Fragmented Obsessions

Running, the State, and Liu Xiang

A few months ago, at the urging of a friend, I abandoned my bike-riding routine in favor of running. This was a fortuitous decision; I am now in much better shape and stand to make much more improvement still.

Over the course of the past several months I have learned what to do and what not to do when it comes to running. Often I ignored conventional wisdom, thinking that it didn’t apply to me. And I was wrong. Being of the more-or-less hard-headed variety, I thought that I could decide exactly how my exercise regimen would go. Period. So, I’d say to myself, “Tonight I’m going to double my run.” Or I would resolve to run faster, only to have side-stitches halfway through. The same thing has applied to my weight loss goals, all of which I’ve met, but in more roundabout fashion than I would like.

There is a fundamental error here which I am having to fight: the idea that, purely by my decision-making, I can bring all good things to pass. This folly, however, does not take sufficient account of the fact that the human body is an organic mechanism and therefore cannot be forced to do something which it is not able or ready to do. These conditions vary from day to day, and perhaps even from minute to minute. Some nights, my body feels great and I far surpass my expectations when it comes to running. Other nights, I may have started too soon after eating, or my knee hurts, or my allergies kick in (an ugly sight, for those of you who haven’t witnessed it). Results are then disappointing.

I suppose the good thing is that I have been smart enough to realize that the best laid plains, well, you know, and I have made adjustments as circumstances dictate. Throughout the course of this learning process, however, it has been on my mind that there is an analogy to be drawn between running and the State. Consider first that I have been fighting a battle between my mind, i.e. the goals I set and the decisions I make, and my body, which is only capable of so much, and which is forced to react to given circumstances. This is not unlike the dichotomy between the State and the market. The State, when it gets its grimy hands on the economy and starts to engage in Central Planning, decides what goals are achievable, and, moreover, which goals are desirable. It is the “supermind” that makes all the decisions. The market–the interaction between various people and businessmen based on their given needs–is like the body, which also performs according to the given needs and circumstances of the moment, in spite of what our minds might like it to do.

Now I must confess that one part of this analogy may well be quite far-fetched. Whereas the human mind is indeed connected to the human body and therefore likely to adjust its expectations to the feedback the body gives off, the State-sponsored supermind is not attached to the “body” of the citizenry, making it much easier to ignore the real circumstances and the real needs of the people, and making it impossible to keep up with said needs in real time. In this respect, I suppose that Central Planning is even more arrogant than my fantasies of being a marathon runner. Think I’m crazy? Read about Liu Xiang.