Thursday, February 21, 2008

on the edge (occam's razor)

"your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding"

-kahlil gibran, the prophet

whenever people ask me about the Ironman experience, i always have a hard time giving them an answer.

it's hard to enunciate in words. it's such an overwhelming experience. the race. the training. the changes it asks in how you live your life. the sacrifices it requires that you make. the journey that it takes you on. the discoveries and lessons and secrets and rewards it gives to you on the way. it's more--and different--from anything else i've ever done.

i think the closest i've ever come to describing it is it's like being on the edge.

as in being far beyond the seductively comforting, horrifically confining constraints of the normal world.

physically, you're constantly riding the body's limits, going farther than most people would ever consider possible, or even sane. you're continuously pushing it climb the path to ever higher (and previously unimaginable) heights of performance, only pulling back just enough to allow it to get its bearings and regenerate and adapt to its new altitude. the goal is to intentionally go outside the comfort zone, with the hope that the body adjusts and rises to fill increased expectations. if done right, your body follows an ever-escalating cycle of performance to new frontiers once deemed only fanciful. but if done wrong, you either stray too far from the intended path and fall off into the chasm of overtraining to depths so deep you are unlikely to ever scale back, or go too little and never advance get the chance to explore the limits of your potential.

mentally, you're similarly asking the mind to change its ways of perception and thinking, regularly nudging it beyond the confines of understanding held and imposed by so often by so many, so that the borders of your awareness break the barriers of the mundane world and grow free to new horizons. if handled correctly, you'll experience a change in all sense of perspective, with a realization that things often thought impossible are in fact quite possible, and that things often thought complex are in truth quite simple, and that life--yours and others around you--can reach as far as you can dream...and that those dreams can become real as easily as making the decision to move one step farther forward.

there's something more than this, too.

at some point in the Ironman process, either or both in training and race day, you'll find yourself, emotions raw, body weak, mind numb, spirit spent, upon a trail you don't know and don't understand and don't know that you really want. swimming, cycling, running, walking, then stumbling, then shuffling, and then sometimes finally even crawling. so far out in the distance that you'll be beyond anyone or anyplace or anytime that you've ever known or can possibly remember, beyond anything remotely related to whoever, or whatever, it was you were before.

you'll find yourself.

and there will be no title, no status, no money, nor flashy car, nor fancy clothes, nor big house, nor shiny jewelry, nor assorted random consumer luxury goods.

and there will be no reputation, no inflated ego, nor pride, nor vanity, nor glory.

and there will be no half-truths, nor excuses, nor lies.

there will be, in short, no bullshit.

because in the vast reaches of the distance, this will all be seen for what it truly is: supremely, insignificantly, pathetically, comically absurd.

and in that one singular moment, whose significance you cannot deny and you cannot ignore, you'll be stripped bare. naked before creation. alone under heaven. out of reach of any sense of self or spirit or soul.

and it's then that you'll know the meaning of the profane and the sacred.

and it's then that you'll know the meaning of the mundane and the divine.

it's then that you'll see the truth.

about you, your world, and your god.

just like occam's razor, you tread the path dividing the trivial and the profound. it's a path followed by ascetic traditions of many of the world's religions, from Christian monks to Hindu mystics to Zen priests to Native American spirit guides, all of whom sought--and still seek--deeper truths about existence, to transcend the suffering of samsara to find their enlightenment of satori (reference:

it's a path that's only found free of the burdens of artifice and vice. it's a path that only taken by the devout. it's the path only open to an Ironman.

like you.

a solitary pious pilgrim, like so many others, making their forlorn way to the fundamental truths of life and living, and their meager place within the ultimate meaning that is the awesome monolith of all eternity.

out there, in the uttermost depths of the distance.

out there, far out on the edge.

1 comment:

ace said...

There are so many things the words in this post bring up. But ultimately it is the truth of the words that shines through and leaves me still. Excellent post. Namaste.