Friday, August 13, 2010

A Love Affair with George Sheehan

My cyclist bro Davie Gie and I share a fondness for George Sheehan's book Running and Being. In fact I stole your copy, Dave, and that is why you cannot find yours. An intriguing fellow he exercised first and then lived the rest of his life which included a busy medical practice and a large family. The interesting thing about the man is that he was a dyed-in-the-wool introvert despite having the prestigious career thing going for him. And I quote, "I am a nervous, shy noncombatant who has no feeling for people. I find no happiness in carnival, no joy in community. I am one with the writers on The New Yorker whom Brendan Gill described. They touched each other only by accident, were secretive about everything, and never introduced anyone properly."

I walk into the house dripping from my hour at the pool and the rain begins to pour from the leaden skies. I have been lucky with weather and schedules this summer and have been able to maintain a daily swim. I was loathe to leave today and continued to stay in those cool waters and watch the sky turn colors. Due to the great amount of time I spend outdoors I am fairly talented at reading the sky just like any mailman (mailperson) would be. I knew the creases of light behind the darknesses was not a rain sky.

It is difficult for me to be indoors and I wonder if my current job choice was influenced by the fact that I work on the third floor and there are large windows looking down on trees and gardens. After years of working in cubicles and dealing with the craziness of social work I now plan piano recitals and crafts sessions with my Alzheimer's patients. They are like old children and live long lives because - well, they don't realize they are old. They will pass a mirror and wonder who is that old person looking out. Show them a picture of themselves and their spouses and they will possibly know the "old man," but who is that old lady he is with? They do not know my name and they probably can't acknowledge my existence if I am not in their line of vision, but they smile when they see me and look relieved because I represent sameness and security in their abbreviated lives. They know I belong with them.
Oh, I look out those windows a lot and wait for the bell to ring and I am free again.

I will miss my summer swimming and I will check with the YM/YWCA but their fees are probably astronomical and I heard the "Y" stands for "yuppie" - a horrid group of wannabe LA- ers of whom I could never associate. My mountain-climbing, vegan, world-traveling son abhors tourists from LA in the mountains. "They wear loud, inappropriate colors, they are afraid of big dogs (all dogs are big in Colorado) and they talk and laugh too loudly. They have no mountain etiquette." A term I had never heard until I accidentally walked off a mountain trail and was given a heated lecture on protecting the ecosystems and this means stay on the path.
Sheehan's book is a journal of conflicts as he is a man of talent and knowledge and should be the proverbial pillar of the community - member of clubs and organizations, a man mindful of community progress, encouraging the growth of the intellectual world around him by being a part of that world. But he is none of that. He does his job quietly waiting for the open road ahead for him, choosing not to spend time with his family. He is aware this is not how things are done, but it causes him no pain or conflict. Davie and I kinda like that. ( Well, he should spend time with the family . . .)

But mainly I read the book because it describes exercise as the highest form of meditation a human can do. Fitness leaves the physical world and joins with the mystic spirituality of a higher consciousness.

And I have this copied and laminated and sticking on my refrigerator. George says, "First I ran from instinct. Later I was forced to exercise in phys ed. Even later I came to run and exercise because it was prescribed by authorities. But finally I have come to run because it is the right and true and just thing for me to do. In the process I may be helping my arteries and heart and circulation as well, but that is not my concern.
"My true aim now is a state of fitness prior to and unrelated to sickness or disease. My true task, to live at my authentic level. My true goal to reach my original splendor."

1 comment:

MrDaveyGie said...

Well first of all, I have othre copies. Ha ha.
His writing, thoughts and philosophies always leave me waiting to get on my bike again. A.K.A, my running after 4 major knee surgies.
Oh and did you know your brother Al so embraces George.
Oh and one more thing. Back in the day, after the summer season, I joined the Y for swimming, it worked quite well