Monday, January 16, 2012

The Virtue of Chronicness


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard 
Events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation. - Eudora Welty
I've been at this blogging thing for one year. I've been at this running thing for...40 years. I've made more new running friends over this past year than I did over the preceding 39 years! Thanks, all of you, for making this so much fun. I think people either love or hate the blog - but I will continue writing what I find to be important, interesting, annoying, and/or perplexing for runners; seasoned runners, new runners,young or old, fast or slow, obsessed or more rational.

Today I want to consider what I will call the virtue of 'Chronicness'. Okay, this is a new word, I just made it up, and 'chronic' often has a negative connotation - but it needn't - I certainly don't mean it in a negative way, though it does have an edge to it - a bit of attitude, so to speak. I mean it in the following way:

chron·ic (ˈkränik) adj.
1. Of long duration; continuing: chronic long and/or continual running 
2. Lasting for a long period of time or marked by frequent recurrence: chronic daily running.
3. Subject to a habit or pattern of behavior for a long time: chronic running.

January is the month many people get bitten by the running/exercise bug, or resolve to be more consistent with their running. This typically lasts for about 3 weeks, and then the resolution bug buzzes off into the wind of good intentions and unfulfilled wishes. How do we do what Aristotle says we must if we hope to live a flourishing life?
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” - Aristotle
Lots of newer runners wonder how it can be that I've run for so long. Some have even asked: Did I know that I would be running for so long when I began? Oy. No. But then, at 8 years old I had no way to get my head around that kind of time. I did it one day at a time and now I find myself looking back and thinking, well, that's quite a bit of running, but it really didn't feel like such a big deal as I went through it. It was 40 years of days - or perhaps, more fairly, my daily consistent running really began in 1985 - so that would be 27 years of days. Each of those days is just a day, and before you know it it adds up to something: a habit. Once you develop a habit, it just sort of happens. And, I might add, this is a lot easier than becoming courageous, or generous, or a good friend, or truthful...

So how does one do what Aristotle encourages us to do? Well, in running it's really quite simple and straightforward: Run, everyday, all year, year after year, and eventually it will become a habit. I suppose that for Aristotle this might fall under the virtue: Firmitas: "Tenacity" Strength of mind, the ability to stick to one's purpose. I'm adding the virtue of "Chronicness" to the long list of Aristotle's virtues - where we combine strength of mind with action (note: Aristotle does have a name for something like this - Akrasia).

At this point, for me, it isn't even a question of whether I will or will not run - I just do it - like eating my breakfast, taking a shower, brushing my teeth...running is just something I do. You do it when you really don't feel like doing it, you do it when it's inconvenient or even 'impossible', you do it when the weather sucks, you do it when you're a little (and even sometimes, very) sick, you do it day in and day out.

Don't think about 5 years from now, or 40 years from now, think about today and do it today. Find the time. We always find the time for the things we really value. William James argued that if you truly believe something you necessarily act on that belief. Belief itself is an action that brings about the action.
"Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not." - William James
So, if you believe you want to run, that it's important for your life (mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically), then you will act on that belief and run. If you don't run then you don't really believe that it's important. And by acting you also create the feeling. It's a complete whole. Or, perhaps, a vicious circle. Or, a chicken and egg problem. But, if you have the feeling, act. If you wish to act, act and create in yourself the feeling. And then you are whole. Now, isn't that simple ;)

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.  - William James

Oh and one last thing - Have fun too!


4 comments:

  1. I'm glad I found your blog some months ago and it's something of a hoot that my undergrad major was philosophy. I was schooled in a Catholic seminary and learned that TA (Thomas Aquinas, who else?), who was something of a student of Aristotle, taught that the perfection of any virtue is built by habit.

    You're spot on for me with "the virtue of chronicness". And yes, what you've said is something of a kick in the butt with a size (whatever size shoe you wear) wrapped in a pillow. It's also helped me think about other areas of my life well beyond running.

    You better keep chronically blogging, Caolan!

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  2. Still working on the virtue of chronicnes with blogging, but so far, I'm feeling a little hooked on it ;)

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  3. Loved your definition!!!! :) Brought a smile to my face!!! I fully agree with you- you take running a run at a time- it's not about "how long" you're going to be doing it. You just...well..do it! I loved your last paragraph SO much...I posted it as my FB status- Your famous now lol!!! Thank you for sharing your running philosophy with us...I love your blog...so glad you started it!

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  4. Oh my goodness, what an amazing post! Thank you Lacy Sue for directing me to your blog. Eudora Welty and running - RIGHT ON!!! You're first video moved my sister and I to tears. The last one had us in tears of hysterics. AWESOME! From one chronic runner to another - can't wait to read more! :)

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