Above the ground

Track from aboveFlying across the United States is an interesting way to appreciate the distances you cover in daily life and over a lifetime.It’s hard not to be cynical about our precious little existences when you see things from 30,000 feet in the air. States like Iowa and Nebraska show the effects of the grid system mapped out by Thomas Jefferson all those years ago. Squares and irrigation circles overlap. Cities or towns stick out like pieces of dried crap in a litterbox.

At ground level, we take all these things for granted. We pedal or run from town to town, pressing rubber against the asphalt to put in the miles. It all seems so important. But from high in the sky, even the biggest trucks are barely visible. Cars are tiny. Real people? Well, they’re invisible. Insignificant. Hardly even there.

Let’s call on the Talking Heads to give us some perspective from their song Cities and Towns:

Think of London, a small city

It’s dark, dark in the daytime
The people sleep, sleep in the daytime
If they want to, if they want to

I’m checking them out
I’m checking them out
I got it figured out
I got it figured out
There’s good points and bad points
Find a city
Find myself a city to live in.

That’s how we all go about it. We pick a place to live and from there, we crank out the miles trying to gain some sense of freedom. There are good points and bad points.

In Florida, they have no hills to ride on and it gets hotter than a frying pan come summer. But in winter, you can still run and ride year round if you live far enough south. Bad points and good points.

In Illinois where I live, the wind always blows and the winters can be unbearable. There aren’t many hills, but there are some. It is the state of compromise. Out East the hills are numerous and the roads are dangerously narrow in places. Out West, the hills turn into full mountains, and the climbing is great. But the desert can get brutally hot in summer.

Up North in Montana and Wyoming, the scenery is breathtaking but the wind can take your skin right of your body. There are good points and bad points to anywhere you choose to live.

As a result, we humans attempt to simplify and better define the breadth of experience we get at ground level. That’s why running tracks were invented. We can see these from the air pretty easily. And think about that: each is precisely the same. All around the world, human beings train and compete on the relatively same oval. And once every four years with the Olympics, we all come together on that common ground.

Cycling has its ovals too. And to some extent, the Computrain community evolved in response to the need to bring the experience of the great outdoors inside where people can re-enact the feeling of climbing hills. Same with running treadmills.

Swimming pools are also often visible from the air. They show up like tiny bits of turquoise in a patch of dirt. Some are rectangles. Some are round. Few are more than six feet deep. From the air, all swimming pools look small and inconsequential. Even at ground level a 25-yard pool is not a large environment.

“Above the ground” turns out to be a very strange place to be, because it makes our daily lives look so small. Perhaps we should add a fourth event to the triathlon. Flying. Can you imagine the transition after the swim, bike and run. Now it’s your turn to fly! 

And what a sight that would be! What a transition. It truly makes you wonder what it would be like, to be able to fly. The Harry Potter books teased the mind with all that. Those flying brooms and Quidditch games. I’m sure there were some kids that believed, to some extent, all that was possible.

In my 20s I read a series of books by Carl Castaneda. They included the Teachings of Don Juan and Separate Reality. Each challenged  ideas of perception and the physical world. On some of my runs in those days, I almost swore there was a feeling of breaking through to another dimension. It was so tempting. And I’m still trying.





About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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