Stephen D’Evelyn on the Uselessness of Running

Going for my habitual run this morning I find myself thinking over the problem of accountability—the feeling that we have to make every moment count. The result is we always feel behind. Nothing is quite enough. It’s easy then to let sympathy and empathy wear thin, to feel frustrated.

Somehow out in the sunshine with the grass underfoot things can rebalance themselves. Or when I shut my eyes and the eye-pain from the iPhone subsides and I relax, it is easier not to feel I have to strain against circumstances to make good on each moment.

Instead the moments arrive as gifts. It becomes possible if not easier to dwell on what is there and not what isn’t. This is more than a psychological game of glass-half-full. It is a practise of love. It is joyfully accepting others, openly accepting reality, and affirming – reaffirming—the goodness of being itself. It is more than abstract. It may be lived out in love for a soul-mate and differently for any number of friends and fellow creatures.

Running opens the distances. I am not counting my steps or trying to account for them in some way. Yes running is a way to improve my body and relax my mind but running as I do with my visual impairment and my need to be aware of the potential for running into things, falling over, etc., I find that release of running is staying aware even while letting go of the desire to solve puzzles, including how best to make use of the moments.

In employee relations, a realm in which I often find myself trying to solve human puzzles, this is important for the oft-talked-about problem of ‘work-life balance’, work-related stress, bullying and harassment, discrimination, etc. It’s about reseeing things and people for their intrinsic value, their superfluous goodness. People variously disabled by inflexible social systems are often left feeling useless even as they are told they must be independent in various ways. Perhaps the feeling of uselessness is not only negative and imposed, maybe a way in which society oriented around power allows us to feel inadequate, but maybe it’s also true in a positive sense.

Philosopher William Desmond descrbies what he names with the pejorative-sounding ‘idiocy’ as the identity as gift not determined by external valuation. This for me is the love that speeds running. All people are meant to be and by being to incarnate the goodness of the gift of existence. They are not to be used, not to be simple service-providers. People disabled by society may embody this particularly. We see that this actually applies to everyone whatever our current state. The sun and grass are there for all and we need to enjoy and share them.


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