I’m lately fascinated by the distinction between when I’m using an activity as a part of my identity (“I am a runner”) versus pointing out that I do an activity (“I run”). This sort of nit matters to me, because the nature of self-identity matters to me. If I am a runner, but then for whatever reason I don’t run… what then am I? What fascinates me isn’t the specific verbs, but rather: What actually am I? This locks me up thinking for long periods. I write. I run. I climb. I jump. Yes, but, what am I?
I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature.
~ Haruki Murakami from, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
I enjoyed reading Murakami’s essays. Particularly because I run poorly, I wanted to know what he talks about when he talks about running. In fact, he does talk a great deal about literally running, in addition to the larger perspectives on his life for which everyone loves the book.
But one thing is for sure: I run. But I am not a runner.
If this isn’t fun, what would be? Because at this point, I don’t have any excuses for doing anything which isn’t simply, directly enjoyable. I don’t mean that I’m going to be petulant, and rage-quite taking out the trash and dealing with drains. I mean that upon careful inspection there isn’t anything which can’t be simply, directly enjoyable in the moment.
One rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Am I having a good time doing this?” If you’re not enjoying yourself when you’re engaged in what seems important to you, if you can’t find spontaneous pleasure and joy in it, then there’s likely something wrong. When that happens, you have to go back to the beginning and start discarding any extraneous parts or unnatural elements.
~ Haruki Murakami from, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/nov/05/i-want-to-open-a-window-in-their-souls-haruki-murakami-on-the-power-of-writing-simply
The other day I spent an entire day stacking firewood. It’s a lot of work; but it’s not really that hard. I’d load the wheelbarrow (which is kneeling, squatting or stooping labor), run it to the stacks, stack stack stack. Repeat. After a few trips, I’d retire to the patio and combine some relaxing with some digital work. The parts where I managed to be aware of what I was doing—the sounds, smells, sights, and visceral sensations of hard work—it was definitely enjoyable. Most likely because I find the results of the effort (a warm fire in cold winter) meaningful. It’s any time the meaning seems to be missing that I find I get into trouble.