Sunday, August 20, 2006

What it all means

My high school football coach, Joe Bob Tyler, I went to school in Texas so you do say Joe Bob, said once that the most terrible thing in life is to discover one day that yours is full of regrets. This is a man who knew something about appreciating life as one who had survived the Bataan Death March. I have really tried to hang on to that idea and tried to live my life without regrets. One thing I have discovered is that regrets aren't necessary if you have the capacity to take full responsability for your life and your actions, to stare life down and face it without calling upon anything external. This allows you to accept and learn from your mistakes a.k.a. potential regrets.

Actually I guess it is more accurate to say that I discovered this second hand through the reading of many an existentialist text. If I had to claim a philosophical home it would have to be existentialism.

Why do I even bring this up? I've been reading Tri blogs for a little while now and I keep running across entries that have to do with meaning and the creation of meaning. Since I've been doing triathlons I've also been asked a number of times "Why do you do it?" I was asked the same thing about the ultramarathon I ran, my running of three marathons in three months and my completion of 20 events so far this year.

I suppose I have several potential answers but in my philosophical musings I am reminded of an essay by Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus" in which Camus relays the apparent pointlessness of Sisyphus' esixtance but acknowledges that Sisyphus ultimatly finds meaning in his existance, to eternally push a stone up a hill only to have it roll back down so that he has to begin the task again, through the simple act of applying himself fully to his task.

To quote some of the writing:
"As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it, and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain.

It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock."

So I guess that's it. When I look deeply at myself I discover that I am not a great man, not a powerful man, not a rich man and as far as my atheletic prowess goes, not a praticularly talented man. However, I do walk back down the mountain with shoulders squared and jaw set, I get my footing, lean my shoulder and place my cheek against that cold stone and prepare for another push. In my life I have found something inside that allows me to be stronger than my rock and my participation in endurance sports is an expression of that, my choice to work with the homeless is an expression of that, my choice to be a vegan is an expression of that, my choice to acknowledge that from great suffering comes the capacity to experience great happiness is an expression of that.

Oklahoma City RedMan 140.6, we have a date on September 23rd 2006.
Soma 70.3, we have a date on October 29th 2006.
Ironman Arizona, we have a date on April 15th 2007.

I leave you with a quote by another favorite writer, Victor Frankel.

"What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him."

1 comment:

  1. NICE post, I guess we truely challenge ourselves sometimes just to know that we feel alive. Great racing this year, you will defienlty be totally ready for IM '07. As a fellow ultramarthon runner, those events do seem like a pushing a "big boulder" sometimes.