Our pulsing star sets its gaze upon the winding pathways; it looks down at me through the varieties of rustling leaves and branches, scattering what has been a grey mist of a night and stirring it into a watery daybreak. Coursing through the woods on a mixture of adrenaline and muesli I quicken my pace up the incline. I’d started out making pretty good time but had grown too complacent nearing the 2k marker and not pushed as hard as I ought to have done. Now I’m lagging behind the 21-22 minuters who have probably already made it past the wooden cabin and hit the 4k point.
Accepting my 10th place fate with a good humoured resentment of those ahead of me, I take the time to look about at the forests surrounding my ambience. Shades of ochre moss crawl over the oaks felled by gales just off the beaten track; a dim fog still hangs in the air beneath the trees and in the depths of the woods I believe that I hear the hoot of an owl sounding through the thick brambles and beeches. Often when running through such picturesque landscapes I am struck by such sensations, some intuitive and completely undefinable understanding that I am a part of something greater than myself, something that transcends our modern day, detached society.
All too frequently however I mistake this feeling for being literally caught up in a timeless encounter with Nature in a similar way to how our primitive ancestors once were. But as I flick from the emerald colours of the woodland to the shrill ringing of my luminous timer, I realise that this is simply not the case. My thoughts seem rarely to drift from the anthropocentric illusion that most of us seem to cling to, I am not simply enjoying my run but am concerned by time limits and training schedules, nor is my desire to run so early on a Saturday born out of anything other than the want improve my time. When I really stop and think about it, there are parameters to my experience of running that prevent me from seeing it in its true light. I am locked into similar experiences of a thing by the constrains society places on me.
Consider yourself, right now whilst reading this article, getting up and running off into the fields or beaches. Imagine that you run for miles and miles until you have no idea where you are, you don’t even know why you are doing it. Some time ago you deliberately dropped your phone so as to have no means of communication. You are completely alone and at one with your surroundings. This I think comes close to what our ancestors might have experienced in the ancient jungles and wildernesses. But will you actually do it right now as you’re reading this article? For most I imagine that the answer is no. But why, what’s stopping us? Social conditioning? Moral conduct? Laziness?
In fairness it’s likely a mixture of all these things preventing us from acting in such spontaneous and impulsive ways. And we have progress to blame for that. As our civilisation has become larger and more technologically advanced, more social ties are formed in our short lifespans, our morality has had to evolve via Kantian ethics and utilitarianism to suit the demands of a complex culture and our intake of glucose and saturated fats has increased making us less animated and more inclined to sit on the sofa watching trash TV all day. The creativity and happiness of us as individuals has been restricted to lie within certain parameters due to socially imposed factors that influence our livelihoods. The metallic cords of language, memory and society prevents us from seeing the world in the way our ancestors once did, it restricts our thought and our vision. If we ever wish to combat the epidemic sweeping this civilisation there is but one antidote: we must stop progressing. And that is all I will say on the matter. We can either continue to venture into the unknown or we can revert back to how our civilisation used to be. There is no middle ground. It’s time to choose. Our creativity or our ambition.