Wednesday, May 16, 2012

a step outside the cave

one of the aspects of an active lifestyle that people come to realize is the invariable state of being outside. almost everything calls one forth to experience the elements, particularly as the distances increase and the time allotted expands.  swimming, biking, running, walking requires at least some portion of our activities be spent outdoors.

not that anyone minds. if anything, it's what drives us to adopt the lifestyle to begin with. because we believe that it provides us benefits that we all too often lack in sedentary living.

to a degree, the benefits are physical and mental: we reacquaint ourselves with our senses, smelling tasting feeling seeing the elements of all that is around us through a range far beyond that which we experience cowering in a room; we feel the coursing of our bodies in muscle, bone, and sinew activated by blood and nerves powered by heart and lungs instigated by the recesses in the corners of our minds; and we experience and we respond and we learn and we know far more than the hidden places from where we always begin. and in so doing we come to know what it feels to be alive.

which is why, beyond a certain point, the benefits become something more. the change of pace and space and time and state allows our spirits to stretch and bend and extend and grow, free to move and flex and flow past the stiffening confines of our normal lives;  the venturing towards the unlimited and the exploration into the unknown draws us to vast perspectives that reach unbound beyond the barriers of our comfort zones; and we thereby take in broad spectrum the deep significance of a great world outside ourselves. and in so doing we come to understand what it is to be alive.

it's here i find Plato's allegory of the cave apropos. the allegory, in short, begins with a description of people who've resided their entire lives inside a cave, bound and fixed so that their only perceptions of reality are the shadows that they see on the wall. the allegory asks what happens to the dwellers of the cave when they are told by outsiders of the world that lies beyond shadows, and asks further what happens when the dwellers are suddenly freed and allowed to leave the cave. the experience of stepping outside the cave, of facing the world, of discovering more than shadows and walls and overhangs and chains but instead colors and horizons and skies and liberation. it's all more than they ever knew, more than they ever expected, more than they ever were.

in such a situation, do the dwellers of the cave go forth? do they leave the comfort of the known and familiar and stay what was? or do they step forward into the glory of the unknown and unfamiliar and become what is to be?

and i think this is what really, deep down, inside anyone who adopts an active lifestyle, is really going on. we're leaving the cave. we're breaking the chains that bind us, looking past the shadows before us, and turning to face all the universe that extends beyond us. and every one of us who rises from our rooms and opens the door and goes on through is taking the act of placing ourselves outside our comfort zones and giving ourselves the gift of liberation so that we may grow as far and as high and as deep and as significant and as profound and as great as the life of the cosmos around us, so that we become the mystery that is creation...and the mystery of creation is life.

and all we do is step outside the cave.

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