By Mark Carroll
I just finished a run under a shining full moon. It was a perfect reminder that fall is just around the corner. I love fall. I guess all runners do. Thinking about fall got me thinking about Halloween which got me thinking about werewolves and you probably have already guessed that thinking about werewolves got me thinking about Hannah Montana. Its all so perfectly linear isn’t it?
I recently had occasion to watch Hannah Montana’s movie. I can’t remember its name because I wasn’t paying close attention but I think it might have been called ‘The Hannah Montana Movie’. Anyhow, I thought that it was just going to be another poofy meaningless tweener movie such as ‘Secret Agent Cody Banks’ or ‘The Godfather III’, but boy was I wrong!
Warning: I am going to give away the plot to Hannah Montana’s Movie here so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want me to ruin it you should go see it before reading on.
OK. Well like I said I didn’t pay close attention but the movie is about these two girls, Hannah and Miley. One of the girls (Hannah) overcomes the debilitating handicap of a dreadful singing voice to become famous and rich for some reason that I missed. The other girl (Miley) is fabulously beautiful and fun but is still, for some reason, picked on and misunderstood by all of the other children. I absorbed all of this while folding laundry and keeping up on dishes and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mind you, but the end of the movie was a shocker….THE TWO GIRLS ENDED UP BEING THE SAME PERSON!!!! I kid you not!! I have no reason to lie to you. They were the same person all along!! No one could possibly have seen that ending coming.
So really, when you think of it, ‘The Hannah Montana Movie’ had essentially the same plot and story line as ‘Fight Club’.
I don’t know who wrote and directed ‘The Hannah Montana Movie’. I could look it up in about 2 seconds because I am currently on the computer. But I am tired from my run and from life so I’m not going to look it up. Instead I will simply assume that it was Quentin Tarantino.
We mustn’t be too hard on Quentin Tarantino for ripping off the plot of ‘Fight Club’ and using it in ‘The Hannah Montana Movie’. Divided personalities and dual identities are commonplace throughout the history of literature and the duality of man has been portrayed in every form of media from the caped crusader, to Judas, to werewolves, to the Phantom of the Opera, to Hannah Montana.
Take Dr. Jekyll for example. Dr. Jekyll worked very hard to earn his doctoral degree from a prestigious university. In so doing he took out cripplingly large student loans, spent seven years in a dysfunctional relationship with an undergraduate modern dance major, and put up with a scaldingly abusive dissertation chair. After graduation the poor chap whips up a little celebratory homebrew and turns into Mr. Hyde, a man who is lacking a terminal degree and is, therefore, fearful and loathsome. Don’t we all relate to Dr. Jekyll on some level? Haven’t we all dated a lithe, gorgeous, total-nut-job dance major who is too crazy to live with and too sexy to leave? And if we haven’t, haven’t we always wanted to?
You see, I believe we are drawn to tales of the two faces of man because nearly all of us are two people. We see evidence in the news all the time. The loving nanny who steals from the children she is caring for, the husband who, after 20 years of love and nurturing, tells his wife it was an act all along, the priest who has performed 40 years of kind acts while also abusing children.
School started back 2 weeks ago and we’ve been having fun. I gave a 4.5 hour long lecture last Tuesday on zygapophyseal joints. The students loved it and so did I. I put on a nice comfy necktie and stood under fluorescent lights and we talked about back pain. You should have been there. But you weren’t because you were probably doing your other life somewhere as well. I’m a pretty good professor. Hardly anyone at work knows that I run. Dave Essinger knows though. He’s an English professor at Findlay and he finished Mohican this year. I see Dave every now and again and we speak in hushed tones of mud and carbohydrates and also of a mist we saw rising above a river. Then he puts on a tie and teaches writing. Dave told me he reads this blog. In my professor life it scares me that an English teacher is reading this. But my runner side doesn’t give a hoot. I hope that runner-Dave is reading this and not writer-Dave.
So if I can be a professor I wonder what else I can be? I can be a bad singer I guess. I could be an alcoholic if I decided to but I don’t think I could be violent or abusive. I can be polite in trying circumstances and I can hold my tongue in a staff meeting. I guess I could be, or pretend to be, nearly anything I like. In my life I have been a lifeguard, a pizza delivery guy, a land-crew worker, a boyfriend, a dad, a husband, a business owner, an overnight “guest” in the Summit County Jail, an alter boy, a brave, a bobcat, an oiler, a physical therapist, a recipient of an eviction notice, a professor, a patient, a race director, a faculty senate chair, a philanderer, a spendthrift, an enemy, and a friend. But in all of these roles, I held the dual identity of runner. In fact on very nearly every day that I ever portrayed any of those roles, I also ran.
I quit soccer and I quit the trombone, I quit chewing tobacco and I quit buying Volkswagon Jetta’s. I quit boxing and wrestling and basketball and football. But I never quit running. And more to the point I never quit running hard. I did, progressively and by sad degrees, stop running fast but I never stopped running to the point of exhaustion.
So if I use to be all of those things and now I’m not…and if I could be lots of other things that I currently am not…maybe I’m really a runner. It’s the only thing about me that has lasted.
I think some of you may be runners as well. You are probably other things but I bet the running has lasted the longest…or will endure the longest. Not everyone runs for a long time though. Some people run for a few months, finish that 10K or marathon, get their silver blanket and medal and head back to the handball courts. God bless their hearts. I really mean that. I hope they enjoyed their time in our sport. But the lifelong runners, the ‘identity’ runners that I know are different. They all have one thing in common. They all have suffered and will suffer again. They don’t like suffering but they do see the value in it. They go to great lengths to avoid cramping, chaffing, hypoglycemia, and anoxia. They use intervals, lubricants, tinctures, and orthotics to be pain free.
And yet they do suffer. They have suffered and I believe that in that moment of purest suffering, that piece of aloneness, they see clearly the one and only person that they are. No necktie can ease the pain, no pep talk can lift them, its just them and eternity.
And its beautiful. And its peaceful. And it can be scary. Once many years ago I shared the lead in a small but locally important race with a friend. With one mile to go I looked over at him, sized up his long legs and bouncy stride, told myself I could never outkick him, and proceeded to set a goal of removing every molecule of oxygen from his bloodstream with an increased pace. I actually relished in the pain I was causing him. After the race I was alarmed that I could be so cruel. I have also marveled at how defeated or how lonely I can be when suffering…and how much I can love life and love God.
Some people are cynical regarding the concept of a sinner having a deathbed conversion. I’m not though. I believe that some unfortunate individuals only have the alone moment that suffering can bring on the day of their death. How sad that they might learn who they are and change only in the last moments of their lives. And how happy for us that we don’t have to wait that long. We all have the darkness and lightness that come with and from the duality of man. But some of us can, when we want to, synthesize the two by burning away the superfluous. And when we do the real us emerges. And it turns out to only be one person after all.