It might be a strange way to begin a running blog but I have been thinking about whether man is inherently good or inherently base.
It all started with an article in the Guardian that argued the Christian viewpoint that goodness resided in God and that man needed his help to strive towards it. In doing so it dismissed as newage, consumerist, or Enlightenment derived (a rather strange conflation), the idea than man was inherently good. In doing so it contained the following passage:
"Every form of New Age therapy will tell you the same flattering half-truth: you are special, you are deep, you can attain fuller inner peace and strength, and you can discover the divine by deepened self-awareness."
This was the bit that caught like a burr because there is a considerable overlap with my ideas about running:
Special - yes we are all special but at the same time profoundly ordinary. We have much more that is common than is different and I am sure we have no single characteristic that is unique. However what is distinct is the particular mix that forms our capabilities and personality. The best way to describe this is the George Sheehan formulation that we are an experiment of one. This gets away from the implication that the word special means particularly favoured.
Deep - this is meaningless
Fuller inner peace and strength - now this is the heart of the soft-core running manifesto. The steady maintained rhythm of running releases: the feeling of doing something inherent to the species - something that as been done for all time, the sense of the countryside, the ability to see the familiar afresh on different days, an immediate connection with the body and your animal nature, a sense of achievement, a clearer idea of the capabilities of the body. It does not mean that you attain full inner peace - I am not sure this is ever possible, but it helps.
Discover the divine by deepened self-awareness - I don't know about the divine or whether it can be discovered through self awareness but I do know that running gives you a very specific form of self awareness. It strips away physical illusions - you get to know how fit or fast you are, how you can go on in the face of difficulties or how easily you take the soft option. This may not be spiritual enlightenment but it is one part of the jigsaw of who you are. The big things can only be tackled a bit at a time.
So there you have it - running is somehow or other some sort of New Age activity.
Who would have thunk it!
But if there is a fundamental dichotomy in the way human nature is seen, with some believing that people should be controlled because they are inherently weak, whilst others believing they should be encouraged because they are intrinsically strong, then the soft-core runner is definitely on the side of encouragement.