There's something that happened several months back that for some reason seems significant to me.
I went to the high school track near my home to run one evening. It was just past dusk so the only light I had was the street lights around the track in a relatively quiet residential area. The spectator stands on the east side of the track had two large floodlights on opposite ends. Overhead, I don't remember exactly at what cycle the moon was in, but some light was offered this evening.
I have run many times on this track and also done stair climbing routines many a day and night here as well. I prefer to run alone for the most part because when other people are there, I contend with other thoughts besides the normal ones that have to be overcome during my run. I end up inadvertently competing with some unawares person on the track or attempt to impress some pretty lady. Not outright either. This battle is submerged somewhere in the consciousness of wanting acceptance or approval through performance of a duty well done. It is a self-centered turn of my attention away from the moment into the imagined thoughts of others.
I don't particularly enjoy running to begin with. Three days in my workout cycles are for cardiovascular exercise. So running one day along with stair climbing on another and a high impact jumping jack routine fill out my three respective "cardio days" interspersed throughout the whole cycle(my workout schedule and cycles are complex and there is no need to bore anyone with their details).
This particular evening, I took to the track and had it all to myself. Before the actual run I take a walk around the track, praying as my ability lends itself. Then I begin.
I do not consider myself a good runner but my pace is not bad either. I've not timed myself in years but I judge from the times others have been on the track with me, so I know on the average, when I'm there, I mean business in my run.
My breathing I regulate and my aim is that my steps should fall rhythmically, machine like. Doing this, I complete the first mile on a planned three mile run. At the end of each mile, at the quarter lap point I sprint it out, giving it all I've got only in the last quarter of the third mile. On the first and second mile , I hold back a slight reserve in the sprint, saving some for the rest of the run.
Running, I completed the first mile in this manner .Then on the first lap of the second mile as I turned the corner I saw in my peripheral vision another runner about to step on to begin his run. His presence at this point bothered me not one bit as having completed the first mile with its sprint and now into my second mile, my thoughts were reduced to only pushing the body forward. I passed the beginning mark of the lap into my second lap of the second mile and he began behind me to run, staying at a perfect distance about ten or so feet from me, each of his steps falling with my own. (Plmph,plmph,plmph....)
We exchanged not one word yet I knew his aim was to measure me in this run. So I ran. He stayed with me for two whole laps in this manner, just at the same distance. I found his rhythmic company welcome, actually. We entered into the fourth lap of the second mile when he gave up, seeing my pace was determined, not willing to slow down or stop. Know more mimicking steps behind me. I was alone in my run again.
I was disappointed not only for the loss of company, but he hadn't seen anything yet. I had yet to sprint the last quarter lap of this second lap. As I turned the corner I searched the open dark landscape and saw no one. I looked to the parking lot to my right and a car was leaving, my running companion in it , I presume.
This memory gives illustration to me of one of my observations about this pilgrimage in this world. Tonight as I was driving home from being out with friends, I reflected on several instances where a pact between friends was made. In one, I at one time was terribly addicted to chewing snuff. Two of my friends and I gave up our habits together; I, snuff, they, cigarettes.
To this day I am nicotine free. They after temptation returned.
In chastity, just in the last year and a half, a similar pact by me was entered on with another set of friends. I today am the only one standing from this group.
My own awareness of who I am is gradually unfolding itself into my heart, the very center of me. I am all the time becoming more truly me. I have followed a very severe form of discipline at times, driven from untold desires and aspirations. The price I have paid for making me into a thing, divorced from normal human fallibility, has been staggering. I have built a life of aloneness which only in the last several years has a turn around begun, entering the rightful falleness which is my proper state among my fellow pilgrims, contributing unselfishly and being contributed to as others seem fit.
And yet, I can't help believing that the journey, though impossible not in communion with others, is at some deep level very personal. A decision must be made that in the pace our Lord would have us run the race set before us, many will begin but not all will finish, and their not finishing must not deter us from the prize which is the upwards calling in Christ. If needs be, we run alone.
Scenes From Patriarch Kyril's Recent Trip to China - Liturgy on 14 May 2013 in Holy Virgin Protection Church in Harbin Syndicated by Atom
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