Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Freedom to Take Life Seriously—Or Not

Following on the topic of funny and amusing, I want to do almost a 180 degree turnaround and talk about taking things in the marathon and taking life seriously.  There is a lot to be said about this.

The first thing to be said is about taking life seriously in the context of the marathon.  I was  obviously not the only one who saw the guy dressed as the zebra and the guy with the hamburger outfit.  I forget which of the two I was passing, but I ran past two guys having a conversation.  They were talking about how hard people have to work to qualify for Boston.  The one guy noted that after qualifying some people seem to treat Boston itself as a reward—something they take just as a fun run.  While there are plenty of others who work extremely hard to qualify for Boston and then continue to work extremely hard to give the race in Boston all they have.  The two guys who were having the conversation were obviously in the latter group.  One of them commented on how he has no hesitation to give people a piece of his mind when he finds that they are taking the actual Boston Marathon as a fun run.  Obviously it is only so much fun as a runner has to get his or her body to go the 26.2 miles.  But some people run the race to get as close to a PR as they can and others just go out to enjoy.  This morning, I enjoyed by 14 mile run at an average pace of about 8:30.  That was my choice.  And it was the right choice for today.

To a degree, I have to agree with the two guys I passed and overheard having the conversation.  Given how hard each runner who qualifies (rather than getting in by running for a charity) has to work to quality you would hope that they take the race seriously.  Otherwise, why not give the spot to someone else who worked almost as hard but didn’t quite make the cutoff and then would take the actual Boston Marathon just as seriously.

But then, I also think to myself that there should be freedom to choose.  The Boston Athletic Association only requires people to work to qualify.  They do not make any requirement for how hard people have to run the race.  There is freedom.  Freedom to choose.  Free will.  Self determination.  Once the opportunity is earned, a person can choose to do whatever he or she wants to with the opportunity.  It is only the opportunity that has to be earned.  Nothing beyond that.

Would we really want it any other way?  Would we want an athletic association or any other club, religious organization, or part of the government taking away that freedom?  I don’t think so.  That is one of the best things about this country.  We have the choice of what to do with opportunities.  We can make the most of them or watch them go by.  We can try to do our best or simply participate at a minimal level. 

In short, we don’t all have to behave the same way.  We don’t all have to share the same values.  We don’t all have to value things the same ways. 

Looking ahead it will be interesting to see how people respond next year.  Lots more people want to run it.  But will they want to run just to say they were there or will they want to run as hard as they can?  It is impossible to know.

And the freedom has limits.  There is not the freedom to perform destructive acts that harm others.  There is not the freedom to take the lives of others.  There is not the freedom to disrupt the life of a city for a week by the action of two people who have been accused. 

Those who do such things may consider themselves to be taking their lives seriously, but it is a type of seriousness that I do not understand.  I want to bring about serious good.  Serious harmony.  Serious shared values.  Serious success.  Not serious tearing apart.

And not only do I want to live my life in a way that shows that I am serious about my fitness but I hope to be serious about just about everything.  It is critical to remember that taking things seriously and approaching life in a serious way is not the same as being too serious and without humor all the time.  But being serious about how I live my life does mean seeking the best outcome I can achieve in everything I do in life. 

That is a high standard to set for myself.  In particular, I have to remember that everything requires a serious amount of effort to be successful.  If I want to live up to the standard I have set, then I have to live up to my expectations of myself in terms of marriage, my kids, my work, my Sunday school teaching, and my bass playing.  At some point, I recognize that I may have to pull back.  I love every one of the things I have listed there but there are only so many hours in a day.  I may have to give in a little on how much I run or how much I race.  I may need to pay more attention to one or more of the other items.  I may have to figure out something to give up at least for a while so that my marriage and my kids and my job can get the priority the need so that my family can continue to experience a comfortable existence.  As I choose to take my life seriously moving forward, I must make choices that reflect the seriousness of the set of things as well as seriousness for each individual thing. 

And I have to remember that I have the freedom to focus on what I want but that freedom may lead to the wrong choices as much as the right choices if I do not carefully discern the right choices.  

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