Sunday, August 30, 2009

Born to Mosey

I see there's a book very popular among runners (people who choose to run when there's nothing chasing them) called, what else, Born to Run. A great title, and it suggested to me the title for my own autobiography, which I intend to write when nothing is chasing me. "Born to Mosey."

Mosey is an archaic word, but I will stick with it because it's the first word that came to my mind, and sticking with it is much easier than getting down Roget's Thesaurus, which I actually own in book form. That right there should tell you that mosey is an apt word for someone of my age. It is an interesting word that connotes my humble heritage. But I don't want to deviate into looking up the word's etymology and hopelessly lose track of my inspiration, I want to explain myself. Not as an apology, just - clarification.

This is a world, this world I was born into way last century, that does not mosey. Americans run, they strive, they stretch, they reach, they gain, they multitask, they dream impossible dreams. They believe in dreaming impossible dreams, which has given rise to multiple huge industries that help people either dream that way or recover from dreaming that way: personal trainers, life coaches, therapists of every description, gurus, expensive running shoes . . . as you see, the list is endless. Nevertheless, some of us, many of us actually, just aren't suited for that.

If you look at the animal kingdom, it is very hard to justify this running thing. What mature predator gallops about at full speed when there is no prey? None, unless they hear the can-opener in the kitchen, and after all, catfood is a sort of prey that's been pre-conditioned to make life easier.

TV has given us a false impression of the animal kingdom. The fact is, in the state of Nature, lions lay around in the sun until they get hungry, and they would never get up if someone else would serve them. Elephants just stand there occasionally whisking their pathetic little tails, unless someone gives them some paints. Monkeys spend a great deal of time picking fleas off one another, an activity I suppose is akin to going to the beauty parlor or going on the Jerry Springer show. But they don't run.

It was very difficult for a pale, artistic type to grow up in this culture, which was like this even before feminism told women that we could compete (a form of running) in the "real" world with men, both in sports and at work. Still, I got along okay until seventh grade, when we were put without our consent into gym class, complete with starched white one-piece uniforms like truncated sleeveless jump suits. There we were expected to perform hard things that involved a lot of hasty moving about and sweating. This was great for a handful of naturally athletic girls who went on to become cheerleaders or high divers, but some of us just liked to read, and you couldn't get excused for that. I thought then and still do that getting out of breath isn't right, somehow.

The sport that naturally appealed to me in adulthood was yoga. I liked best the prone poses, the ones you do on the floor, especially shavasana, or corpse pose, which I do not say in order to be screamingly funny. It's the truth. I was willing to go through the rest to get to those last long, slow minutes when somebody told me to Relax.

Another thing I tried during my Middle Years was Tai Chi. This was a reach for me, because you were supposed to keep moving through a series of poses that were not posted on a blackboard (okay, white board) for us readers. It should not surprise anyone that my favorite thing about Tai Chi was the pose my teacher called Wu Wei, I think it was, which involved just standing doing nothing at all. Not even intending to move. My teacher claimed that all action had to proceed for this complete non-action. But I was always just getting into it when he started us moving.

Today, I watch more active people from my comfortable seat at a kitchen window that looks out on the street. Runners, power walkers, just plain walkers briskly walking, feeling their pulse, consulting their watch, talking on their cellphones, accomplishing something. None of them seem to be enjoying themselves the way their dogs do. Dogs, now, laugh when they're out for a run. It's fun they would say, and dogs like to have fun all the time, which is why they are dogs and we are the Master Race.

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