Sunlight and Fog

Living the Forever that Could End Any Moment

How do you make yourself at home in a world that seems, if only you watch the news, bent on your destruction?

Start to think about life and death, and – even in a year that was, statistically, the best for the greatest number of people – it is death that has the upper hand. It is death that is normal and everywhere, caring little what we do.

Life is a fickle thing.

It doesn’t have to be a speeding bullet or a rending bomb or a tumbling plane.

Life’s slow-burn terror, the shortening of telomeres, plaques in your arteries, a microscopic virus, a stumble and fall, the next trip in your car, a little sting or sniff of something you turn out to be deadly allergic to… whether it is the sudden tragedy of a loss too soon or the protracted tragedy that is a long life, the only thing that’s sure is that it will end.

What is not sure is how it will end for any one of us individually, however – let alone what we do until it does.

And so, the big question is how we want to deal with the awareness of the end and its unknowability.

The descent from the Hohe Scharte, circling around the Traunstein in Upper Austria. We call it trail running, it's great fun - and if you slip, chances are you'd be gone...

The descent from the Hohe Scharte, circling around the Traunstein in Upper Austria.
We call it trail running, it’s great fun – and if you slip, chances are you’d be gone…

“Live every day as if it were your last” is one popular admonishment, and there is something to be said for it.

We do let so many extra-ordinary experiences go by hardly noticed, out of familiarity and a sense that we could always re-visit them the next, or another, day.
It may do us good to remember that every day, every experience, is what it is, at the moment of its happening, only in that moment of its happening.

Once gone, it’s gone.

That kind of enjoyment all well and good, but on your last day, you would probably not want to work on some project that will take long to come to fruition, let alone be at work to make a living.

When it comes to learning and training and projects that take long to pursue, then, the better advice may be this:

“Live every day as if you would live forever.”

Take care of yourself, not so you can be unscathed when you stumble into your grave, but so that the adventures you can have on the way there can go on all the way there rather than end prematurely.

Go on learning new things, even and especially if everyone keeps saying that it only gets harder, not so that you will necessarily become perfect or an expert, but so that you can be a beginner again – and see where it takes you.

We are all, after all, living in this tension between the enjoyment of the now and the requirements for later, the pressures of now and the potential of then – and the very real possibility both that our life could go on long or end any second.

Having to live with this awareness is what makes us human; living well in a balance of such things that seem all but impossible to balance is what makes for a better life.

Settle in and see-saw through the two sides. That’s living in reality.

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Performing Magic, Bought in Products?

For all the complaints about our dull lives, we still find a lot of magic – in the marketing of products. What about active living and exploratory lifestyles, though?

snappy-dresserAs I stand here, in blazer and pants made of a softshell material, promising comfort and a cool look, performance and a certain classiness, writing on a shiny notebook delivering great performance in a thin chassis, I am only too well aware that this is something of a performance.

Even if it is just for myself, it is an attempt at projecting a certain image and taking on its attributes. It’s close to notions of sympathetic magic, only that it’s not a voodoo doll being poked, it’s me myself being dressed up for work. Continue reading

Buzzard

The Adventure Race of Reality

Tough Mudder, The Spartan, and so many more – adventure/obstacle course races have been gaining in popularity and become a great market.

Even trail and ultra running often seem not to be enough by and of themselves any longer. No, it must be done everywhere, jetting around the world to experience more exciting places, participate in better-known races – and producing the  side-effects of the everyday ruinous lifestyle.

At the start in Umag

Start of the 100 Miles of Istria – which was at least somewhat local and of reduced impact…

Running alone has apparently become boring, and it goes the way of so many activities in recent times: towards ever greater action and ever more adrenaline.

People keep falling for such highly-regarded races. Such great challenges, so many world-class runners, all the fun obstacles, the stamina it takes to finish – the very real stupidity behind them is quickly overlooked in all the quick excitement.

“Civilized life has altogether grown too tame, and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.” Bertrand Russell

Of course, it is mean to say so. Why not let people have fun the way they want to?
But that constant permissiveness is part and parcel of the attitude we increasingly follow, the attitude that we’ll just do whatever we can, because we can, ever-faster chasing after ever-more of the same, ever-more-exciting and ever-more-promising but ultimately dissatisfying experiences.
Because they are dissatisfying, we just try to increase the dose, like rats in the cage, pushing the lever that gives them stimulation, faster and faster, more and more.

Even as we can hear more and more on how happiness is in the mind, how our attitudes supposedly determine everything, how we just need to stay positive to “attract” whatever we want in our lives, we don’t work on the only thing that can really give happiness: a better handle on our lives in this world, understanding how things are, living well and truly, with engagement and the excitement – and calm – it brings.

No, we create more and mightier fake obstacles to pile excitement onto something that would give us  all we could want from it, if only we learned to experience it as it is.

Being in this world, moving through it with our bodies and observing it with our minds, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching, comparing over time… – it all would give quite enough, if only we learned to be fully here and now rather than let ourselves get drawn into the constant whirring of the machinery that produces ever more fake excitement for senses that are ever-more dulled by this very same machinery.

Buzzard

Having a buzzard fake-attack you, running through ever changing landscapes… Adventure enough, if only it’s seen.

But, it’s a business, it makes money, it spins out great marketing, so it must be just as great as it says, right?

Are you ready for the ultimate challenge? The greatest adventure?

No, if you fall for the constant spin, you clearly are not. Because the ultimate adventure is life itself, purposefully lived and skillfully ‘performed’, without all the fakery.

If you want more excitement/adventure in your life, quit buying into the fake excitements, the virtual adventures, so that you make room again for the real adventure all around you!

snowy-ascent

The Off-Season of Life?

Cold outside, uncomfortable, few if any races on the schedule…. the running season is over, the discussion on runner’s websites seems to have switched to either how to stay fit during this time of holiday stress and festive overeating, or what to plan for next year.

The talk is of the off-season.

How, though, can there be an off-season to running when running is a part of life? Continue reading

Micah True - Caballo Blanco

True Inspiration and Better Jobs

By now, if you are into ultramarathon running, you have heard that Micah True, a.k.a. Caballo Blanco, has died.
If you haven’t read Born to Run, aren’t into ultramarathons, couldn’t care less about a Mexican indigenous group for whom running for days is a normal way of having fun, you probably have no idea what any of this is about and why anyone would care.

Reactions have certainly been widely divergent, reflecting just that divergence of interest…

Some people heard of a 58-year-old guy dying while running in the Mexican wilderness, and suggested that having a beer on your couch will keep you from that fate.
Many people who comment have at least read a little of the background story, and conclude that True died well, doing what he loved – and finding inspiration, more importantly, in the truly authentic way he lived.

As much as I tend to dislike it when people are put on a pedestal, adulated as great examples, elevated to a status so far above the adoring crowd, all their equally-human faults are seen as their perfections, and so many of the adoring people seem to just conclude – same as the distractors – that they could never get to living so well, True’s is an example that is great to think about.

By conventional standards of success in business and/or family life, he was a failure. He seems to have been quite the  drifter, searching for something to throw himself into, a purpose to live, live for, and feel alive about – and it happened to be running and the Tarahumara (actually: Raramuri) way that found him.

Compare his example to that of the other, universally acclaimed great example, Steve Jobs: He also lived pretty much on his own terms, he came from a dysfunctional social background, and went to make Apple great… and so on. You’ve heard the story.

What strikes me is this: Jobs has been venerated, he was successful in some of the usual (business) terms, and I think he rather liked how and what he was doing with his life. You could also go and say that he changed business, gave people the i-things that made them happier, and all that.

Still, it was his way or no way. If the design and business sense hadn’t come together with the opportunity to make them count (and don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that it was all luck), they would just have been part of a headstrong character with a bad attitude who didn’t fit into the company (or even the business world at large).

We often celebrate companies and individuals once they’ve achieved undeniable success, but shun their disruptive thinking before reaching such a pinnacle. Before Oprah was Oprah, before Jobs was Jobs, they were labeled as misguided dreamers rather than future captains of industry.

Fast Company: The Dirty Little Secret of Overnight Success

Moreover, there was little concern for wider impacts. Not that intention and results have to fit – the best of intentions can lead to the worst of outcomes – but true greatness, in my “ecology of happiness”-concerned view, does not and must not come from creating new products everyone suddenly feels they need to have, and then to  constantly replace with their newest iteration. The better technologies we need are techniques of better living; the greatest inventions will not be products to buy, but ways of making a living creating a social and ecological benefit.

In that respect, Micah True’s “bad” example is much better. He just lived looking for something good to do with his life, a way to get by, the way so many of us do, now that the former shackles and certainties of clear-cut career and life paths have been giving way to more freedom as well as more uncertainty.

He, unlike a Steve Jobs, lived – and lived for and in a way – that the vast majority of people could follow and make the world better for themselves and others. No, not necessarily by going running all the time and moving to live with an indigenous group – but living on your own, and a community’s, and the world’s, terms. Not looking for happiness in fame and fortune, or a clear career and the amassing of stuff, but in doing something good that you love. Leading not by knowing better than all the others what they need, but by listening and learning, and leading your life well.

That, from all the little I’ve heard of Micah True, might be something he’d have approved of: Not remembering him reverentially, but living inspirationally yourself.

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Lifestyle Designer, Writer, Inspirational Speaker… Can I Just Be a Live-r?

It’s a strange world I’ve been falling into: people who track their life in order to quantify their self, who try to design their ideal lifestyle – and live it, too –, people who aim to be location-independent… and it’s oftentimes the same usual suspects one encounters again and again.

Before long, it also tends to be the same approach one seems to find over and over: “manifests” of just how they want to dominate the world, and change lives for the better, a desire to speak at TED, e-books and courses, and ideas to drive web traffic and build a following.

Oftentimes, what’s presented is presented as something new and fantastic – and if only you buy the book, follow the course, you can be all new and fantastic, too!

I’ve seen it before, though.

Continue reading