Monday, April 25, 2016

Running Is Love, Part 2

Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, says that "running is love." She also says that love is the basis of any meaningful human endeavor. I can't confirm that that applies all the way across the board, but I do believe it is also true of art-making, something I'm intensely concerned with. You can get rich from the one of the arts, and your art can be political or propagandist, but unless the core motivation for the art form is love, the art will not succeed, nor will the artist be able to endure for the long haul. Running has about as much commercial potential as poetry does. Thus freed from the money imperative, the spirit reigns.

In running, as in the arts, we witness forms of competition that aim not to tear down but to enhance life. The primary competition is with one's self, always seeking to go further -- in the case of running not just metaphorically -- and to do better, simply because we are built that way. The question is always one of how to channel human drive and ambition in the direction of more widespread well-being in the world. Even football, which is pretty violent, represents an evolutionary advancement, because the human instinct for tribalism and aggression is directed into an activity that is, in the larger sense, nonviolent and pro-social. Yes, the attitudes can tip over in militaristic jingoism, but that isn't the heart of it.

Marathons aren't jingoistic at all, which is refreshing. One cool thing is that runners connect their drive for personal improvement to social and medical causes. This dimension of road racing provides a nice model of how we might find that crucial balance between personal liberty and the common good. Runners are a strong community of strong individuals.

There's no better day than Marathon Day in Boston. It has a lot to do with the unique type of love Bobbi Gibb speaks of, I think.

UPDATED: 4-26-16

In the wake of the Marathon three years ago the event has become an unparalleled opportunity for the display and celebration of human resilience. How you deal with adversity is a key indicator of character. And the stories of the injured survivors and their paths to recovery are mind boggling in the degree of courage and resolve exhibited.

And the way runners around the world have made it a point to run is really cool. This is why the whiff of jingoism around the phrase Boston Strong is a little off-putting. I never felt like the bombing was just an assault on Boston. It was an assault on the idea of humans gathering together in peaceful community. The response of the global running community is a huge part of the strength so evident the past few years. Still, I won't disparage too much the need for a rallying cry and a touch of tribalism in hard times. When the balance is right, the result is patriotism not jingoism.

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