Two amazing books

Blog posts can't always be systematic, coherent and make a point. So some random thoughts on two amazing books that I have just read.

Treading your path

First Haruki Murakami's What I talk about when I talk about running. A colleague told me about it some months ago, and then I stumbled on it while looking for a birthday present for my brother, a runner.

After completing a triathlon Murakami reflects: "Even if, seen from the outside, or from some higher vantage point this sort of life looks pointless or futile, or even extremely inefficient, it doesn't bother me... Whether its good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what's most important is what you can't see but can feel in your heart... There may not seem to be much logic to it, but its the life I have chosen for myself."

A little later he says: "My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance - all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what's really important is reaching the goal I set for myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied."

Soaring from an Eagle's Throat

Then I followed Michael Ondaantje's recommendation to read Annie Dillard. By chance I found Teaching a stone to talk in a second hand bookstore. A short essay in it, "Living like Weasels" is pure gold.

She tells the story of how a friend found an eagle with the dry skull of a weasel still attached to its throat. She guesses that the eagle caught the weasel, but that the weasel got hold of the eagle's throat and hung on to the very end and beyond. This sets her off on the following reflection: "I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop, let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles."

Somehow these two extracts seem to be talking about the same thing. About determination, about how we play the game, and about keeping our eyes on the ball and not on the scoreboard. One step at a time.

3 comments:

Laurie said...

I love the story about the weasel.

You said, "A little later he says: "My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance - all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what's really important is reaching the goal I set for myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied."

This reminds me of my canoe ride I took last weekend. I ended up going by myself on a windy day. The waves were high and strong. I had to sit in the bottom of my canoe to manage the force of the opposing waves. I reached my destination, having to paddle backwards at points to maneuver the path. Victory was sweet in that I felt I had stretched my limits and triumphed. Yeah for me!

Anonymous said...

fucking amazing stuff
there is a laurie anderson song based on the Annie Dillard story - you obviously have to hear it
paul

Albert@Nextsmallsteps said...

@ Paul. Thanks! What's the song called? I'd like to go and find it.

@ Laurie Yes, its amazing how different things look from inside.