Every once and a while we get a reminder that everything that we value is ephemeral: that wonderful, beautiful dog that finally found its permanent home with your family became too long for this world. The antique glass that was hand-blown years ago is temporarily in a state of order; eventually entropy will irreversibly increase and the glass will be reduced to minute shards. The diamond engagement ring that you spent hours to pick out and months to finally pay off will one day be graphite. Even the man atop Everest will have to come back down eventually. Some day we'll no longer be running.
Coming to the realization that all we know will cease to be is often uncomfortable; the fact that nothing we do will last can be interpreted any number of ways. The defeatist argues that the notion that impermanence begets irrelevance: if nothing will last, what's the point of ever creating it? The cynical mind will point out that the effort far outweighs the benefit: if nothing will last, what's the point in putting forth the effort? The nihilistic will question whether of any of this matters at all.
Sunsets don't last forever, and neither do runs. If either did they'd be far less meaningful. Like a sunset, a run may offer a few minutes of wonderment and joy, or it may be excruciating, intense, and burn like hell, or it may just fade into completion, the end arriving without any real reward or climax. When they're good, though, watch out, and be aware: because no matter how you try to capture that moment, it's never going to be quite the same. That realization that every sunset we take in and every run we have is one closer to our last -- hell, that'll light a bit of a fire right under your ass, now won't it?
Because inside that thought lies the reality that some day, whether we like it or not, we're not going to be running anymore (hopefully that day is far, far off in the distance). At some point after that, we'll be dead. I say this without any morbidity, but with a focus that I haven't felt in a long time.
However fleeting the moments may be (or as long as they may seem to drag on in the moment), the things we experience while we're out running are meaningful. I haven't forgotten the all-enveloping chill that ran down from my head to the dead of my chest and all the way to my toes after squeezing out a sponge over my head on First Avenue. The young boy's laugh still echoes in my head as I pass the Smithsonian Castle. These things are real, and the fact that they're irrelevant on a generational timescale doesn't dilute their meaning. It's naive to say that life is too short to be anything but happy; it's not naive to try to fill life with happy moments in spite of all of the obstacles in the way.
So, fuck it: here's to chasing the temporary. My next run will be for Lady Commenter, Spencer, and Isis. It's a trite offering, but one that will be made in earnest.
While I'm out, I'll be sure to smile. It's the least I can do.