Tuesday, May 21, 2013

General's Principles

I want to fit in to the perfect space.
Feel natural and sane in a volatile place.
And I want to grow old, without the pain.

From time immemorial Man has been consumed by the pursuit of perfection.  Not simply in ourselves but in our surroundings.   For more than a few of us it is a ceaseless and ultimately fruitless pursuit.  We roam incessantly and indiscriminately - like a herd of buffalo in search of a more plentiful swath of grass to eat or a more plentiful supply of fresh water to drink - forever hopeful that the patch of grass on the fence's other side is as green as it seems.  We continue to covet it although we know that it is not always greener than that upon which we presently stand.  Hell, we learn too hard, too late and too often that not only is it not any greener, it is not even grass.  It is merely painted concrete. 

You spend more than a little bit of your life in a state of depression if you fail to grasp the distinction between peace and perfection.  As a general rule, we spend most of our time interacting with other humans.  If there is a member of the animal kingdom more likely to disappoint a human than another human, as of this point in my life I have yet to discover it.  Disappointment is inevitable.  It is a part of one's day-to-day.  It seems to me - from nothing other than my own experience - that the trick lies not in trying to avoid it but rather in recognizing its inevitable arrival and containing the amount of damage it can actually do. 

Three-plus years ago, shortly after I signed up to run my first half-marathon (the inaugural Rutgers Half-Marathon in April 2010), I came across a quote from General George S. Patton that - to this day - I have taped to my desk.  Patton as (hopefully) everyone knows was a General in the United States Army in World War II.  What you may not know about him was that he represented the United States in the 1912 Olympics.  His words resonate regardless of whether one is training for a marathon or simply navigating the choppy waters of a Tuesday:

Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing.
You have to make the mind run the body. 
Never let the body tell the mind what to do.
The body will always give up. 
It is tired in the morning, noon and night. 
But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.

Perhaps the pursuit is not one of perfection but, rather, the avoidance of mental fatigue.   Easier said than done.  Believe me.  I know the struggle.  At day's end however, the payoff exceeds the pain. 

No matter how much it hurts.


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