Monday, November 21, 2016

Fable of the Running Man

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." ~ Jane Howard
Deep within the hillsides of the village called Evanescium far from the hustle and bustle of the city from which most of the villagers had fled, lived a man who had never ceased fleeing.

You see, he was a running man.

He would wake up in the morning and he would run. In the afternoons, he would run. And in the evenings, he would run. There was no purpose to the running other than to busy himself away from the dread that seemed to relentlessly pursue him. There was no goal, not even the quinquennial Evanescium Games in which most of the villagers would participate to display each of their athletic talents as they pleased.

He knew if he ran, and ran, and ran, the displeasures, dismays and despondencies that pursued him daily could never overtake him - permanently.

You see, he would run a long way. And so he ran, with his pursuers close behind.

He believed by running he could keep at bay his past, past mistakes, misdeeds, forgotten or mislaid friendships, words said in haste, anger or fear he wished he had never uttered. He thought by relocating to Evanescium his regrets could not follow but incredibly the regrets seemed to be constantly nipping at his heels, spurring him along, fearing him forward.

Many of the other villagers were runners yet they would run their runs together. The running man would see them, happily dashing through the village pathways, enjoying the flora and fauna of the Evanescium forests and meadows, their efforts much less labored than his, their regrets far off in the distance. They seemed to revel in their regrets, their imperfections. There was a lightness to their strides unlike his plodding, heavy pace.

He soon learned when he would occasionally pass a group of his fellow villagers - and they would always smile at him and say things like "hello," "way to go," or "you got this," which he hated - many of them had found a purpose for their running.

You see, the Evanescium Games were to commence in a few months and many of the villagers would compete, displaying their running talents as they pleased The running man would have none of this. He feared if he joined one of the groups of villagers surely his failures would overtake him, thus, everyone would be witness to his faults and foibles. The worst of it would be if his past caught up with him.

He could see these groups ran effortlessly and at a much slower pace than he. He would notice, when he compared his running with the villagers', though his strides were plodding, his pace was frantic. This combination would inevitably lead to injury whereupon he would sequester himself in his little village home until he felt well enough to resume his flights. This would be when his fears, faults and foibles would seem to surround him like an engulfing, blinding fog.

One day after a recovery from one of these self-inflicted injuries as he emerged from his little village home frantic to begin again his running he happened to see a large group of his fellow villagers passing directly in front of his little village front yard. He of course paused, waiting until they passed, even though he could feel his failures, fears, faults and foibles ready to pounce and finally overtake and end him.

So he waited. He waited until the last of the runners were almost out of his sight, then emerged from his little village home front porch certain he could once again outdistance his pursuers - and just in time too! He could feel them. His failures, fears, faults and foibles having gained on him during his downtime were closing in!

The running man bolted from his little village home front yard at a pace a bit faster than normal to create some distance between him and his pursuers. Soon he heard the conversations, laughter and community of the group he had let pass minutes earlier. In his haste to outpace his demons he had inadvertently caught up with his fellow villagers.

"THE HORROR!" he thought to himself. Slowing his pace and shortening his stride the running man again lost the sight and sounds of the lighthearted ones.

"How could they run so slowly,. Why would they run so purposefully?" he asked himself. "Don't their worst fears eventually catch up to them?"

This was something that troubled him, something he could not understand.

Once again the dread that his past might catch up to him entered his mind. Caught between his failures, fears, faults and foibles and the joyful community he dare not join, the running man found himself slowing, accelerating, slowing, accelerating, keeping his distance - from everyone and everything, past, present and future.

The futility of this dance soon became apparent. As he approached the crest of a particularly rocky hillside surrounded by thick brush and and an equally thick stand of trees he discovered the villagers, those happy villagers were again within sight. As for his pursuers, he could feel them, gaining, closer than ever. It was as if he could hear them approaching.

"They will overtake me any moment now," he thought to himself.

He glanced backward over his shoulder at whatever was behind him and to his astonishment, and horror, he could faintly discern through the brush and the trees another group of joyous villagers approaching. Was he losing his mind?

Minutes passed which seemed like hours to the running man. The gap between the gleeful villagers ahead and the ebullient villagers behind was narrowing.

"Could this be my worst fear," he pondered. But this was no time for pondering. This was time for action. Never before had he been this close to the end, to his perceived end game.

For a moment he closed his eyes before making his move, whatever that might be...

Once opened, he found himself engulfed in a mass of joyous, fellow villagers. They seemed unconcerned about any pursuers.

"Where are the failures, fears, faults and foibles of these people," he wondered. "How can their strides be so measured, deliberate and self assured? Why do they not seem to be running from anything?"

Then as he began to run more slowly, deliberately and his strides became more relaxed within the mass of his fellow villagers the running man had a revelation...
All these years I've been so wrong. I thought my fellow villagers stupid for running so slowly and methodically, risking becoming overtaken by their worst darknesses. Now I realize they have not been running FROM anything. They're running TO something - every day!
And as he looked far ahead as the brush and stands of trees began to thin, he could see far off in the distance the lights and triumphant silhouette of Evanescium Memorial Stadium constructed years ago to commemorate the new beginnings built by the multitudes who would find a new life in the little village.

He became swept up by the happy conversations of his fellow villagers and no longer felt the constant apprehension of being pursued. Instead, he became aware for the first time this might be, finally, his new beginning. His pursuers, no longer a threat or even a consideration, the running man rounded a turn to a small decline on what was now a paved roadway. His pace, now measured, slow and deliberate he looked up and realized he was now entering the stadium with his fellow villagers - yes, his FELLOW villagers.

Soon the running man was immersed in a magnificent chorus of cheering from the villagers in the stands, the practiced and exquisite music of the Evanescium high school band and the exuberant cheering of the cheerleaders from the high school Cheer Squad.

"This is for YOU!" screamed one of his fellow villagers into the running man's ear so he could hear the words through the engulfing joyousness.

"What?" the running man asked, equally as loud to cut through the happy cacophony of the stadium.


And as he embraced the joy, the community and the peace of the moment he could feel a tear collect in the corner of his right eye. He had, arrived.

From that time forward the running man would stand patiently each day on his little front porch awaiting his fellow villagers. As they approached he would hear their conversations, laughter and community and would join them, stride for stride, as they passed by.

Every now and then this group of villagers would pass a solitary runner plodding along, relentlessly evading his or her worst failures, fears, faults and foibles. The running man would smile and say, "Hello,""Way to go," or "You've got this," knowing these lone villagers may not yet be ready for the stadium.

Each day at the end of each run he would say goodbye to his fellows and privately reminisce about the journey of the day, the sites seen, the conversations conversed, the trails traversed and the obstacles overcome.

He would contemplate how fortunate he was to have found himself among the many and wonder ...
"Just think where I'll arrive tomorrow?"
... keep coming back

"Go forth in the busy world and love it. Interest yourself in its life, mingle kindly with its joys and sorrows." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson