As a classically trained artist and professor, Mr. Lowndes, understandably, had a rather clinical view of perspective. In his impeccably detailed description of understanding perspective, he was keen to point out the fundamental importance of point of view and attitude in our understanding of the proper placement of things. In fact, Mr. Lowndes argued, that failure to adapt to the correct attitude makes understanding perspective nearly impossible.
For some reason, that particular component of his lesson stuck with me and while I know he meant ‘attitude’ in a slightly different way than I initially thought, nonetheless he was spot on in his description. Indeed, for us to truly understand our place in the order of things, we must have and maintain the correct attitude. Doing that, in fact, is essential to our understanding of the world and our relationship to it.
Last June, on the morning of the Tandem Friends School high-school graduation over which I was presiding, I received word of the passing of the great boxer Muhammad Ali. In the flurry of tributes that were flying around that morning was one simple quotation that I quickly inserted into my graduation speech and have kept close to my heart since, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” — Muhammad Ali
Ali’s wise words were not only poignant for that morning’s Tandem graduates but also to all of us in attendance. For indeed, as we face the trials and tribulations of life, it is often not the large vistas which show the big-picture challenge ahead that impede our progress, but rather those pesky pebbles that have a way of finding their way into our shoes. And in running, all too often, we learn this lesson most acutely.
The mountains ahead are always a part of what inspires us, what drives us forward as runners and as people, and what gives us sustenance. Standing in the way, often, are the little things. The tricky obstacles, the difficult-to-understand forks in the road, and the testy small, seemingly insignificant barriers to greater satisfaction and understanding. Long-distance running gives us the tools to deal with those pebbles. It gives us joy and sorrow and has, over the years, provided many of us with some of the most meaningful and purposeful times of our lives. Dealing with the pebbles and accepting them as part of the whole allows the mountains to be overcome and the way to be made clear. As a runner and as a person, it is that perspective that gets me out the door again and again on the quest for clarity.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What does it mean to you to have the ‘right attitude’ toward a challenging exercise?
- Where in life or running have you found that a shift in your perspective made doing something easier?