The medal that is mettle.
When I was an asthmatic youth in Asia, my parents would send me and my sibling to a survival camp founded two centuries ago by educator Kurt Hahn, who I think had a disability. He is quoted saying to a boy who thought certain standards were beyond his reach: “Your disability is your opportunity.”
It takes courage to do the best with what one has in a world where apprenticeships and promotions can be guarded jealously for “club members only”; it takes courage to retain the vision of possibility.
In the face of “disability”, at a time of greater-than-usual uncertainty, I started to run again. Luckily, I knew the benefits of (even slow-poke) physical activity from once upon a time. The survival camp founder explained its benefits in terms of Conrad’s Lord Jim: youths need to experience events which “reveal the inner worth of the man; the edge of his temper; the fibre of his stuff; the quality of his resistance; the secret truth of his pretenses, not only of himself, but to others.”
If, despite what seems to be trying to constrict us, we are getting out there to sweat it out, I think we are showing “what we’re made of”. If we’d doubted ourselves, now we can tally up one more victory.
Socrates said there’s nothing to be lost and everything to be gained through physical activity – including better memory, mood, mental health. There’s a funny part in Xenophon’s Memorabilia where he’s asked whether he fears the distance of walking to Olympia. He says: “Why do you fear the distance? When you are at home, don't you spend most of the day in walking about? On your way there you will take a walk before lunch, and another before dinner, and then take a rest. Don't you know that if you put together the walks you take in five or six days, you can easily cover the distance from Athens to Olympia?”
Though I may be no Olympian, I am grateful for the opportunity to run. Where all doors appear closed, one remains open. The one leading to inner worth, which is our ability to cope, our resilience. It becomes our mettle – the door revealing our resilience like a medal for all to see. An aphorism advises: “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
The call of the wild! So much bigger than petty circumstance. And on that trek, I carry my Orange Mud hydration gear, because one of the basic rules of survival is the importance of staving off dehydration.
Guest post by GG, from Serbia. Thanks Greta!