Monday, April 20, 2015

MARATHONS


 
The original marathon was associated with a Athenian-Persian battle in Ancient Greece. A legendary  Athenian courier, Pheidippides, ran from the battlefield to announce the Athenian victory against a much larger Persian army. The modern marathon was introduced at the 1896 Athens Olympics. Modern marathons are often international events for elite professional runners.
 
The marathon metaphor, based in the perseverance it takes to run to the finish against exhaustion, has special meaning in modern urban societies. It is a time of widespread sedentary obesity, due to overeating and little activity. It is a time of self-indulgence with foodies and heavy drinkers. It is a time of "it's all good" with those who do not have the courage to face down injustice and ignorance with skeptical analysis.
 
As I enter the last phase of my life, I often feel like the marathon runner in his final few miles. Some parts of daily life are automatic and easier than ever due to my decades of experience and learning. Like the trained muscles of the athlete, my mind can figure things out without a lot of ambivalence or fumbling. I know how to access and apply information wisely. But my mind and body, like those trained runner's muscles and lungs, become fatigued no matter what I do. I must persevere to finish what I start. I must persevere to make it to my end without ceding to collapse.
 
I am amused by those who go to watch marathon races. They remind me of hospital visitors or those who visit nursing homes. Watching exertion and endurance may inspire momentarily, I suppose. But inspiration is no substitute for training and practice in daily life.

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