The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Posts Tagged ‘myth

Running Back

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After looking over my last entry, I realized that I might have come across as pretentious. I mean, who wants to hear about another nerd turning his life around through exercise? I can almost hear condescending Wonka saying something along the lines of “so, you’re running a half marathon… Please tell me about how special and challenging it is so that I can aggregate it to the other 3000 posts from everyone running in it.” Okay, I am pretty sure that condescending Wonka could come up with something a little bit more clever, but that is exactly the point: the fact that I will be running for 13.1 miles shouldn’t be all that special. It seems to me like exercise and movement should be a natural part of everyone’s life. There is nothing extraordinary about my undertaking. What attracted me to it is that it feels natural, like something that should have been doing along time ago.

I have to admit that when I decided to do this I thought I was doing something pretty major. After all, I only know a few people who run regularly, but after watching a few documentaries about the process, and after looking at pictures of the marathon itself I can see that there are plenty other people out there who can do at least twice of what I am attempting to do, and they do it much, much faster. I am not writing this to trivialize the actor running, and please, if you’ve been working hard to achieve what may now seem like an impossible goal, do not take this the wrong way. What I’m actually trying to say is that when we run, move, and exercise, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Although it hasn’t happened many times yet, sometimes, when I’m on the treadmill or the road I disappear, and I feel an amazing sense of unity with the rest of the universe. It is almost as if I was carrying on with the task that was begun by the first bacterium capable of locomotion. It is difficult to articulate this vision, but it would seem that they runner’s high might have evolved for an essential reason.

In this article, scientists wonder about the causes behind the powerful endogenic reaction to running humans experience, and about why it is so remarkably pleasurable when the extraneous activity is both dangerous, and costly. Why do humans, as well as apparently dogs, enjoy it so much?

Although it is only speculation, Christopher McDougall, provides what, to me, seems like a valid explanation for the evolutionary development of this trait. He argues that our need to run in packs might have had something to do with it being rewarded by the bounty of protein calories provided by hunting. MacDougall believes that humans learned to outlast even the fastest animals by developing the ability to run incredible distances. Although not perfect, by any means, his explanation seemed to make sense, and provided me with a nice origin myth about why we run. Enjoy the video!

Click here to watch the video

McDougall’s explanation propelled my imagination as I moved though my workouts. I imagine a vast savanna and a tribe of hunters chasing after a few tired antelopes. The mention of dogs in the other article makes me wonder if hunting in packs was something that made the ancestors of dogs and humans become enamored with each other to the point where it’s almost impossible to think of a stereotypical human American family without thinking about a dog.

I wonder if the ritual of putting on our flip-flops, and bath robes on in order to sleepily take our useless, but nevertheless lovable, Chihuahuas, and Pomeranians out for a walk originates deep within our genetic memory. I wonder if, just like us, small dogs running through urban parks, and avenues feel that twinge of ancient power course through their veins as they forget about their small doggie issues. Is that why we run also? It is true that we no longer have to worry about capturing the fleeting calories cohabitating with us in a dangerous environment. We rarely have to worry about mountain lions, and Tigers chasing after us, but we stillrun. We put on our soft and comfortable, sweat absorbent clothing, and carry small water bottles attached were belts, as we listen to music.

Many people run, bike, walk, swim, and move for exercise. We do it because that’s what makes us feel like a part of our ecosystem. It is as natural to us as telling stories, and while I might agree that I am one of thousands of people doing what everyone else is doing, I can say, that without the shadow of a doubt it is a privilege, and in honor to run with the human pack as we make our way through the history of this small but beautiful world.

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Written by Hector

April 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

A list of new Fairy Tales

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Fairy Tales are woven in to our lives. They are the unescapable raw materials of our imaginations. No matter how much time goes by, we continue to refer to them to create our fictitious universes. In some cases, we even believe them to be more than stories, and start religions based on them. Of course, their value lays not in their reality, but in their ability to interact with our minds. A good fairy tale does not have to be real to capture our attention. It seems like there is something about them and their characters which begs for retelling. Newer heroic tales like the ones with superheroes have been told almost as often as their older mythological cousins. What matters, however, is that even after they are told and retold, they continue to charm us. The following short list includes some of my favorite retellings of myths and fairy tales. I hope you like it!

1) Fables, by Bill Willingham

What would happen if every single fairy tale character that ever existed had to move to NY in order to escape prosecution at home? This is the question Bill Willingham sets out to answer in his multiple award winning comic book. Here, we meet a likable big bad wolf, and an overwhelmed Snow White, as well as a not so great Prince Charming. This series takes the idea of fairy tales in to a whole new direction. 

2) American Gods and Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Mr. Gaiman uses both books to explore how belief may give raise to the existence of Gods. The first one is a lot more serious and ambitious in it’s scope, while the second one is a little bit lighter and more amusing. Both are great reads. 

3) The Madness season, by CS Freidman

This is the only original vampire book in existence. I’ve read many, many books about vampires, but noneof them  come even closer to being as cool and surprising as this delightful science fiction tale. Yes, you heard me, not fantasy, but science fiction. Not hard science fiction, but awesome nevertheless. If you want to see the most original, fun, and exiting take on the whole vampire mythos out there check this book out. 

4) Anything Charles De Lint Writes

 His books are filled with beautiful landscapes of urban fantasy where we meet magical creatures from every possible tradition. One minute we are strolling around the woods with Old Man Coyote and Raven, and the next we find out that the mild mannered coffee shop owner that made our espresso is really a Celtic goddess. His stuff helps you to see magic in everything. 

I know that there are more books that would fit this list, but I’m not feeling well, and I need a break, plus, the ones I mention here should keep you busy for a long time. If you have any suggestions feel free to post them in the comments section.

Written by Hector

November 5, 2008 at 7:12 pm