The day starts for many of us with news. We’re immediately inundated with the stories and perspectives our chosen media sources want us to consume. Sensationalism and conflict reign. We see the polar extremes of the political world and are taught to villify. We’re told to get involved in righting all the world’s problems even while being told to accept pre-fabricated solutions in lieu of careful consideration of evidence.
But we can only spend so long in this realm because most adults are responsible for children and seeing that they’re fed and off to school on time. We jump in our cars and speed for the parkway pipeline into the city, the concerns of the day already pressing upon us: Car insurance is due, so is renter’s insurance. Am I even with the right insurer and do I have enough Bodily Injury coverage? Am I putting enough in my 401K and how much am I going to lose to taxes this year? What if tax structure changes? We worry perhaps about lingering conflicts with co-workers or supervisors, maybe things we’ve never dealt with head-on but have allowed to simmer. That will be waiting on the ninth floor for us shortly.
We’re consumed with the vagaries of depreciation, compensation, amortization and litigation. The goals and ideals with which we perhaps left high school fade as the maintenance of life becomes all-consuming.
Every so often, perhaps once every week or once every two weeks, I have a near-perfect day. I enjoyed one of these just a few days ago and I’d like to cultivate the discipline to enjoy more like it.
I got up with the 5:30 alarm and stretched. I live in a hovel but that keeps everything close, at my finger tips. I don’t waste time in transit to the coffee pot. Soothing my addiction seems fundamental.
The book on the top of my stack is the complete works of Plato and I set the 20 minute alarm to rouse me from thought in a bit as I move a few pages closer to completion of this multi-year project. Immersing the mind in philosophy within moments of waking seems fundamental.
The timer is re-set for 20 and I grab my book of exercises and find a number randomly selected the night before corresponding to an exercise in this catalog of self-inflicted tortures. Looks like I’m starting with abdominals today. The next number tells me that I’m not getting away without tricep work and I lay on my side and start pushing. That too seems fundamental and the foundation of preparedness – a strong body.
I’ve done well so far and so there’s time for an uncompromising breakfast: bacon, eggs and a bagel. As you might have guessed, breakfast too seems fundamental to me.
I take care of groceries for the week and some cleaning over the next couple of hours – the chores that are inescapable and probably fundamental as well.
My daily schedule informs me that it’s time for a run and I’m really looking forward to this – it will have been a day well spent by lunch time. Also, I savor the runs because I’m only a week into my self-administered rehabilitation program after 6 months without a run due to injury. I’m in shorts and the car is in motion in minutes.
There’s mile after mile of little-known woodland trail north of Murrysville in the Pittsburgh area and even though I’ve only been here a year, I’ve probably seen most, though not all, of it. I step lightly over a guard rail that I might have jumped 7 months ago and try to approximate a regular stride over the irregular surface. This trail is probably inadvisable to someone attempting a comeback from a foot injury but it feels good for now and I propel myself up the first climb.
The first bit of exertion felt good and I look forward to another. The hardwood forest is verdant now, the forest floor patches of sunlight and shadow. My breathing becomes deep and regular, the way I used to breathe during my long runs. The urban cares melt away as the sounds of automobiles are replaced by the melodies of thrushes and song sparrows. I watch the living things and think about them as I pass, anticipating what I’m likely to encounter next and welcoming the surprises I couldn’t have anticipated in an organic place like this. I feel healthy and my mind feels right as the steps become mindless.
Yes, this is fundamental too – fixing one’s perspective on the world.