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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

oh, how they run

One Sunday as I was walking around minding my own business I saw a child, a happy child, he had just learned how to walk and was discovering the joys of running. You know most adults forget the joy of running. When you are a child you run everywhere, to the shop, in the house, when you see someone you like, you just run. And most times you're out of breath but it's worth it. It's nothing like a jog it's moving quickly for the sheer pleasure of moving quickly it's racing against the wind until you find the wind blowing against you as you move faster and faster, things come closer quicker than you are used to and for all the dreams people have about flying they forget that running is the closest you can get to flying without getting on a plane. Children know this, adults however forget, they run everywhere, a group of children will make up a game on the premise of a run, the rules are designed to make them run as much as possible as fast as possible and they laugh when they run, a look of pure joy crosses their face and we know that if they want to win, if they want to keep running the best thing to do is to control their breathing. Joggers don't talk, they even have music to keep them in check there is none of the reckless abandon that accompanies a real run. Am not even talking about what Mr. Bolt does because that needs structure and rhythm, it need discipline and restraint, it's backed up by hours and hours of practice, of weights and jogs of near marathons as he keeps himself fit enough to outrun a cheetah. What children do is different, they have no worries when they run it may not even be about winning, its about moving and its beautiful. And you can feel like that too if you want to, just run, no destination in mind just the wind ruffling your feathers as you let go and fly.

But.

Children do not understand consequences, maybe that's why they can let go so easily, if I decide to run somewhere just for the hell of it I start thinking about how tired I’ll be and try to restrain myself. This is the very thing that stops me running in front of a moving car. The child I saw was happy, he was running out of a church compound completely at ease and peace pure joy was never distilled better than on his face, he couldn't have been more than two years old and had just tasted the independence of moving without holding up your arms for someone to carry you. He had just learned that if he put right in front of left faster and faster then he would move faster and faster and thus be more free. He couldn't see the car coming down the road, or the road itself he just ran and when his mother called out to him to stop and began to chase him he must have thought this is a beautiful game, the person I love most in the world must be as happy at this moment as I am. Luckily a good Samaritan picked him up before he went very far and handed him squirming back to this mother. I observed this scene and on the mother's face I could see fear and apprehension, what if something happened what if the driver didn't see him and just kept on driving what if that good Samaritan had not picked him up and handed him back because he was too lost in his own world to properly see the one around him? What if? What if? What if?

I can see that this lack of regard is probably what allows children to risk, to run and play, to trust without reservations and love without conditions. For all the danger it represents it probably is the most important gift a human being is born with. But I feel bad for the parents. I feel scared for all the sleepless nights that children cause them, I wonder how they feel when a child breaks a rule so obviously meant for their safety.

I can remember being a child and I conducted a quick survey, children are reckless. I was in Mombasa with some friends and we were on one of those beautiful flat roofs they have there. There was a distance to the ground, the kind of distance I could probably make right now without hurting myself unless I had a mistress, a wife and a few million dollars due to my running capabilities. It was that kind of distance and we were a group of guys, the thought crossed our minds, of course it did, men always have that inner child just below the surface. But we didn't do anything about it. When I remarked that if we were younger it would have been different everyone agreed because it would. When I was young I would have jumped off that thing no problems. Without a taunt or motivation. When I was young I stuck metal things up a socket, I don't know why I just did. I got an electric shock every time I had to go near the TV plug, a short shook nothing serious. I can still remember that feeling. There's a pain in your fingers and you want to jerk it away as soon as possible, in fact your muscles give you no option, you just snatch your hand away without even thinking about it. But there's something else about the experience of an electric shock that sets it apart from a fire or a cut, you feel like there's something pulling you in, I don't know why but I always felt like there was an opposing force pulling me into the socket if there was a way to take away all the pain and danger there's an underlying sensation that actually feels good, just a little good, its buried under all the pain but it's there, just a hint of pleasure. If a child read this they may just stick their hands in a socket to see what am talking about but adults won't and that’s the thing that worries me. They put anything in their mouth and they play with matches and they forget to turn the gas valve all the way round. They jump off ledges and when using a knife do it all wrong, they run in the house and forget they are in the house and they run into walls. I have run into a wall before, at what was a full speed sprint. It hurts like hell. You get a splitting headache because children run head-first no amount of rubbing takes away the pain immediately and its' the kind of pain that makes you feel like puking, I hate that kind of pain. But I was a child so I later in the day I was still running.

So I feel sorry for parents and concerned adults everywhere, I get angry at these children and their levels of stupidity I want to ask them “can't you see this is dangerous, can't you?” but that's not how it works for children. Maybe they can't see past right now but it makes them happy. It makes them so happy to run like that's all running is for. Just running not to win a game, not because you're late, not because you're unfit but just because you can. Run because you just learned to walk is what children do. They run. And they smile as they run and they laugh from their souls. Maybe experience with life takes that away from all of us and now we smile with our mouths half turned in case no-one else is and that guy who laughs from his belly or that girl who smiles with her eyes, these are the extraordinarily happy adults we see around but you can't compare this to the child who when moved shows it with his whole being, remember laughing until you cry, till your ribs ache? Those were good days, good feelings and maybe all we need to do to get back there is to run like the whole reason behind running is to run. Perhaps lack of care can only be bought with ignorance of consequences. We can't live our lives like that but we should have moments when we do.

So, run.