Monday, March 28, 2011

A Parable....of sorts

The young initiate, returning from his journey, arrived in the remote village from which he'd left. Dropping his rucksack, he sat down before his master.]

   How were your travels? Did you see all you wanted to see? Was it as everything you had hoped?
   Then tell me of your long walk, what you learned and your plans for the future.
   Well, I first traveled to the jungle to view the very heart of nature itself. It is a warm and bountiful place, teaming with all manner of varied life. Some so seemingly alien and bizarre as to make one wonder in awe at the uniqueness of our own. Pondering the path we've ascended through the millennia from that swamp can provide many a lesson.
   Next, I crossed the desert. Hot and dry, it seemed both desolate and uninhabitable. Yet, there too I found life. Hiding under every unturned stone, clinging to bits of moisture, thriving in the shadows, it has adapted to a world beneath the unforgiving sun. I learned that life can endure even the harshest of conditions. Study there too, would be filled with enlightened discovery.
   I then climbed the mountains to survey the full array of the land. What a marvel our planet is when seen from on high. From grassy planes, to deep forests to sand-swept beaches reaching into the sea, one could fill multiple lifetimes with lessons studying the variety it has to offer.
   Finally, I headed North into the tundra. It was cold and bleak, a vast, quiet land most inhospitable to life. I discovered that survival there is tenuous, but possible. The feeling of being alone in such a harsh environment can run so deep that often one's own mind poses as much danger as the threat of freezing.
  And, what of the cities?
   Ah, the cities! They are truly a wonder to behold, the height of human achievement. Such comfort and security have they made that one can certainly understand the allure. Despite the ignorance and poverty that exists in the world, what people have built when they come together gives such hope. And, yet, I cannot escape the conclusion that most would be better off were they to spent more time visiting the jungles, deserts and mountains of the world, heeding the lessons those wild places have to teach.
   Very true. But why not the tundra?
   I do not think most people are prepared to survive there.
   Because it is too cold?
   No, because it is too lonely. I think they would be frightened by the sound of their own thoughts.
   So this is where you wish to establish your school?

[Surprised as always at the astuteness of his master, the initiated paused before answering for he had only just come to this conclusion himself]
   Yes...I will place it deep within the frozen north. The desire to reach such a desolate place may attract very few students, but the journey itself--with one's inner voice as sole companion--will be all the lesson they require. For travel across that land offers learning with every step.


I realize this page is supposed to be occupied by a race report rather than the above little story that will undoubtedly have some of my friends uttering "wtf?" I wrote the above in the days following the Susitna 100 as way to entertain myself as I tried to organize my thoughts and searched for a theme to my report. I hit on the idea of a series of lessons. Beyond simply being one of the longest and most arduous physical challenges I've yet undertaken, the race was also one of the greatest learning experiences I've had during such an adventure.

Ultimately all learning is self-learning. If we fail to relate and apply a lesson to our own lives then I'm not sure it can really be called a lesson learned.  With 8 lessons and less than 40 miles described so far, I think I'm learning something equally important about my writing. While I've still managed to finish every race I've begun, I'm close to posting a DNF on (yet another) race report. I believe the problem lies in my approach. If I've learned anything about finishing 100-milers it's not to try and take on the whole thing in a go. Breaking it into shorter section, at least mentally, makes covering such full distance much more manageable. It also provides points for reflection and adjustment. 

One of the reason for taking so long to finish race reports is that I tend to want it all complete, edited and perfected before I share; I'm a bit compulsive that way. However, that's not how the races are run. The other reason is that I like to savor the telling, reliving the journey as I write. Clearly, these two goals, taken together, can work against ever getting the thing done. So, I'm going to meter out this report over the coming weeks starting with the parts I've already written. Either lesson by lesson or section by section, posting it in parts will, I think, work as incentive. Once I hit that "publish" button I'll have to face myself standing there, in the middle of the page, out on some frozen river, waiting to finish.


Daniel said...

Great parable Steve. I'm looking forward to hearing your stories from the race. Don't take too long to publish them!

olga said...

I think you may not need to post a race report, or the lessons. As the parable said it in as few words as a truly deep thought needs. You may spoil the feel. But I might be wrong just as well...

Eudemus said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully, it can just stand on its own as to where my head was right after the race.

I think Susitna is a unique enough event to deserve telling the full details. Also, I think I want to push myself to get those out without having to make the while thing "perfect" first. The first part will be in a couple days.

Rajeev said...

You are a fantastic writer! That parable was wonderful! Waiting with bated breath for the rest of the journey.