which abandoning brings conflict, hardship, defensiveness and/or liberation, confidence, progression. However we choose to interact with this social contract (acceptance or resistance), we ultimately find ourselves initially “owned”. It is then our decision to decide if we accept this ownership or choose to find ways out of this ownership.
As a more idealistic young individual, I chose to resist this realization of ownership and write the story of my life how I saw fit, but was also always aware just how difficult this was in an economic and social structure that needs my (our) participation to continue on. I often engaged in social structures that worked to erode the power and ownership dominant culture had on our lives and the lives of our fellow creatures, only to find myself up against the mechanisms of authority. The dystopian scenes of control vividly described in 1984 seemed to be more and more of a reality in my own life. I envisioned stand-offs with authority where they wanted to break my spirit and own my will, but I would always stay strong and relent. This, however, was always more easily imagined than carried out. I, fortunately, never had to make the decision to resist direct coercion from authority, but my friends who were drug in front of grand juries and into interrogation rooms weren’t so lucky. Some of them resisted and some of them, more than not I’m sad to say, caved. I started to question my own resolve and wondered if I would have the mental and emotional strength to resist if it came to that. I, fortunately, never had to be tested. I’ll admit though, that utopian vision I had of myself as a tower of emotional strength was eroded and I felt I had lost a bit of “ownership” in that regard. Maybe I hadn’t severed myself from Big Brother’s social contract as much as I had hoped.
All was not lost though. There is another refuge for a liberated life and this is where my (our) running enters the picture.
We have the ability to control the one part of ourselves that can never be taken away, no matter the circumstance – our bodies. When I’m out running, nothing is more pure, more unmediated, more self-controlled. I am not being pulled by so many abstractions that enter our daily lives, whether that is economic concerns, navigating the labrynth of relationships, political concerns or anything similar. It’s just muscles, blood, and breath. It is the act of repetition, which in turn shapes a physical reality that no one else can touch. The body can’t be convinced. The body can’t be coerced. The body can’t be bought. These are all realms of the mind.
When I put myself into motion I am, despite all mental effort, a physical body, a machine, a direct development of the process of life, like an exploding spore that bursts into being before disintegrating into the wind. We come and go in the span of time as if we never existed, but when we are here we are physical creatures that thrive in our physical autonomy. When I am running I am nothing but my body, developing and growing into a stronger, healthier, more effective animal.
No one can take that away from me. On my deathbed I will succumb to passivity, but only then. No political structure, economic structure, religion or relationship will prevent me from utilizing the one thing I have complete control of in this world. And on our deathbeds, what we have is what counts. And in all the mechanisms of control foisted upon us in this social contract, our bodies are the one island of autonomy we can place our dignity and self-respect.
No matter the circumstance you may find yourself in, whether that be unemployed, divorced, or controlled by so many expectations, the body is your way out. The body is your place of solace, to appreciate, to respect, to develop. Our dominant social structure will seek to control you in any way it can, acting out a subconscious manner of self-preservation, which can take the form of passivity, sickness and disease, and general appeasement. It is in OUR best interests to act against these mechanisms of control, to take back our bodies and create a life of richness and fulfillment. We do this by dictating what we put in our bodies, where we take them, how we use them.
So I run. First and foremost because I desire to do so, but also because I refuse to give in to the dynamics of “forced necessity” placed upon me by our social contract like a wet blanket, suffocating and stifling. I refuse to do drugs. I refuse to eat animals. I refuse to control others. I refuse to let “responsibility” take precedence over action. I refuse to take the easy way out offered to us through the conveniences of technology and first-world privilege.
I would rather run and feel the strain of the effort, knowing I am in complete control of what is happening in the moment. I run to avoid abstractions, to avoid confinement, to avoid physical deterioration, to avoid giving in to a social contract that would rather see us sick, overweight, dependent on a system of killing, ultimately in a state of slow-death. And every muscle is a victory. Every powerful breath an expression of freedom. Every drop of blood a liberated territory.
They will try to buy everything. Your time. Your vote. Your land. But you own yourself. Never give up the value of your physical existence.
Pass that on to your kids.