τὴν κορυφὴν τοῦ ὄρους μὴ ἀργῶς ἴδῃς, ἀλλʼ ἐκεῖ ἐπʼ αὐτῆς θεοὺς ὑπονόει περιωπὴν ἔχειν τοῦ ἀγῶνος· καὶ γάρ τι χρυσοῦν γέγραπται νέφος, ὑφʼ ᾧ, οἶμαι, σκηνοῦσι…
Do not look carelessly at the top of the mountain, but assume that gods have there a place from which to view the contest; for, observe, a golden cloud is painted, which serves, I fancy, as a canopy for them…
—Philostratus (Imagines, 2.21.3, trans. A. Fairbanks)
There is an acute pleasure in watching serious runners run casually; it is not a matter of speed or endurance, but rather of lightness: a momentary suspension of gravity, the feet touching the ground sparingly, which lends the fleeting appearance that they draw all of their energy from air, rather than earth. It is perhaps more often noticed in dance (for example), this transmigration of athleticism into grace, but its rarity among runners makes it all the more delightful when seen.
* * *
Lately I’ve been reading about insomnia (among other things), the sort of finickity memoir that never resolves because it doesn’t have a story to tell, only a mood to convey. Sophistic exercises, these descriptions, which take one out of one’s own circumstances (sleepless or not) and invite one close to intimate detail, without (generally) sharing anything of real moment. I’m not quite certain what I’m supposed to take away from these books, aside from a sense of ‘aw shucks, I’m sure glad I can sleep at night’ that is harnessed uneasily to the dread that some night soon I won’t be able to.
The accounts of sleeplessness always remind me of the myth of Antaeus, that child of the earth who made a habit of asking every passer-by to a wrestling match, which he would invariably win, because the earth would heal his injuries and give him strength so long as he could maintain contact with the ground. He did quite well for himself until Heracles came along and bested him by holding him off the ground and crushing him in a bear hug. A minor incident to a hero: Antaeus wasn’t even numbered among the labors of Heracles. It’s one of the troubles with heroes – they are no respecters of persons. Neither is insomnia, of course.
Die Sprache ist ein Labyrinth von Wegen. Du kommst von einer Seite und kennst dich aus; du kommst von der einer andern zur selben Stelle, und kennst dich nicht mehr aus.
Language is a labyrinth of paths. You approach from one side and know your way about; you approach the same place from another side and no longer know your way about.
—Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations, ¶203; trans. G.E.M. Anscombe et al.)