13 June 2011

Memory and Stories

I was running this morning, but not running well. I huffed and I puffed but I could blow no houses down. There was a time when on a Sunday morning I would go out running anywhere from eight to twenty miles. These runs were invigorating experiences, and I loved being out on the roads. I would run with my dear friend, Gary, and at this time of year (it is supposedly mid-June but I’m now wrapped in my quilt and blowing warm air on my cold hands as I work out here in Walden), he and I might strategically place water bottles along the day’s chosen route to ensure necessary hydration. We were good, careful runners.
Gary is actually a stronger runner than I; I think he is even a stronger person. I admire his determination and drive: when Gary undertakes to accomplish something, he always completes it. Though he patiently accompanies me most weekday mornings on my present and somewhat feeble two mile run/walks, just a month or so ago Gary ran a half-marathon in an incredible time of 2 hours 25 minutes, or thereabouts. Gary is a dear but he is no Spring chicken! Nor to my knowledge had he trained very much for the event. And though Gary wonders daily why he still works so hard, he never ceases to labor without regret or complaint. I have learned a great deal from his strength. 
Anyway, I was running feebly this morning and remembered when I began my running habit almost four decades ago. I recall making the decision to run myself into some kind of physical shape, though I don’t remember what inspired this athletic enterprise. I’d always be involved with sports, but at that time my decision to run probably had something to do with the fact that running was a sport I could do alone and without fear of judgment by the rest of the team. And so I laced up my sneakers (I did not have running shoes at that time—don’t even remember knowing that such things existed) and put on a pair of gym shorts and t-shirt. I left the house and walked to Northern Boulevard (about fifty yards) and began to run toward the East. It was an uphill climb. Actually it was all uphill—the incline was significant along this stretch of Northern Boulevard. I didn’t make it very far before I felt it necessary to walk. And so for about twenty minutes (or less) I began my running by mostly walking. 
And that is how it went this morning: a mixture of running and walking with some emphasis on the latter. And what intrigued me this morning was the specific memory of the beginning of my running that was inspired by my running situation in the present. I remembered what occurred forty years ago because I could connect something of my past with some event that occurred in my present. Indeed, I considered that without the present I had no past, and without the exegetical process I know as narrative I had no means to recover my past. I become more and more convinced that the ability to remember anything derives from the ability to narrate it. Memory is narrative. My memory is my story: my life. And the better able I have the capacity to narrate, the better my memory seems to be and the fuller my life appears. All facts are random until they constructed into narrative. 
Of course, this doesn’t at all suggest that I have any accurate picture of my past, but only that I can construct a life by narrating it. I believe that if I want to have a memory then I have to continue to narrate, and that means that I must continue to remain active in the present and continue to ask questions about it. The answers to questions I pose are midrash: the story­. Midrash is the constant process of creating narrative with teleological motive. I tell the stories to create the person who tells the stories. Now, the purpose of these stories might remain obscure or singularly possessed, but as long as they work they are good enough stories. Pychoanalysis permits me to understand how I have come to tell the specific stories, and even offers the material for alternative stories. My memory actually consists of the process of story-telling. 
Gary and I have run all over this town. I remember: I have a story about each mile.


Blogger coach said...

Your story of running stirs up my story of running.
I used to run lots as a kid. It was part of my identity among my peers. I remember getting great satisfaction in out distancing many competitors and taking on stronger runners.
In this story, I somehow stopped running. I took up bicycling for a while and then took up a career and dropped it all. A decade later and 30 lbs heavier I looked at myself wondering what happened to the kid that used to run.
So I took up running again. I quickly redeveloped my love (addiction?) for running. I went on and on with friends and family about my rekindled love as I shed pounds and returned to an earlier state.
My wife asked me once, "Why do you enjoy running so much?" I've spent too much time thinking about this simple question, but like you--I feel like running reminds me any earlier narrative. Simply put, running reminds me of when I was young. This experience takes me back to a simpler time in my life. I reconnect with my identity and it makes me feel more whole.

13 June, 2011 08:27  

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