I recently was commissioned to write an essay for this year’s GOGBOT Festival. The festival theme was Post-Singularity, and my piece, entitled Ushering in the Era of Beneficial Intelligence, explored Stephen Hawking’s idea of “beneficial intelligence”, the Golem, our inherent biases, nuclear waste storage, the Anthropocene, and much more.
I ran the 6.7km recreation loop, and my time was pretty bad (read: almost last place!) because there were a fair few walking breaks, but what matters most is that I finished! Full credit to my sister/coach, who talked me through the second half of the race!
Here we are with our medals on after the race:
The year of PANTONE colours Rose Quartz and Serenity.
The year of the Fire Monkey.
150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter.
The International year of Pulses.
The Jubilee of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis.
Centennial of the US National Park Service.
Centennial of the complete Trans-Siberian Railway.
I usually make a long, eclectic list of moments which made the year for me, but this year I want to focus on one thing, one thing which will seem trivial given all the other enormous life changes I’ve been through this year.
The one small thing is learning how to run.
I decided one day to get up and do it. With new demands on my time, the primitive act of putting one foot in front of the other in the early mornings seemed the most efficient way to keep active and strong.
I quickly learned that despite the heavy weights I can lift, running is a whole other ballgame. Cardiovascular fitness and endurance are different than the explosive muscular strength I use to push the bar up. Plus lifting weights played to my strengths (pun intended) — it was pleasurable. I’m short, so physics works in my favour.
But running is really, really hard for a short-limbed, muscular woman who enjoyed the gratification of lifting heavy things, but is not convinced about running around in circles in a park.
Something happened, very early on, where I realised this commitment (I decided to follow the Couch to 5K programme to the end, no matter what) and the possible fitness habit it was setting me up for is just like everything else in my life which has value. It’s hard. It tests me in all ways. When I dedicate myself properly, it feels great. It makes me a better person, in one way or another.
We can enjoy a great number of things, and sample different vocations and relationships and lifestyles and cultures but ultimately it is only hard work, dedication and loyalty (to people, values, and goals) that make any positive contribution to one’s life. I have dozens of great party anecdotes about peculiar things and exotic places I’ve experienced, but the most important topics I usually don’t even discuss. There are things that are too profound but also too boring to share with a half-interested acquaintance: the stuff of your everyday life as you have constructed it around you.
Running a few kilometers in the dark three times a week is surprisingly enjoyable and hard at the same time. Strangely, while running, I sometimes feel sharply emotional. I often feel physically spent, plodding and clumsy, but my inner voice chooses that moment to rejoice with “I’m doing this!”, while my brain and heart reel at this fact. I’m not talking about it, or putting it on the to do list. I’m doing this. I’m doing this. I don’t look like a graceful gazelle. I’m doing this, goddamnit.
It is imperative. Pick things that matter — that make yourself better or are in service to others — and even if you are the least likely candidate to succeed, do it instead of just talking about it.
To motivate myself further, I take a selfie every time I run. Sometimes they are beautiful images. Sometimes the effort I’m putting in is apparent. The selfies are tokens, souvenirs of sorts, from each time I start the day with fidelity to this mission, one of many missions I’ve taken on in my life.
Wishing you utmost fidelity to your mission for 2016.