Showing posts from April, 2015

Finding meaning in the marathon

If you want to see suffering, stand at the finish line of a marathon. On Sunday after the Canberra Running Festival, bodies were strewn around the lawns in front of Old Parliament House as if on a battlefield; their faces full of agony and relief. 

Anguish is a visitor at the start line too. When the gun is fired an excited fear hits the road of runners. For newcomers it's the promise of unfamiliar territory. The best trainers will tell you that while the lasting benefits of a marathon come in the training, you should never train the full 26 miles (about 42 kilometres). You leave the last six miles "unexplored".   

That's because there's a race within a race. At the 20-mile mark muscles can run out glycogen, causing intense pain as the body searches for something else to burn. It's called "hitting the wall". Other human processes can break down as well. 

There's no way I'd attempt a marathon. I've been a wheezy asthmatic, fighting for ai…

Barefoot and passionate: reflections on the Lenten experience

Ahead of Easter and the end of Lent I was delighted to discover an exquisite baroque sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It's of St Teresa of Avila, the Spanish founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Google her. In a small Roman chapel St Teresa can be found, made of marble seated on clouds below an angel poised to pierce her heart with a dart. In her autobiography, Teresa describes this spiritual ecstasy as one that causes immense joy and pain; turning her "on fire with a great love of God".

Leaving aside Teresa's mystical encounter, I was curious to know why she was discalced, that is barefoot. The Discalced Carmelites, a Catholic order established in the late 1500s, understood that we experience the world and beyond through our bodies. Going without shoes, and in her case other comforts, was a sign that she relied on God to provide for her. It's a concept foreign to most of us. We strive to be independent. Going barefoot is associated with bein…