Honesty In Suffering

Love to read. Mostly nonfiction. Categories include philosophy, religion, some history, some biography, science. And there is one other little bit that I dabble into now and then, adventure. Guys like John Kakauer with Into Thin Air and Into The Wild (have read all of his stuff and am hoping for more) and Laurence Gonzales with Deep Survival are great examples. This interest prompted me to subscribe to Outside Magazine a few years back, and my most recent issue,  April 2009, had an interesting passage that I want to share.

It’s by Dean Karnazes. He is a freakish runner. Runs about 25 miles a day when he is training. Has done the Western States, Badwater, and others. All insane distance races of like 50, 100, 150 miles across mountains and deserts and has won most if not all of them. At age 46 in 2008 he won, not ran in but won, the 621 mile “Four Desert Challenge,” a race across the Atacama, Gobi, Sahara, and Antarctic deserts. I’ve read his book, Ultramarathon Man, also a part of my adventure category, and it is a truly inspiring story of how he discovered his ability to run like freak of nature. Outside ran a piece in this issue on “What inspires and adventurous mind?” in which they gave explanations from 15 of what they call “eminences” of adventure. From Dean Karnazes:

“A great run definitely involves suffering. I think any adventure athlete will tell you that there’s honesty in suffering. You feel more alive than when you’re just cruising along. There are moments where you have very lucid thoughts. On day four, running across the Sahara last year, I nearly passed out at mile 23 of a 28-mile stage. I was dehydrated, it was extremely hot, I had exhausted my salty foods, and I was rationing my electrolyte tablets. My ears were ringing. My head was spinning. I was seeing stars. I finally sat down in the sand and just looked around. There was no one there. And I sat there for probably 15 minutes and got in my own head and said: Don’t get ahead of yourself. Be in the moment. Don’t think about the race you have to do tomorrow. Just take one step. Do your best on the next step. There’s magic in misery. I talked to God out there.” Outside, April 2009, pg 32.

To me, that is an amazing statement, “…honesty in suffering….magic in misery….I talked to God out there.” I don’t know what his spiritual beliefs are, but he obviously “gets it.” He doesn’t sit around and wallow in obesity, seeking out constant comfort and ease of life, and then wondering why God doesn’t relieve him of his suffering when it comes. He goes out and seeks suffering, understanding that if he is willing to see it, this is the place where he is most honest with himself, learns the most about himself, and meets God. And what an amazing correlation between his desert race and Christ’s 40 days in the desert. Could it be that Christ went there to meet God? To prepare for what was to come? To prepare for the immediately subsequent confrontation with evil? It think it is. I think that is exactly why he went to the desert. He knew what Dean Karnezes has figured out. Honesty in suffering. Magic in misery. Where you really, really talk to God.

And this is why I do triathlon. I meet God there. I don’t meet God at church so much. And this is why I left my fundamentalist theology-in-a-box roots. Because I meet God in the wrestling, in the questioning, in the doubting, in the searching. I meet God in the suffering.


4 responses to “Honesty In Suffering

  1. ““A great run definitely involves suffering””

    Sooooo true! I run for about 15-20 mins a day – trying to get into shape (lost about 30 pounds and I feel greeeeat!) – and it always involves pushing my body that much further…whether tiredness ot whatever tries to bring me down. I like the idea some suffering can bring out the best in us (so true!).

  2. i gotta get back to suffering physically. now it’s all mental. i need to exercise more. love that you meet God in the suffering. some say that’s where they loose God but not me… i chalked it up to my time spent studying buddhism. but i love that! sports is a spiritual conduit!

  3. I understand your idea behind suffering. Its just that I see suffering more along the lines of a choice. I feel the word pain describes your idea better. I think people who revel or stay in their pain are “suffering”. It is true though, there is much to learn from the pain in our lives. It seems to be a real motivator. Well the getting rid of it at least. ;)

  4. You are probably right there. Pain may better describe it. I bowed out of the decon conversation with those yahoos being so certain of what they were saying. In the end, they were just in an argument about definitions, pain v suffering v comfort v peace …. It seemed a bit pointless.

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