Candles Always Cry

And Other Stories

Month: December, 2012

Pain only hurts

Thoughts on Eat & Run by Scott Jurek/Steve Friedman

For a few days I was hearing this mantra in my head, ‘pain only hurts’. I thought about it. If that’s enough to get you through something. If it’s true. Sometimes pain is an indicator of a problem that can escalate if it’s not addressed.

Or if you ignore it long enough does it cede its control over you?

It made me think of the chapter in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ where the author is taught by an Indian guru to use the pain, to feel it, to have the pain be the meditation. (Sad I get my knowledge of zen/yoga/meditation from an American adventurist, I know.)

Then I picked up Eat & Run by the super-ultrarunner Scott Jurek which I’d begun reading the week before. I flipped through the pages to find my place ans saw that  one of the early chapters in the book is called ‘pain only hurts’, which was the motto of Jurek’s high-school coach.

If I’d never picked up the book again, I might have thought it was my own head that had come up with that.

—-

In 2006, Jurek paced for a fellow ultrarunner named Brian at an 100 mile race in Northern California. Brian made it to with

in 100 fee of the finish line, the closest runner 12 minutes behind him, and he collapsed. Jurek and someone else supported him to the finish line. Instead of winning, Brian was disqualified.

In trying to explain how someone can run for 100 miles and collapse within reach of the finish line, Jurek writes,

Science is about objective measurement so it’s’ understandable that it has an innate bias for things that can be measured… It’s not possible to measure the mysterious workings of the will. – pg. 161

So reason isn’t G-d after all.

The book

The story is remarkable and it got me moving.  The  day I began reading it I ran 4.5 miles, about 50% more than my next longest distance.

The writing is, as you’d expect from a ghost-written book, not great. It flows glibly. Even the parts about extreme endurance and pain, those are glib too. Or is that how Scott approaches everything? He claims to be a thinker, to always asking why, to have a gaping need for something that he’s found only by pushing himself further and further. I know that because he told me, not because he showed me.

At the end of each chapter is a vegan recipe and sometimes running tips as well.  Some of those recipes actually look doable even for a carb and dairy eater like me.

I Am Witness

If I have a destiny, it is to be a witness

A blue hat

The sky that stretches over all of us

Distant but present

Silent but listening

It’s a curse

To see the things I see

To see everything as a symbol

To cry for a single tree like it was every tree

To tear for every old man

That misses the bus

To see both sides of every story

To feel his anger and her dissapointment

Her guilt and his insecurity

To think that somehow made me immune

To my own petty fears

Only it was more so

To take the whole world to bed with me

And wake with it pounding in my head

To be freer and more confined

To fly further and fall harder

Knowing I’m alive from the breath

On my side of the glass

Where more often than not

When the darkness comes

All that I can see through the glass

Is my own reflection

[Sic] by Joshua cody

Memoir of living with cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though there were moments where I felt like I had accidentally ended up in an upscale lounge somewhere where men wear $2000 suits, and drink $1000 bottles of wine and discuss their art collections, and where they invested their fortunes. (In short, privileged and over educated, and unaware of their own narrowness.)

There were pieces of it that were great. Fragments. But the story of illness, I barely saw it. Maybe that’s the beauty of it. The story of his illness is the story of life – the ups and downs of it, the people who come in and out of it, the moments where it is glorious and vivid, and the moments it’s just heaviness, and there’s the thought of ending it.

To explain feelings he uses metaphors or analogies, long, intellectual and fascinating, metaphors that are thoughts complete in themselves and don’t necessarily lead back to the feeling. The golden ratio, Citizen Kane, Klee, Ezra Pound – these are where he goes to make sense of things, his language for understanding the self.

These references, and the detours into artists and art and lyrics and girls are, told in this rambling, exploring way — are captivating, but in the most intense situations, where he is trying to convey something particular, it comes across flat.

My favorite passage is a description of  a girlfriend, only because it pertains to me:

But she had to assume this identity as she had to assume her other roles: girlfriend, New Yorker, freelance designer, person walking down the street, person eating breakfast, person engaged in conversation, person giving someone a hug.

None of her actions was in the least inauthentic but her degree of alienation from goals, actions, simple states of being – the acute inescapable self-surveillance of the addict – resembles that rareified ontological space of the depressive, the anxious, the ill, the poet.

That describes me too well. And I would venture, based on his own writing that it describes Cody, to some degree, as well.

Fact Is

Yes you can argue with facts. In fact, the only thing you can argue with are facts.

What else do you intend to argue about? Whether Obama did or did not pass the healthcare bill? No.

You’re going to argue about the healthcare bill itself.
Will it make our country go bankrupt?
Does it prove that Obama is a socialist with evil communist aspirations?
Was there a different way to solve the problems in the healthcare industry?

When you’re in a discussion about a fact, you support your position with facts.

If the facts are questionable, or you bring reason to doubt the other side’s facts, then once again you’re arguing over facts (hopefully by invoking other facts).

So a list of facts without context doesn’t prove anything.
When you use statements like ‘these are facts’ as the clincher for your case, you’re just shutting down the argument. What you’re really saying is, “I think that my opinion is the only possible interpretation of these facts so I’m not gonna bother supporting my position or listening to yours. Because I’ve got the facts. So what you gonna say to that?”

It’s about the interpretation of the facts.
And that’s why the truth is so malleable.

Inspired by this article and by years of reading the news.

On Depression

My mind has just been officially blown.

I just finished the 1079 pages of Infinite Jest and turned to the internet to try to make sense of it. The ending most urgently,  but really,  of the mammoth experience of reading two months worth of David Foster Wallace’s mind-blowing mind.

And then I found this as an introduction to an essay on Infinite Jest:

Depression, when it’s clinical, is not a metaphor. It runs in families, and it’s known to respond to medication and to counseling. However truly you believe there’s a sickness to existence that can never be cured, if you’re depressed you will sooner or later surrender and say: I just don’t want to feel bad anymore. The shift from depressive realism to tragic realism, from being immobilized by darkness to being sustained by it, thus strangely seems to require believing in the possibility of a cure….

– Jonathan Franzen

How is there anyone who can say something even more core-kicking than DFW?