Back in the early 1990s, when I was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, working at the country’s oldest Quaker school, and writing my Master’s thesis on “Wilderness and the American Character,” I was engrossed in the simple life. Since then, in stark contrast to that simple life, I’ve had six different jobs, lived in eight houses, and raised three kids. Along the way, things have obviously become quite a bit more complex than those halcyon days in Philly. Recently, however, in spite of all this, my life has been simplified. And that is due, in large part, to running.
It’s cliche to say that running is the ultimate simple sport. Thing is, everything about this cliche is true: Running is a simple endeavor. All you need are shoes, shorts, and the desire to get out there. And these days, you don’t really even need shoes.
If given the proper place in one’s life, running can help to simplify those other parts of our lives that are becoming increasingly complex, complicated, and, in some cases, downright unsustainable. For those of us who have chosen the complex path with kids, jobs, houses, cars, and more, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to carve out the time and space for simplicity. It takes effort and a choice to be present and at peace in the moment.
I was reflecting recently on the last two years of my life–two years that have been filled with transition and change. Through those two years, the one constant, at least until I was stripped to my core with a debilitating injury five months ago, was my running. Now that I have begun to slowly crawl out of the injury hole and things are looking up, I am pausing to look back. The visceral memory of the complexity of the past two years lingers and what makes that reflection meaningful and purposeful is the acceptance of the growth that has taken place, growth that I did not know I needed.
In those moments of deep simplicity and silence, I am reminded of that great Buddhist saying, “Don’t ask why this is happening to me. Rather, ask why is this happening for me.”
What’s happening for you?
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week is a tribute to the simplicity theme. Founders Brewing Company dry-hopped Pale Ale is a classically simple American Pale Ale with a 5.4% ABV and a mellow 35 IBU. What makes this beer so good is its steady simplicity. Like other American Pale Ales of its ilk, it just never really gets old.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Does life ever get a little too complex, in that you start sweating the small stuff and forgetting the bigger picture and meaning? How do you get back to the root of things when this happens?
- Does running help keep things simple for you, like it does AJW? In what ways?