February 27, 2007

There Are No Atheists in Triathlon

I am not a religious man. I don't go to temple or church. I don't own a star of David, a cross or any other similarly symbolic sacrosanct token. I've been to Jewish services, Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist and multi-denominational. I don't subscribe to any particular belief, but am accepting of all. I was raised a Jew, but no longer celebrate any of the holidays. I give gifts on Christmas, oftentimes even get a tree. I love the smell of pine, the expression of love through giving and the convivial feeling that immerses our culture throughout the month of December. I believe Jesus existed, but I'm not necessarily buying the rest of the story. I am not against religion in any way. It is just that I am not a religious man.

I own a Bible and have read through its many parts. It's a tough read. I've been Bar Mitzvah-ed and read from the Torah. It's a tougher read. I don't understand the least bit of Hebrew, I can barely even pronounce the words. I don't believe that there is an actual being overseeing; no mystical grand puppetteer playing with the marionette strings of our lives. We are what we are when we are where we are. If there is a God, it is us. I don't believe Heaven as an actual destination; heaven is right here, right now. I don't believe in Hell, it is just a state of mind.

I believe in the spirit and will of humanity. I believe in the goodness that lies within us. I believe in happiness and unity and love. I believe in the energy that surrounds us the energy that drives us the energy that connects us all. I believe we are all connected. I believe there is a reason, but we are looking outside when the answer lies within. I believe that when I die, there is a part of me that remains. I believe that what you do, affects what I do, affects what you do, affects the world. Whether I know you or not. I believe there is a magical mysterious part of each of us that creates each of us and molds each of us into each of us.

I am not against religion in any way. It's just that I'm not a religious man.

Yet whenever I get to the starting line, I pray. I pray for the energy to battle the unknown that lies before me and the power to survive. I pray for the strength to change the things I can change, the courage to deal with those things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I pray for peace and patience and serenity. And then the starting gun goes off...

I struggle, I fight and battle my way through. I continually remind myself to stay calm and relaxed. Don't push it too hard, don't go over the edge. And the deeper I get into the race, the more difficult it becomes. My body begins to shut down. Every atom of every muscle screams at me to stop. To give up. But my mind pushes me forward. An epic battle plays over again between the phsyical and the spiritual. I have to dig deep and deeper to keep moving. To take another step. Yet I do. I always take another step. It is that magical mysterious part of me that drives me and keeps me moving towards the finish line. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For I am with me.

And miles upon miles later, the end is nigh. And as I make the final turn to the finish line, the skies open up. And if there is a God, if there is a being overseeing, He is always with me at the finish line. His hand is in mine driving me forward. His arms are around me, giving me strength. And if there is a God, we always finish together. If there is a God, I would bet all the money in all the world that he is an endurance athlete.

I am not a religious man.
But there are no atheists in long-distance triathlon.


[Note: I actually wrote this in January 2006, but I've been thinking a bit about it lately so figured I'd post it again... if for nothing else than it means I don't have to do a search everytime I want to read it.]


LoneStarCrank said...

Well said. There is a great deal of faith that goes into this lifestyle. And a little divine intervention never hurts, either!

Andra Sue said...

I love this post. I, too, am not a religious person in any sense of the word...and, I, too, pray at the start of a race. (Sometimes in the middle too, if it's warranted. Heh.) Just about the only time I feel a spiritual connection is when I'm working out, moving my body, outdoors. This must be where soul meets body, I always think to myself. :)

meg said...

Could not have said it any better. In "normal" life, I subscribe to a calm logic that tells me I have no proof of a deity, but something changes when I'm at my physical limits. The times in my adult life when I have truly felt like there could be something grander and beyond my understanding have been during prolonged physical effort and/or wilderness travel. Of course, the scientific part of me tries to rationalize this too, with thoughts of exercise-induced changes in my brain state, etc. But maybe where the mental strength comes from - whether it's God, yourself, a brain chemical - is not the most important thing. Like you say, it keeps you moving, and the result is the same regardless of origin: a beautiful internal struggle, an enduring will, a glorious finish.

Great insights in your writing; thanks for this post.

TMc said...

Can you tell me who you pray to exactly? Yourself?