Now, I wonder where this is going? That is often the thought I also have when setting out for a run. The code of conduct for running training dictates that you should always know what kind of run you are undertaking, be it recovery, speed focused, strengthening or endurance building. Today’s run was too fast to be a recovery, too short to be endurance enhancing, too flat to be strengthening and not intense enough to develop speed. I was in a running limbo.
I like to think that today I was running by feeling, just listening to the music of my body, the rhythm of my heart, the percussion of my joints, the soaring strings of my soul. Am I the orchestra or the symphony? Where is the conductor? This could, psychologically, be my attentional and other cognitive processes. The conductor could equally be an homunculus expertly wielding his baton according to the manuscript. But who produced the manuscript?
And herein lies the genesis of today’s post…
I had been thinking about writing a post under the Filosofy on Friday category on my Frothy Filosofy blog – ok, I know it’s not Friday, but these are small details! This post was going to explore some ideas around the Protestant work ethic and why people sometimes struggle to develop a leisure ethic. This led to thoughts about hedonism, and I came across the paradox of hedonsim. This states that the conscious pursuit of pleasure interferes with our ability to experience it. This reminded me of Sartre’s observations on the nature of adventure – that you don’t know you are having an adventure at the time. It is only by recounting the event, however banal that event may be, that it becomes an adventure. He notes that people tend to live their lives as though they are telling a story. In some ways, this seems very presentient with the advent of social media. An example might be people making video recordings of live concerts or shows on their mobile phones rather than immersing them selves consciously in the experience. He ends the quote by saying there comes a point where we have to choose between living our lives or telling about them. According to Daniel Kahneman, we have about 600 million moments in our lives, and most of them don’t leave a trace. Maybe, in my defence, my blogging and other social media activity is my attempt to leave a trace. I admit that sometimes it is the desire to write about my running experiences that gets me out of the door, and some of my other activity choices have been shaped by social media opportunities!
When I sought the adventure quotation, I was distracted by some of Sartre’s other writings – such as “I looked anxiously around me; the present, nothing but the present”, and it made me think about the current (present!) growing interest in mindfulness. This in turn led to my thinking about running and my thoughts when running…
At the beginning of a run, my mind is like a puppy let off the leash – my thoughts are fast, directionless, and often unfinished. Later, as I settle into a comfortable pace, my thoughts quieten, they become more focused and purposeful. Sometimes I shift into meta-cognitive mode, reflecting on the content and nature of my thoughts. On a long run, I might even slip into meta-meta- cognitive mode, at which time it is probably wise to take some hydration on board.
So, to conclude…
Sometimes I run to think – it is a great opportunity to solve problems, make decisions, clarify my beliefs and to be creative.
And sometimes I run not to think, no matter that this can be paradoxical. This is running like a moustache.
“I do not think, therefore I am a moustache.” [Jean-Paul Sartre]