Why do we run? Lightning, Brawls, and Conversations

Thanks to the glorious republic of Kazakhstan, I’m no longer able to access google or wordpress, so this is my first attempt at posting from email..

I went for a run yesterday for the first time in what seemed like forever, although I think it was only just over three weeks. I was hot, tired, nauseous, my jaw ached, and my tongue was swollen so that I had difficulty talking, spitting, and eating. Lets just say it was a rough weekend in the city, rough but exhilarating and insight producing. Running was an elixir. My legs found their rhythm and my feet felt like they were dancing on the soft ground. Suddenly I felt a deep energy well up inside me and spread from my belly-button to my fingertips. I felt like a god. There are plenty of explanations for this and other delusional nerve impulses zapping through the soft tissue under my skull, but I’m going to lay the blame for the god feeling on running.

I now want to make a case for exercise and humanity’s general deficiency in decision-making ability. Before I do this however I want to acknowledge that yes, I’ve been blessed with a healthy body, if iffy cranium, so there are aspects of being physical that come easier for me. However, I will also say that the best athlete I’ve ever met (my friend’s younger sister) has had physical challenges that most people never dream of, and embodies what I am about to say better than anyone else I can think of. But onto my brief manifesto. If you want the short story, here goes:

Exercise. Not for anyone else’s sake but your own. It is good for you in more ways than you can possibly imagine, and if done properly can even be a main dish (Thai of course).

More elaborate version. We make a thousands of decisions every day, and in every decision there are infinite possibilities. I prefer to look at this idea as freeing as opposed to terrifying. So yes, it’s easy to see how in that kind of world, with those kinds of
possibilities, it would be difficult to live any kind of a structured life. But we do. We limit ourselves (or at least create the illusion of limitations), to a reality that can become so structured that it often buries us in its complexity. This danger seeming especially potent in today’s creepily connected world. I’m tangenting. What I’m trying to say is that one structure that is missing from many people’s lives is a healthy approach to exercise, and relativistic uncertainty is no excuse.

Lets say that I offered you a magic pill. It would increase your life expectancy, quality of life, ability to do things, attractiveness, self-esteem, happiness, and counter the aging process. Who wouldn’t take it. What if I sweetened it by saying that if you took the pill mindfully it could taste as close as you’ll come to tasting ambrosia. Of course, like any pill, if taken too much it could distract from the rest of your life and you could incurr side-effects. The thing with this pill though, is that it actually works with your body in such a way that your body itself often finds the perfect balance on its own.

My metaphor is about as subtle as my dad’s computer repair hammer (think sledge hammer with the long wooden handle cut off so you can smash things easier). But seriously, my god, it’s fascinating how shit we humans are at decision-making. We’ll sacrifice hours of our lives for a car, entertainment system, or new boat, instead of using those same hours to sit in the woods, read, talk to our friends, or drink beer on a porch. We’ll spend crazy amounts of money on specialty foods designed to mimic caloric intake while secretly flushing our systems and leaving us unsatisfied and nauseous, when we could be walking, moving, dancing or whatever it takes to burn energy like humans and monkeys are supposed to. First walk, then jog, then run. Walk until your body is begging to move faster, jog until your legs ache to run, and then run and you will be closer to the meaning of life. I swear to you, it’s that satisfying.

There are a quadrillion and one objections to what I just said. I don’t give a fuck. Period. We do age, I know. People do have health problems, I know. There are some people who cannot walk, run, or jog, and I am not talking to those people. Move to your own body, just move. Take out your headphones, take off the high heels and frog shoes, go get a pair of cheap and sturdy running shoes, and start moving, any way you can. Breathe the air be it raining, snowing, sleeting or broiling. It’s air, it always tastes good. Stay outside when you can, go inside when you must, do what you want to, take days off, eat butter, check people out, buy a bike, whatever you do, move.

I’m done.

The other day I did yoga behind the abandoned industrial complex, not wanting to get kicked out of Kazakhstan for needless shenanigans. It was difficult to find a level place to yogaize, but I eventually found a nice little next to some prone pillars of concrete. Just as I was beginning to go into downward dog I realized that if I continued my descent I would be doing pranic breathing in a steaming pile of cow poo. So I moved to the other side of the pillars and found a clearing that was free of fertilizer. I looked for the offending bovine and found him sulking behind a tree like most teenagers do when they’re caught shitting in public. I felt kinda bad for him though, because he was a young bull, obviously just coming into manhood, yet chained to a little section of grass with no females in site.

Out of necessity, that area has no become the place where I go to work out, read, relax, and just be by myself. Most of the time though, I attract an audience of children when I work out, at least until they realize that it’s not that interesting to watch. Unfortunately though, that innocent curiosity helps feed my general feeling that I am an animal in a zoo when I walk around Sergeyvka. Winter was cold and lonely, but I didn’t feel like a circus monkey, which is my
overwhelming emotion on the more difficult days. Little kids point and shout, teenagers giggle and laugh, guys shout belligerently, and old people and everyone else just stare. I get it, I look different, come from the place that they watch every day on television, I speak different, and I have strange habits like running and reading outside. So I cannot stress how amazing it was when I was sitting in my place the other day, reading and drinking coffee sent from an amazing friend in Geneva, and I stumbled upon my first real conversation with someone in months.

This older man walked over, greeted me, asked me if I had time to talk, and sat down next to me. The greeting and acknowledgment that I was my own person with desires and the possibility that I didn’t want to engage in conversation was like a breath of fresh air. Please sit down, I said, I’m just enjoying the sun for the first time in a while. Been raining a lot here. He sat down and said, Yes, the weather has been unusual. Then we just talked. He asked the usual questions, I gave the usual answers, but something was different. He was calm, respectful, and didn’t act like everything I said or represented was strange, hilarious, or suspect. Maybe it was that he didn’t act like I represented anything, just that I was some guy from somewhere else, sitting on a piece of concrete. I guess I’m a sucker for
understanding, or we all are, but he really got me when he looked at me and said, That must be difficult.

That is the first time that someone here has said that to me. Not, can you tutor my children, not why don’t you speak Kazakh (he spoke Kazakh, as I found when his children came over), not can you give me money to go back with you to America. All he said was: that must be difficult. I understand why people say the things that they do, it’s hard for most of us to be considerate and thoughtful in conversations with people of our culture and language, let along somebody different. It was just a really cool moment, and gave me more energy to stay here and keep working.

Two times in the last week lightning has struck closer to me than ever before in my life. The first time I thought I saw a spark jump out of the finger on my left hand before the world seemed to explode. I jumped back in the house and leaned up against the door. My insides felt like jelly and my heart was slamming against my chest. Luckily, it was banya day, so I went right into the sauna and thought about life for a half hour or so, and let my nerve endings recircuit.

A few days later I ordered a taxi for a crazy amount of money because I saw the thunderstorm coming and I wanted to get to school in time to work with the kindergarten students. Honesty, it’s super fun but I’m crazy bored, not altruistic. When I was about fifteen feet from the taxi that was waiting for me there was a ‘WABAAM!.’ This time it only took me about five minutes to stop shaking, although I’ll admit that since that morning I’ve been reevaluating my life to see if there’s anything in it that a higher being thinks needs changing. I mean, rebar-guy, two lightning strikes, and a brawl? Someone is trying to tell me something, or maybe I should stop reading the Old Testament.

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5 Responses to Why do we run? Lightning, Brawls, and Conversations

  1. jan Martland says:

    Hey Collin,
    Just wanted to say “Hi”. Its a slightly muggy, 70 + degree day here…the weather here has been odd since last November here as well, maybe mother earth is a little ticked at all of us! Pat and Chelsey arrived this AM from Texas for the weekend and it’s great to have them here….he leaves for Iraq early next month for a year…UUUGGGHHHH! The good news is, he will be providing security for the troop withdrawal from there to Kuwait….a little nerve wracking for all of us…Keep your writings up….I am always so excited to hear what you are up to!
    XXOOX,
    Jan

  2. Mary McCrossan says:

    Hi Collin,
    Sorry about your loss of web access. Just one more thing to add to the list of complexities and frustrations that you are experiencing! You are so right about exercise contributing greatly to one’s quality of life. My life really improved when I started running in my early 20s. It’s a great time to reflect, problem solve, and when the endorphins kick in, appreciate life! So keep on running! But perhaps you should check the weather forecast before you go out, you know what happens in baseball, 3 strikes and you’re out!
    Take care,
    Mary

  3. Lelde says:

    Your posts make me feel alive. They remind me time and time again what it’s all about, even in moments when I feel lost, with no direction. They’re are like my own personal bible. Thank you.

    p.s. Glad you’re enjoying the cofee!! 🙂

  4. sonia says:

    A man on a train told me that it must be hard to adjust to life here. (Then he asked me why I wasn’t fat and if we had cows in America). But he was a very nice man.

  5. Courtney says:

    Collin!
    I was trying to send you a greeting today via Facebook, but when I saw that yours no longer exists, I sent you a text. And when I got a text back saying there had been a network problem, I kinda worried you fell off the planet.
    I’m so happy to see that you have not and that you are traveling, teaching, and sticking your face in cow poo (although not so happy to see that lightning is after you) hope you are well and that’s it’s okay to crash your blog like this. but…ahem…i will be back to read more either way.
    best,
    Courtney DiPaola

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