the calm

Haruki Murakami has a book titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. First, I have to say that I would read any book by Murakami because I can find fragments of myself in his characters. I feel less alone, more understood. But I enjoyed reading WITAWITAR because it was Murakami’s book that was written as if it were only meant for him to read. Most writers, if they want to be successful, write for the reader, the audience. But this approach of writing for the self answers different calls, the calls from within, the questions that are buried deep within you. I call this exploratory writing.

Murakami’s story begins with why and how he began to run. He didn’t run in his track team. He wasn’t naturally gifted. His journey began at around 30 years old – relatively late, but age is nothing in these matters. At around age 30, Murakami also began to write seriously. He sold his restaurant to become a full-time writer. He gambled on himself.

To Murakami, running, as well as writing, were an escape. He did not use them to avoid his problems, rather they served as outlets for self-expression, for exploring his own character and purpose.

As a writer, you write in order for someone to read. As a runner, you race and train with others. But the joy of these pursuits, for Murakami, was how well they fit in and accommodated his propensity towards solitude.

The empty page that stares back at the writer as he sits at his desk to write; the lonely roads that a runner treads on his morning runs. These are the starts and stops of a journey with no end. When I sit here to write, I have the same thoughts – what questions am I grappling with? What is awakening my curiosity? These are things only I can answer for myself.

The same has happened as I ride my bike down winding roads, or stare at the bottom of the swimming pool covering lap after lap, or even while running on the trails. I encounter these questions, this inner drive to explore what lies within. There is also an internal calm when I can hear my breathing and feel my heart pumping furiously the blood that will course through my veins to deliver oxygen that the muscles need to keep on pushing. 

The calm is ephemeral, dharmic. By the time I recognize it, it is gone. Maybe that is because I don’t really know how to live in patience. I do everything fast, and I expect everything fast. I am learning this. I devour my meals as if I were timed, and I chug my coffee and water. I get anxious when people don’t respond to a text message. I cannot wait in customer support lines. Time is valuable, and I think that is why patience is hard. I am not ill-intentioned, but I am not ready in that way. So when I encounter the calm, I notice, and I am grateful for it. 

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