The restless whirlpool of life
“Go faster, harder; be stronger, tougher,” – just some of the words I use as mental self-flagellation in those critical first five minutes pounding the pavements on my early morning runs.
At the same time, there’s another voice in my head asking why: “Why go faster? Why not slow down? When you slow down, you notice more – so go slow, take your time, pay attention…”. And so it goes on, the perpetual battle to find the right pace, to stay in motion while also remaining present.
Of course the very act of running necessarily requires you to propel your way forward. But I often wonder in the process of doing so why we feel so compelled, why indeed we feel this sense of urgency in life in general.
From the moment we enter the world, we are thrown onto a trajectory where the only destination of which we can be certain is the exit. How we fill the midsection is, for the most part, up to us to determine. Whether we relish this as an opportunity for self-realisation, or seize up at the overwhelming nature of a wide open space can be discerned from the language we use to describe our state of being at any given moment. In virtually every case, it’s the language of linear travel that we use to plot our position as we navigate life’s torrents.
We “climb” proverbial ladders in a bid to reach personal or professional summits, we “reach for the stars”, and we’re forever told to “aim high”. And when those lofty heights elude us, our hearts “sink”, we are “crestfallen” and we “plummet” to the “depths” of despair. We’re either accelerating forwards, or we’re decelerating backwards.
What is it that we’re saying when we talk of highs and lows? Why do we linguistically frame our lives this way? How have we even come to collectively associate and articulate “forwards” and “up” as signs of progress, while assuming “backwards” and “down” to be regressive?