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being for the occasional musings on running by the author of the books


Pay close enough attention to running and it ceases to be “running.” Legs, too, cease to be legs.” Ditto: breathing and “breathing”; body and “body”; experience and “experience.” Running, like anything, is inscrutable but from a distance. To scrutinize is to apply language, to chunk experience, to impose stases on dynamic processes. That is, it takes us from running to “running,” from experience to concept. But while some cases clearly are running and some cases clearly are not, there are gray areas on the edges of the concept that have no bearing on experience as such. Is that “running” or is it “jogging”? Is that “running” or is that “playing”? Is that “running” or is that “actively not falling down”? Call it what you want to, the ground beneath the runner’s feet is the ground of experience. And what’s happening doesn’t feel like anything, it just feels.

1) No things but in time.

2) I-no-I running yesterday-no-yesterday up the mountain-no-mountain through the trees-no-trees for an hour-no-hour until I-no-I seeing the view-no-view: city-no-city land-no-land things-no-things matter-no-matter.

3) Running breathing running thinking running quieting running ascending running turning running cresting running descending running grounding running treeing running rocking running mountaining running birding running squirreling running deering running winding running watering running sunning running birthing running dying running disappearing running changing running beginning running timing running stopping running resuming running.

When my sister and I were kids we had friends who lived on the next block. One day they came home with a cassette tape they wanted to play for us. When I heard the opening song, “Sneakers,” I felt like it had been made just for me.

Maybe we all felt that way. That spring, we played “Sneakers” every day as we ran laps around their foyer, boombox in the center of our track blasting out lyrics I’ll never forget:

When I run, I run, I run, I really flyyyyyyyyyy

When the song ended we caught our breaths as the tape rewound. Then we hit play again on what was effectively another track repeat. Whole afternoons passed this way.

How old was I that year? Maybe seven. And how many more years would it be till I relearned what I knew then? That the body is where joy lives. That fun is a renewable resource. That art can be at once fully personal and fully communal.

I don’t know if the neighbor kids ever took up running again the way we did as kids. I don’t know if those afternoons meant to them what they meant to me. We lost touch years ago. But this year for Christmas my sister gave me a vinyl record by a band whose name I didn’t recognize: The Tickle Tune Typhoon. Curious, I put it on the turntable. A few new notes into the first song I was clearing space in the hallway and telling my son to get ready. It was time for us to fly.

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