When I was in high school,every morning I always had to run to school, which was approximately three kilometers away from my house. Most of the time, the reason was my warm bed and me being slow and lazy in getting ready. Consequently, feeling the urgency of the situation, I always had an excuse to run like crazy to school, evading people, trees and cars like another young parkour artist! When I got to the school a few minutes later, out of breath and completely exhausted from that final uphill run, I used to lift up my t-shirt and wipe the sweat dripping from my face, straighten my hair back into place and casually enter the classroom as if nothing had happened, a lot of times just seconds before my teacher. I rarely got there in time for Morning Prayer.
This intense start to my daily routine became even lengthier when a farcical incident added even more kilometers to my typical morning sprint.
It all began when my mother, sometime before Christmas, found a hipschool bag at a bargain price in some shopping center and decided to buy two of them. She gave one to my younger brother, who was over the moon with it, and the other one to me. After a couple of days of constant nagging, I finally gave in and agreed to use it.
The first time my suspicions about her terribly awful decision came true was a day that I was running late because I had overslept, and, in a hurry, I grabbed whatever bag I saw first in the living room and ran like the wind to school. However, unfortunately, when I got in class, and only after the teacher had arrived, I discovered with horror that there were only primary books in my bag. I took them out, examined them with shaking hands, leafed through the pages, flipped them up, over and around, put them back in the bag, took them out again…nothing changed; those books were not mine. I had accidentally picked up my brother’s school bag. And, there was no other solution but to swallow down my anger and unjustified rage towards both my mother and brother, and take like a man the humiliation of having to explain to my teacher, in front of the entire class, how I could have been so dim-witted to pick up the wrong bag. The entire class would instantly realize that I had brought the wrong books to school, and, on my way back, having to run all the way back home again, I’d have to explain to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that it wasn’t my fault but my mother’s, who had bought two identical school bags. And what if my mom had gone back to sleep and didn’t hear the doorbell? The stress and irritation I felt that day, and all the other days I accidentally took my brother’s bag for a stroll to school, cannot be described.
The reason I’m mentioning this entire story is to conclude to a single Saturday morning, when I arrived in my running frenzy outside the metallic school gates, feeling like a zombie from my early, rude awakening,and stared at the empty school yard,confused and disoriented.One of the neighbors who spotted me from his balcony explained the situation (why the school was empty) and asked me why I didn’t just wake up a couple of minutes earlier so that I wouldn’t have to rush there.Right there and then, not really knowing why, I replied that I did it because I liked hearing the sound of my own panting.
Since then, after a lot of panting and anxiety, I’ve come across a line in a Mike Leigh film that fits the perspective I once had about running like a glove.
“You know what frightens me about the human body? It’s like the most sophisticated mechanism in the entire universe, and yet it’s so fuckin’ quiet…”
Isn’t it a very logical observation? Living, especially, in cities full of noisy machinery, lifeless materials and creatures who strive to look like copies of one another, you start to lose that sensation of being alive. Whatever coexists around you, from the walls in your house to the Metro station, acquires such a clear-cut role in your daily schedule that it loses its place in the hierarchy of life. It is demoted or promoted every time accordingly so that it can fit the mould of your daily routine. Why should man be more alive than a car, for example? At least, you can tell a car is operational from the sound of its engine. It’s the same thing with man, of course, but, unfortunately, no one needs to be out of breath in a city, because no none needs to run anymore.
Should you go out to the countryside every so often though, you’ll notice that the quietness and absolute peacefulness demonstrate in the clearest way possible what being alive really is about, even when it’s something intangible. The sound of your own footsteps, the snakes and lizards that stir in the bushes, the chirping of the birds, the rustling of the wind in the trees, the splashing waves in winter from a nearby sea; everything becomes part of a ritual that emphasizes life’s tempo. This minimalistic beat becomes in tune with your own heartbeat. In order for you to pay attention to it and truly appreciate it though, you will have to step out of your undervaluing ant-farm city and shake off the “tie” that’s strangling you, the “pointy shoes” that are crushing your toes and the “tight trousers” that are squeezing your crotch.Otherwise, all you’ll ever come across is just some boring extension of your city, a town square with a bit of extra greenery.
To conclude, I’m not claiming that all of the above is necessarily anything more than the ravings of a romantic nature lover, but, in any case, I dare you to go out one day for a run or to cycle up in the mountains on your own, and, if you don’t experience every feeling I’ve recounted, I’ll willingly admit I’ve gone mad!
Written by me
Translated to english by C.Polydorou