Like millions of Americans, I spent a good part of last week with my family, slowing down a bit, eating a lot, and sharing the fellowship of the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, for us, was particularly meaningful as my parents traveled down from Massachusetts to celebrate with our family in Virginia. My father, a 77-year-old retired educator and my mother, a 74-year-old not-quite-retired writer, wanted to come see us in our ‘element.’ So, they did.
It was an amazing Thanksgiving! While our oldest son Carson decided against returning home for the holiday (he’s a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado so I guess that’s reason enough to blow us off in favor of groomed slopes and fun parties), our two other sons were around. Logan, a senior in high school, in the midst of the whirlwind of the college-application process, and Tully, a wet-behind-the-ears ninth grader just trying to figure out what high school is all about, both gleaned quite a bit from the week, without ever really knowing it.
You see, my parents are in that stage of life when wisdom just oozes out of them. Whether sitting on the couch playing a card game or sitting at the dinner table discussing the various approaches best used in making the perfect cranberry sauce, my mom and dad can impart pearls of wisdom on our kids that I couldn’t dream of. And all week they did. In fact, they did so in such grand style that by the time they left, driving themselves to the airport, of course, I had to take a recovery nap just to let it sink in.
After that nap, I went for a run. A simple, straightforward seven miler. Along the way, I thought of the collective wisdom of my running mentors Tommy Nielsen, Scott Mills, Craig Thornley, Tim Twietmeyer, and Scott Wolfe. Runners who have shared with me the joy and heartache of a life well lived. People who understand that the experiences we have make us who we are because we let them. Individuals who know that you can only turn knowledge into wisdom through slow accrual, like a coral reef.
My parent’s wisdom, this past weekend imparted on their grandsons as only they could, made me think about how knowledge and wisdom are so difficult to reconcile, especially in this day and age of constant and obsessive information overload. We’ve known now, for about a decade, that knowledge is not much more than a commodity. But, along with that, we’ve also learned, that as the commodification of knowledge becomes the norm, wisdom evolves into an art form. And, for me, this art form is most clearly revealed through running.
At its essence, running is a primal experience that gives us a truer sense of who we are and who we are meant to be. At the same time, long-distance running also teaches us to separate the immediate from the long-term and to evaluate how we feel about both. In the process, it deciphers knowledge into wisdom and allows a space to open up that is at once abundantly clear and decidedly mysterious. And, it is right there at that inflection point, that it provides meaning and purpose. In that place, it is both knowledgeable and wise. And few, if any, other things in life are that.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- From who have you gained significant wisdom over the years in your running?
- How about in the rest of life?