Sunday, January 30, 2011

Changes: A Rebirth

The January mini-term just ended what had become a four-week intense training that seemed inspired by the notion of Renaissance: not only was I in pursuit of academic greatness (reading, writing, responding verbally to texts in class) but I also found myself fitting in my 85 weekly miles into the spaces not occupied by studying. I have also begun to sketch again. A strange time to do so, I know, but I was once-upon-a-time an Art Major in college (though I switched to English after my first semester) but something about winter's quality of light has got me hooked on doing simple sketches around campus and the town where I live. And so by Renaissance, to be more precise, I'm reminded of 16th Century French author, Rabelais, who conceived of a new kind of education-- one that involved both body and mind-- in a schedule that looks, well, curiously like what I've been up to as of late.

It's a peculiar work of literature: the protagonist-- if such a word can be used-- is a giant and therefore, needs a special sort of education. Many "tutors" are applied, but the ones who try the older methods of erudition (study and memorization for long hours with neglect to the physical body) do not work and Gargantua (what a great name for a Giant!) It's not until a tutor is found who balances reverence and care for the physical body (which is extended into curiosity about the physical world) and the mind that Gargantua begins to learn and flourish. He runs-- but not only for the sake of exercise, but to learn body mechanics. Card games are a vocation of pleasure, but also a method to teach concepts such as probability, for instance. An so, when I say I have passed four weeks à la Renaissance, this is what I mean: each moment fed into another, to create a life that isn't body or mind, or even body and mind, but mind-body/body-mind.

I have always been amazed at these short periods of great output: I've read over ten books, produced countless pages and two drawings in the space of four weeks. I have also run a total of 340 miles-- a good many (or three sessions each week) which were either on the track (interval/tempo work) or of a distance over 15 miles. And yet, I'm the stronger for it. I am ready for a solid spring season, in both body and mind.

Funny, today I just received an email notice that this day two years ago was the day I went to my first yoga practice. I remember that day well: I hadn't been able to run for weeks on my stress-fractured legs. My academics no longer interested me in quite the same way: I cried myself to sleep the night before and wanted my life to change and so I went to yoga. The space of two years is not much, I suppose, but I feel as though I've traversed some huge mountain pass and I'm looking back on my former self from this side where I am training consistently, strongly and healthfully. Even last year, at this moment, I was just coming back, running fifty weekly miles on a treadmill. The race I'll go to in a week was my first race in over a year: a 10k. At the time, I had seemed impossibly slow and a 40:20 an incredible feat, considering. This year, I think, my impressions will be vastly changed; and I'm hoping for a PR that's minutes faster.

But if this Renaissance month has taught me anything at all, it's that regeneration and rebirth come from some initial self which works and remolds and never accepts with resignation that life is an ever-changing thing. This week I will do what I can. And so I will in the weeks that follow. Life is a constant rebirth and I suppose as its shapers, we must recognize our power and its necessary humility. For me, this means to run, to write, to read, to draw. The good life is out there, just a handful of mountain passes away. I just have to keep on going strong.

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