Monday, November 01, 2010

A delicate balance

Yesterday, I practiced walking/running intervals in the local park. For the first time, I managed to run (ok, jog) 1/2 mile straight. From the perspective of June, when I waited to be sure that I'd be unseen in my ridiculous and clumsy attempt before jogging what may have been a whole 200 yards, this is a remarkable accomplishment!  I am insufferably pleased with my efforts.

It's evidence that while I felt myself tethered to my computer (with kudzu, I imagined, grown there while in Chapel Hill), there is life beyond doctoral studies, beyond the virtual. The body abides, but is moaning its neglect, and slowly creaks through enforced paces. Stasis seems most natural, but is an illusion: the reality is a gradual decline that goes unnoticed, but for the familiar aches of a chairbound body. There is an inevitability to that subsidence, from which we shy away.

When I walk 1/8th mile, then run 1/4, I give my legs time to recover. Underused muscles loosen, breath and heart slow; by the end of that time I am ready to pick up the pace again. At times my body moves as it is meant to do, all parts in sync, and I find myself closer to the dream of lightness and joy. Experienced runners pass me, reaching with gazelle-strides, shining with sweat, nearly airborne. It is not yet possible that I could be among them. Do I want to be? - I continue to look, and remember myself as a child sprinting barefoot, put to run with the boys because I outran all the girls.

During other moments, I feel twinges and the stubborn pull of tiredness, and look for the marker that means I can slow down, utterly bound to the earth. In order to improve my stamina and strength, I have to know my body and respect it, learn to listen to those messages.  But how do I discern the difference between limits that must be pushed, and those that should be respected?  I learn.

I must have both moments. Limits to presence: transcendency. Pragmatism, limit-escaping; knowing self, dreaming of possible selves. Teaching - and LIS itself - are the same for me, but involve the conscious inclusion of the what is and what might be, what is certain/uncertain; what is known and what (everything) should be questioned.

The power and passion of LIS is thoroughly grounded in both historical presence and near-ethereal idealism, and both sustain us and drive us toward the future. We are limited by earth-boundedness, in this sense our overwhelming awareness of political and economic realities, the small and large fires faced daily.

Can we retain our idealism and drive for change as a positive force through the present era?  The lift and memory of flight, insubstantial as they seem to be, must be nourished by all in order to retain viability as a profession.

No comments: