Sunday, July 24, 2022

Go the Distance

Image from Wikipedia
My daughters enjoyed Disney. Numerous VHS tapes and music CDs were in our house. Animated movies were seen in theaters. We spent days on a Disney Cruise. Disneyland and Disney World were vacations spots. The iconic nature of anything Disney was pervasive in our family. 

"Hercules", the 1997 animated, Walk Disney Studios movie included the song, "Go the Distance." It was written by Alen Merken. These words have been a yo-yo in my mind for years:

               I will find my way. I can go the distance.
               I'll be there someday if I can be strong.
               I know every mile will be worth my while.

I have participated in numerous ultra-marathons (more than 26.2 miles). I have traversed these long distances on foot and bike in all seasons of the year. In the beginning the total distance was foremost in my mind. It was overwhelming. Next to my name on the official results page would often be the initials "DNF" (Did Not Finish). The demons of time would creep into my mind. If I set an estimated time and did not keep on track I would become upset. This escalated into a negative attitude which usually impacted not only my experience, but my completion rate. Going the distance was frustrating even when it was achieved. 

The concept of a starting point and a finish line are common. Measuring not only distance and time, but

A long distance
measuring one's self, often in comparison to others is prevalent in our culture. Awards, achievements, accolades, medals, and certificates become markers of progress and oftentimes measures of identity. Participants in events get labeled, such as: elite, possible podium placers, middle of the pack, back of the pack. All of this speaks of a transaction. A start and a finish. Time is measured and recorded. Status is conveyed. 

Basing my identity on the results of endurance events I would have the label of "back of the pack." Even with increased, intentional training my label did not change. Been there! Tried that! Adopting this perspective for identity opens the door for the demons of distance, time, and results to resume residence in my spirit. In order to bar the door a transformation, not a transaction was necessary.

Long & winding path
As Hercules sang about going the distance, as I gained lived experience, I realized that both a starting line and a finish line are arbitrary points. I am referring to more than physical places, but emotional, relational, and spiritual realities, as well. Specific, accepted events have set marking points. The Tuscobia Winter Ultra has two specific distances (160 miles + 80 miles). I have come to realize that in life there is only the daily distance, whatever that may be for each individual. Every step, every mile, every day, every climb or descent is part of going the distance. There are perspectives to ponder, experiences to incorporate, and attitudes to assimilate. These are the items that individually, but more often collectively result in transformation. I believe that transformations occur over time. Transformations are neither specific not measured. Transformations grow and blossom in the organic matter of daily life.

Climate change has been occurring for centuries. The nature of human beings to speak in terms of fear and scarcity underlies the institution of government. People speak as if there is a single or possibly multiple transactions that can solve a problem. Yes, some things can be accomplished through transactions. However, I will not allow my life to be defined by elections. Relocating to a different retirement setting will not make life easier.  My recycling and reusing will not save the planet. Getting through the medical maladies which impact my spouse and our relationship of marriage will not place me on a podium. Every day, every experience, every opportunity is an aspect of the ultra-marathon of my life. Transactions can be counted, accumulated, filed, and recorded. Transformations are unexpected insights and spiritual changes which cannot be measured by time or trophy. 

I can go the distance. I'll be there someday without worrying about the finish. Life is a complex, precious, frustrating, and formative journey. Every mile has been and will be worth my while!                    

Saturday, July 9, 2022

In Search of the Silver Bullet

During the past few years I've heard the term, "silver bullet" used frequently. Growing up on a farm with two older brothers, knowledge of bullets was as common as knowing where the Corn Flakes were kept. Plinking at various targets moved into varmint control which progressed into pheasant hunting. Basic, small caliber (.22) rifles and standard (12 gauge) shotguns composed the arsenal. However, this rudimentary knowledge wasn't good enough to satisfy my inquiry about silver bullets.

They look silver!

The quest for clarity began at a farm/outdoor store which over the years has increased its hunting, guns, and ammunition section. After walking past glass display cases of revolvers and pistols, then secured weaponry from skeleton stocks to classic shotguns, I came to the ammunition. Signs were posted giving specific instructions not to open the boxes. With phone camera in hand I took a few pictures. Soon a worker for the area asked if I needed assistance.

I pointed to the boxes on the shelf and asked, "Are these the silver bullets?"

"What?" was the reply.

"I've heard so much about silver bullets. The box and image are silver. So, are these silver bullets?" I continued.

The clerk at first glared at me. Then his mouth and eyes shifted into a wily smirk. "You're looking for the silver bullet? We do not sell those here. I suggest you go to the liquor store."

It seemed odd, but I continued the quest and parked in the lot of a alcoholic beverage superstore. It was like most big box stores. I walked in and moved away from the constant flow of customers. I began to scan the perimeter of the building. Flashing signs, stacks of cardboard boxes filled with bottles, and large coolers built into the walls. It was so much different than the previous store. Finally I approached an employee who was arranging bottles.

Original ad
called it the 
"Silver Bullet" 

"I'm looking for the silver bullet. Can you assist me?" I asked rather sheepishly.

"I'm not sure. It sounds rather specific. Let me get Joe. He has worked here many years." I never saw that employee again. I was amused by the steady stream of customers. Most appeared to be on a specific mission leaving the store with boxes of beer and bags of ice. Finally an older man approached me. After making eye contact he motioned for me to follow him. 

As we walked he asked, "Cold or warm? Cans or bottles?" These seemed like nonsensical questions to me. I did not reply before the huge glass doors of a cooler full of beer was in front of me. On either side of me were pallets of 12 packs and 36 packs of beer. 

"This is what we have in Coors Light." he said. "I remember those ads from decades ago. I even remember the store getting a Coors Light train. We must be about the same age. I haven't heard it called the Silver Bullet for a long time." As I stood there trying to understand it all, he asked, "Is there anything else I can help you find?"  I shook my head, no.  As he walked away I heard him say, "The Silver Bullet. Great ad campaign."

Small portion of product

When all else fails or maybe it should have been my starting point, search the internet! A silver bullet is a fictional, magic method for killing werewolves. Also, the Lone Ranger used silver bullets as his trademark. His bullets symbolized the cost of pulling the trigger and the precious nature of human life. Finally, I believe my search centered on a silver bullet being, "a simple and seemingly magical solution to a difficult and complex problem."

From the pandemic to politics, inflation to immigration, we have come to expect effective, rapid, simple, and long-lasting solutions to complex issues.  Just like werewolves, silver bullets reside in the realm of fantasy.

Customers of life!
Solutions are an ever changing mixture created in the depths of daily living. Solutions aren't stagnant, one-size-fits-all explanations. Bullets and booze can become methods of coping with the challenges of daily living, but never solutions. Instead of seeking a silver bullet, I choose to move with the flow of life's customers, gaining insight from my interactions while finding serenity in a power greater than myself.