It’s been almost exactly six months since I started the whole “Head over Feets” blog effort and –despite the wonderful, if modest, support from you all, and thank each of you for that– I’ve decided over the last few days that I need to pull the plug. At least for now. Maybe permanently, but just for now to just step back, unplug, unpublish, and stop posting anywhere else but on this blog-proper. It’s not about my readers & followers. It’s not about social media sharing clashing with brash social marketing. It’s not about the sport or the fitness or the goals or the purpose of why I started it in the first place. What it comes down to, complexly and with very blurry edges actually, is that I’m fighting with some deep and irreconcilable frustrations stemming out of this place that I call home, these trails that I run, and the simple notion that what I often write and share blossoms from a deep, foundational love of writing about those things. But then I was out for a walk in my park this afternoon. And despite my rational brain, despite knowing that it’s just a blurry problem with two sides, just thinking about these things and knowing that they represent something so much bigger than grass or asphalt or trees, walking my dog in the place that was supposed to be my happy-place, it made me literally vibrate with rage. Exasperation. A mania that I could feel pressing on the inside of my skull. And doing what I do means it’s difficult to openly write how I really feel– but then also I can’t lie to you and pretend I don’t feel it. When I do write here, I write here to be additive to the culture of a place or an idea. But I can’t do that when I feel the exact opposite of love for this place. I can’t knowingly add to something I’m not sure I believe in anymore. So, until I work that out, until I find a way to contribute and still sleep at night, well… I guess I’ll see you on the trails.
I’ve been remiss in sharing with you. I often ask myself why I write. I mean, why write at all? Why write if no one is going to read it? Why write unless you think you have something worth saying? I’ve been seriously blogging about running for almost eight years. Back at the beginning it was just my impressions of participation in that clinic. But it grew, expanded, and blossomed. As much as the love of the sport and the amazing community has kept me going, the writing about running has tended to keep me honest. The writing feeds the running, and the running feeds the writing. A few years ago I tried to kick off an independent co-operative blog called FEETS.CA. It ran for about a year, collected a few posts, but it never really became what I thought it might. Maybe I gave up too soon, or maybe I saw the truth of my efforts. Either way, I shuttered, and went back to my personal writing… here. And I think that’s the key: I write here because this is the blog I’ve been nurturing for fifteen years, a collection of words that are bigger than just running anecdotes, but a facet that is connected to that bigger story too. So, as of a few days ago, I have “sub-branded” this blog. The words I write about running are hijacking that old FEETS idea, and running with it in a new direction, still connected but bigger and actively seeking more participation. Head Over Feets is my new Running Blogger identity: my overthought words on a topic I adore.
Another wacky installment of Head over Feets: Tall tales of tops, toes other training tautologies. Alternating Fridays.
To my great shock and surprise, it turned out that the dualists were right. Partially right. Or, at the very least they were on the right path, aimed in the general direction of being correct and running there at respectable and steady pace. After all, I’d personally accepted something of solipsistic approach to the universe: in assuming that reality wasn’t really provable beyond the confines of my own head, I thought that I could get on with my day and not worry about what I couldn’t perceive. It was metaphysically confusing, sure, and not much of topic for a family barbecue over beers, but important to think about occasionally.
I think. A guy’s gotta have a philosophy, right?
Yet there was my brain shouting obscenities at my feet… and my feet were shouting back.
Dualism be damned. This was a full-on personality disorder of a different order. It was a good thing that the disturbances only manifested while I was out running.
Truthfully, it was herein that I questioned my own sanity.
For the first week I ignored the voices. All of them. Nog, as I discovered to be the moniker of some independent faction of my brain, was usually contented and silenced by the distraction of Green Day tunes pumping through the headphones, and could easily find it in himself to overlook the pattering barrage of complaints being lobbed upwards from my feet. But not always. As it was, Links, my left foot, was not an intellectual champion by any measure and his contribution to the occasional bickering was easily brushed off, the same way one might scuff out an annoying little pebble from where it got wedged in the tread of a shoe. But Plod was a different matter entirely. He was more of an over-tightened lace, and just the type of disruption that if left ignored could leave one limping and numb. For the first week I resisted interfering in their debates and disputes, and I ignored it all.
Truthfully, it was herein that I questioned my own sanity, pondering the effects of hearing one’s own feet flabbergasted, fatigued and frustrated by the philosophies of a procrastinating and heedless head. But, I digress.
Then, in the second week I made the mistake of acknowledging the outbursts.
Really, it was more of an offhand scolding: the same type of peace brokering a dad-type-guy might lend to, say, a playground situation wherein while it wasn’t his kids throwing sand at each other, someone else’s kids were. Bullies were observed to be picking on other kids, and also where the possibility for innocent bystander involvement motivates the aforementioned father-figure to partake in the barking of few pointed syllables of control from the parents gallery. A “hey, kids!” lobbed merely as a warning shot. It was that sort of acknowledgement but between my head and my feet, and then I panicked and hot-potatoed that situation to a higher authority, letting the implications hang in the air as I ran on down the trail.
I prefer to think of it more akin to a regrouping.
Oddly enough, I think my acknowledgement of the bickering surprised them just as much as it had surprised me to hear it. All three of them retreated.
Thus, the third week was pleasant again and running and mostly quiet, too. But just mostly. Their retreat wasn’t complete and in retrospect I prefer to think of it more akin to a regrouping. Links and Plod would whisper at each other on our walk-breaks, and Nog seemed to be brooding and barely containing his own onslaught of verbal abuse, huffs and grumbles escaping as discontented jumbles of incomprehensible syllables with growing frequency.
By the end of the fourth week I was almost certain the uneasy peace was at an end, but it wasn’t until I’d stepped off the familiar asphalt and descended into a well-tread (though unofficial) trail alongside the local creek that the dam burst –in of all ironic places– as I was contemplating the possibility of tip-toeing across a makeshift log dam-come-bridge provided and maintained courtesy a busy neighbourhood beaver.
I’d stopped my watch, pulled out my phone to snap a photo of the trail for the obvious electronic bragging rights involved with the challenge, and then there I paused for a long, contemplative moment. I was standing with my left toe mere inches from the edge of the gurgling chaos of the narrow stream, flowing along in bubbling contemplation of its winding journey. The soft gusts of morning wind rustled the newly budding trees and a flock of small birds alighted from where they’d gathered near the gnarled, bare arms of a ready-to-topple birch. My nature-trailed detour had led to what was essentially a dead-end, dependent on my willingness to wet my toes on water splashing over the dam of course, but for that brief moment alone it had been worth every uneven step. I paused to consider my next one.
But the sigh had not come from me. It had come from the direction of my feet.
“Those shoes aren’t waterproof, you know that right?”
And then Plod, my right foot, broke the uneasy peace treaty and snarled. “Those shoes aren’t waterproof, you know that right?”
“Afraid of getting wet now are we?” Nog snarled, and scoffed a deriding kind of laugh that I’d heard many times previous. “I’d soak you both if it were up to me. I can smell you all the way up here.”
“Shut up, head.” Links retorted. “Just shut up.”
“Good one.” Nog replied. “Soak him first.”
I said nothing but instead stepped cautiously back from the stream. A few minutes later I was sprinting back home.
…to be continued.
I’ve been working (and reinventing an old idea I had) on a weird sort of running slash fiction slash philosophical essay for a few weeks. I’m going to start posting them later today or tomorrow. Probably tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Boggled? Puzzled? Confused? Read this page first: Philosophy, Etc.
VOICES OF THE DIALOGUE
X0R, being the narrator and recorder of the dialogue, with NOGGAMEMNON, who rests atop the shoulders and can gaze upon the path, and both LINKS and PLODICUS, being brothers, opposite but equal whose view is naught but closer to grounded. Herein, a dialogue between the voices on the merits or weaknesses of focus, attention, and diversion.
A dog barks from behind a fence and in the ethereal winter’s pale light, washed evenly across the brisk morning landscape, the dusting of the previous evenings snow-fall hints at a textured layer of ice slicking the asphalt below. The air moves in intermittent gusts of swirling chill, dashing the remnant flakes into a cold fury that rustles the bare branches of a nearby copse in a coloratura-flora of suburban sound. And from the shuffle and crunch of rubber soles upon the path a question breaks the harmonies of the run.
SCENE: Glavering Upon a Colloquy of Distraction
LINKS : Does our game strike your fancy on this cool morning or would the view of this rare daylight adventure lure your focus towards the sights and sounds of an illuminated landscape? How is it then, friend Noggamemnon? Have you considered the questions posed upon our moonlit jaunt now a few days past?
NOGGAMEMNON : I have. And such I am ready. Go on with it then. I await your enlightenment.
LINKS : As simply as that then, you suppose? I am not an instructor, let me first assert. This is a discussion leading us down an unmapped trail, dear Nog. Be at least clear upon that point.
NOGGAMEMNON : I merely imply that your lead is invaluable here. Take no offence upon your soles, friends. In fact, if boldness on my part is what you were hoping for let me then suggest that the pondering that has flexed my neurons these last lingering days has plodded upon the course of those self-same ideas for which we had proved wanting for discussion, namely the distraction and dis-focus of the mind.
PLODICUS : You mean to tell us that plugging your ears with the gnashing beat of electronic-powered music was supposedly, what? Research? Bah!
LINKS: What my brother means to say…
NOGGAMEMNON : I know what he means and I don’t contest, actually. It was exactly that.
NOGGAMEMNON : Listen or listening. We mean to chat eloquent on the ideas of wavering attention so what better form should that take than practical experience? It is my own such that for more than a generation and since the advent of portable electronics that those swift of foot and even-pacing have — as you say — plugged their ears with a distraction of the audio form. Music? Yes. Narrative yammering? Most likely. I would assure you this is not an anomaly.
X0R : Excuse my interruption. I don’t mean to take sides, but alas, here would concur. It seems from my own observations that there exists a small but significant commercial industry devoted to the manufacture of audio toys and accessories, which if I’m not mistaken are specifically designed and marketed to be carried and used discretely and efficiently while running.
PLODICUS : Eye-pawd? Bloo-too-dental-mumble-mumble…
LINKS: Hush, brother. Yes… fine then, Nog, your point is granted. I will admit that I too have noticed such toys dangling and adorning the ears of your fellow jog-abouts, and I suppose it worthy that our discussion blossom from such a starting point. That said, their existence does neither automatically presume nor positively assert their value. What have you to say there?
NOGGAMEMNON : Fair enough.
LINKS : My own point being — asserted, in fact — is that I question the value of distraction. I do not abide that distraction is necessary or necessarily a gainful state of engagement on the course.
NOGGAMEMNON : For you two… or for me?
LINKS : Equality or equity? What is the difference?
NOGGAMEMNON : Ah. Well, then here is the true rub of the question. Value of anything most probably, surely, looms large in equation of fulfilment of purpose, correct? I will gladly admit that your own role is more profoundingly and poundingly physical than my own. You step lively upon the path and are wont for even a moment of reprieve from the pace. A misstep or a wrong-footed break from the rhythm of the run would surely trip the progress that on a day such as this, for example, would land innocent X0R upon the ground and plant me snout-first into a snow-bank. My purpose, on the other hand, is far more one of tactical observation. I view the trail from a loftier vantage, a point upon which you’ve made no qualms about jostling, but a vantage that serves precisely the purpose for which it was evolved. That is to say, I see the trail while you trod it.
LINKS : And to your distraction? Your habits of waning attentions?
NOGGAMEMNON : Is that your perception?
PLODICUS : You don’t pay it. We do.
NOGGAMEMNON : Oh, but I do pay it. I pay my attentions full heed, or at least when and how they are required.
LINKS : Tell us.
NOGGAMEMNON : Listen friends, for this could be the pivot on which my points are likely to turn your hearts. Let’s talk first of the very notion of focus and attention. I ask you now this: what is it that you consider to be an affirmation of my focus upon the material reality that would balance the equitable realization of my due unto the trail? By that, let me ask you more plainly why you feel so cheated by my inevitable push to avert my attentiveness towards the immaterial?
PLODICUS : ‘Cause it isn’t fair.
LINKS : Nor really balanced. As you said yourself just then, perhaps it is only that we wont of a desire for reprieve and the more casual notion towards this effort as seemingly befits you. Again I tell you, I question the value of distraction. We work, while you play.
NOGGAMEMNON : Then your assumptions are incorrect. Plain wrong, in fact I say. Think now about focus and what it means to your goodly selves pattering in rhythm along a snow-laden trail. Each step is an affirmation of your job, no? Each step a operation of mechanical action that is a physical manifestation of X0R’s movement along real trajectories and vectors parallel to the ground. Decisions are made in a moment and the impact of impact is felt as a shivering shock and within an instant of rebounding energy with barely a moment to consider and process the result before a repeat is required.
LINKS : It is our lot.
NOGGAMEMNON : True. I give nod to your efforts. I nod because my own efforts are stretched along a parallel course but drawn upon much longer, lingering intervals. On occasion I get recompense for my patience, but often I cannot know the success of my decisions for much longer. Each operation of tactical decisiveness may result in an impact that can last in time-spans from mere seconds to bountiful minutes of airy decisions, and this can take it’s toll to be sure.
LINKS : Let me paraphrase your claim such that my dimwitted brother might continue to follow your convoluted conjecture. Is it so simple to claim that because we are so routinely and regularly affirmed by the step-by-step patter of soles on asphalt but that the rebuttal of your own decisions is locked out of step with their consequence, that you are more entitled to distraction?
PLODICUS : That isn’t fair, is it?
NOGGAMEMNON : You are drawing your own conclusions from my position. We are here to discuss the value of distraction not the entitlement of it to any one party, my friends. Let’s not forget the purpose of our discussion, after all. You suggested the point yourself not but a few moments ago and I will rephrase that to make certain we are all of us clear. The question is asked so: does distraction benefit a run?
LINKS : And you assert that it does then, I take it?
NOGGAMEMNON : I do. And the foundation of my claim lays firmly in the tactical and scattered nature of my roll in the effort.
LINKS : But to argue that it is a benefit for your focus to wane distractedly from that job is the crux of the matter, correct?
NOGGAMEMNON : Let me continue my claim by adding another element onto our map. Let us forget the fairness of it. Let us forgo the illusion of equitable roles. Let us no longer dismay upon who does what and how much effort is asserted. It is true. You both, Links and Plodicus, are the foundation upon which our journey is borne, I concede that and do not wish to remove any glory you derive therein. Instead, let me explain to you the notion of my experience and perceptions from atop these shoulders.
LINKS : I am a little hesitant, but go on.
NOGGAMEMNON : Running is a balance between we three, no? The two of you represent the physical nature of the effort, honouring endurance and strength and a push through the inevitable and unavoidable forces of sheer physics, forces such as gravity and inertia and turbulence and even the slip-and-slide of a snow-covered walk. Conversely, I hold in for the mental nature of the effort, pulling for patience and perseverance and a push through the unavoidable natures of the wandering attentions of the mind and the weight of inevitable boredom that looms around each bend on the path. Boredom is my gravity, the weight upon my very core that pulls me to ground and grounds to my last steps of endurance.
PLODICUS : Are you telling us you’re bored?
NOGGAMEMNON : Please don’t over-simplify my friend, but… in a manner of speaking, well, it is an idle threat that adorns my efforts. Boredom for the mind is as inevitable yet unpredictable as the wind is for the body. Sometimes it swirls as if nothing more than a gentle gust in shuddering draughts. Occasionally it pushes hard from a single direction in a constant blow that drives one forward in one direction and halts progress in the opposite. Boredom, like wind, can be expected but never controlled, managed but rarely avoided. One’s best hope on a blustery day is to run directly into the wind for the outbound push and let it work to the advantage on the return journey, and many similar metaphors and connections could surely be drawn for boredom and the mind.
X0R : He’s got a point.
NOGGAMEMNON : Thank you, X0R. But to clarify, it is not that boredom is completely unexpected. Unlike the wind, it is my burden to know the exact moments when boredom might weigh heaviest upon me. It is unpredictable and foreseeable all at once.
LINKS : You are talking about the time gaps, no?
NOGGAMEMNON : I am glad that I am making some headway then. Yes, indeed. Those same gaps. Those time-spans between tactical turns and step-wise leaps, the choice of a swerve or a leap, the opting towards North versus West or the route tracking that leads into a far-flung loop back towards home, the choices that fill spaces from mere seconds to bountiful minutes drifting, wafting, billowing between airy decision-trees and optional avenues, roads oft followed but rarely repeated in exact pacing or plodding. Those gaps are where the compounding effects of boredom push through the focus and wear down the patience and perseverance that would otherwise drive the run towards a kind of glorious eternity.
LINKS : You are suggesting that if it wasn’t for boredom that we… could run forever?
NOGGAMEMNON : Well, perhaps but I could. But… no. I fail to hold out that much hope for the physical demands such an effort would contrive to enact, even on me. You have your own constraints, my friends, and though such topics should be settled on another day I simply reiterate my notion and ideal that running is a balance between we three. And my role in that balance is nearly always put off by the burden that is insurmountable boredom.
LINKS : Thus distraction becomes your chosen remedy?
NOGGAMEMNON : It is not a cure, to be certain. Distraction is but one elixir to ease the symptoms for a brief while. After all, do you not have rubberised soles to shield you from the onslaught of rough pavement and cold snow? Do you not pull taught your laces to avoid the clutch of gravity upon your shoes? I’ve never grieved you of these conveniences, have I?
PLODICUS : I think you just did.
LINKS : No, brother. He is making a point and we will both of us grant him that.
PURITY OF PERCEPTION, dialogues between the voices on distraction and the role of perception, abstraction, experience, imagination and hope.
Boggled? Puzzled? Confused? Read this page first: Philosophy, Etc.
VOICES OF THE DIALOGUE
X0R, being the narrator and recorder of the dialogue, with NOGGAMEMNON, who rests atop the shoulders and can gaze upon the path, and both LINKS and PLODICUS, being brothers, opposite but equal whose view is naught but closer to grounded.
Fresh snow, moonlight, poetry, and the slushy whisk of a passing vehicle in the wet streets. It would be a poor assumption to enjoin the charitable act of conversation between such disparate parties.
SCENE : From Among Snowdrifts & Moonbeams
NOGGAMEMNON : I almost feel as if I could sprout a lively epic, complete with rhyming verse on this chilly night. The moon is waning. The fresh snow is catching the light drizzling from the sky and it is together tossing a delicate balance between itself and the amber glow of the scattered street lamps. Do you see? There are fresh prints trailing in our wake this evening, left then right, left then right…
LINKS : You are a fool, Nog, a hat rack, finally unplugged from your gadgets tonight long enough to avert your waning attention in our downward direction. Those are our markings there in the soft snow, my brother and I leaving our impressions upon the side walks for once rather than reverse being true. Am I correct or is it not so, dear brother?
PLODICUS : So true, brother. So true.
LINKS : We are but the humble, plodding pedestals, after all. Pay us no heed, Nog. We’ll forgive you of your failure to acknowledge our role in this effort. Go back to your distractions and your moonlight sonatas while we keep the pace for a while longer.
NOGGAMEMNON : Perhaps we should talk more. I didn’t mean to cause insult. These adventures, as much as such wisdom has been often imparted to us, implies the general mentality of the journey. This is a sport of the mind, no? A game of thoughts and focus, a race against oneself. And who here is the extrapolated essence of self more than I? You are humble pedestals, yes, it is true. But up here I am X0r’s fleeting thoughts and distracted impulses, a mind wrapped in such a corporeal and fragile shell. Give me my due.
X0R : Steady. And, yes, you should talk more. I need all of you, to be honest.
PLODICUS : But you need us more, right?
X0R : Well, I suppose that depends who you ask. But… well, no. I’ll not play favourites amongst my own self, carving you so inequitably into fractional imbalance. It is poorly played enough that there is a dichotomy at all, so my encouragement of it will stop here. You’ll need to find a way to get along.
LINKS : Ah, so it should be then that Nog might glance down more often and ask us of our plight?
NOGGAMEMNON : Are you suggesting that I have naught? You mutter in the patter of your language of the sole, whispers on the concrete and asphalt, scuffing together down there, crudely supposing my gadgets and my distractions are less than a carelessness towards the effort. But have you for once considered my plight?
X0R : I’ll settle this and suggest you are all three of you plight’d. And your cousins, too, scattered around my being, less apt to such fits of importance as this dialogue has so far demonstrated, also have their own moments of ingratitude referenced as so-called plight. Settle this amongst yourselves then. I’ll bear witness and nothing else.
PLODICUS : I hurt.
LINKS : Hush, brother. That is not the point. Pain is not the point.
NOGGAMEMNON : Isn’t it? Well, anyhow. I agree to the terms.
LINKS : What terms? We haven’t discussed so much thus far.
NOGGAMEMNON : Fine, not terms then. The proposition of a kind. I agree to pay heed, or homage, credence, forbearance, whatever you’ll have of me to your plights… if your honourable selves will return the favour skywards.
LINKS : You mock.
NOGGAMEMNON : Only but a little. Give me leave of my humour and humours, my wittier sensibilities are another matter for another day. There is sincerity nestled in it’s folds and twists, I am certain. My deepest of natures continues to be bent towards the poetic, as you such disdain and which I contest. It is true that I may not often see the prints left upon the path behind us, but I do see the course ahead and I am willing to steer it in a direction that suits the fancy of yourself and your brother, be that a course of the literal or the conversational.
LINKS : Be it conversational. We will pursue this proposition as you call it. A discussion. And whatever leaps from it will be to the benefit of us all.
PLODICUS : But whatever shall we discuss? Bah. I’ve nothing to say to him.
LINKS : Again, brother, hush your tongue and lace your mouth shut. You will discuss, as simple and uncluttered by forethought as your utterances will likely be. We will both of us play this game, at least as long as it suits us fairly. Noggamemnon, perched upon those shoulders is willing to play fair too, I assume.
NOGGAMEMNON : Indeed. If you offer the course, I will follow as long as I am able.
LINKS : Then a course I will set, though perhaps not as clearly as any of us might hope. Give my brother and I a few days of rest and thought and I will propose it to you all when next we together run.
A COLLOQUY OF DISTRACTION, a dialogue between the voices on the merits or weaknesses of focus, attention, and diversion.
In my never ending quest for meaty topics upon which to expound here, I seem to repeatedly fumble back along to the topic of running and philosophy. Somehow. Funny that.
I know… it's not in everyone's scope of interest, either. But when you read a free blog, you get what you pay for, right?
Introduction: Head Meet Feets
Alas, If you were to comment below and accuse me of over-thinking, it would most definitely not be the first time I've been accused of such things. The study and appreciation of rational thoughts is a deep and dark rabbit hole in the vast country meadow that is life, and I fell in a long, long time ago. I dispatch back to the surface, and it's about all I'm capable of doing in that regard. Someday, someone will stumble upon all this writing and consider me some kind of rambling neurotic twit, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with them either.
Part of this so-called neurosis emerges from the applied assertion that there must be something more to this topic of running and philosophy. After all, ask any of the folks who invoke the call to quiet contemplation of the universe, either through some kind of spiritual quest for enlightenment or some other quiet, meditative inward journey, and the common thread is that such practices often lead to philosophical thought.
…such practices often lead to philosophical thought…
The thing about running is that once you start to get in reasonable shape and actually get past all that huffing and puffing and thinking you're going to die from exertion, the actual act of running for a person who is in shape and well-practiced at it often seems to upgrade itself into a contemplative and meditative adventure of putting your head over your feet and exploring the world on foot. Run for a couple hours at a time, and your mind has enough solitary time to come to a full-mental boil and… and then what?
I get these big ideas about new topics or broad, engrossing projects for this blog. And I've been teasing readers with many shallow pokes at this one, the idea of writing about running and philosophy, without ever really digging any deeper, the ultimate problem being that I've never really defined what I'm looking to find when I start digging.
…it may be off to a slower start than just another shoes-on, kick-out-the-door run…
Thus: a seed. This very text is a bit of a seed. And yes, I know there is already a pretty good book out there on the topic, but I want to write my own ideas here. I'm just a guy. I'm just a fan of philosophy with a few under-graduate University courses under my belt, and even those a dozen years old. So, it may take me some time, it may be off to a slower start than just another shoes-on, kick-out-the-door run, and it may just end up as me rambling on about topics I only superficially understand. But this my attempt at it… this is the preface post to a new series: Head Over Feets, Running & Philosophizing.
The topics? Well, that is even more loosely defined, but I'd like to explore topics like:
- Mind-Versus-Body, Hardware-Versus-Software, Dualism… or what?
- The Irrational Mind: Self-Inflicting Pain for Long-Term Gain
- Fooling the Self: Understanding the Tricks Runners Use to Get Themselves Across the Finish Line
- And more… so much more.
For now, that's about all I have. Stay tuned… if you're interested in that sort of thing.