Wednesday 9 November 2011

A Bucket Of Ice Cold Water

I have been reeling them in, one by one, from the 32k mark.  The unexpected heat and humidity has taken a toll on them.  Now, with just over a km to go, I catch up with the last of the Kenyans.  I shake his hand and wish him well (something I learnt to do from Bruce Fordyce).  I can see in his eyes that he has given up.  He is finished.  So now, it's just an empty road ahead of me.  With just a km to go, it's less than 3 minutes of suffering to endure. 
Victory Awaits!  The crowd is going crazy. 

However, the shrill noise that I hear, is not that of the crowd but that of Neepa screaming at me.  "Wake up! Wake up! You can't sleep in.  Today we HAVE to do our 10k marathon pace run".
I struggle to open my eyes.  "And what pace is that?" I ask groggily.   
"7 mins/km", she replies. 
Am I dreaming?  I look around the room.  Yes, this seems to be my room.  I look at her.  Yes, she does look vaguely familiar. 

Was I just dreaming about 3 min/km pace or am I now dreaming about a 7 min/ km pace?  Which is my reality?

I sit in the car, eating a banana, as she drives us to the beach. Everything had seemed so real, the cheers of the crowds, the beats of my heart, the pain in my legs, the blurred vision from extreme fatigue.
"Wasn't it real?" I ask myself.    She knows something is wrong and asks me, "Why are so depressed?"

I don’t know if she can truly understand how I feel.  So, by way of explanation, I tell her a story I have read....
One early morning Chuang Tzu, the great Chinese philosopher, was sitting in his bed, covered with his blanket.  He was very sad. His disciples had never seen him looking so sad. They were all worried. They were afraid that he was very sick. So they asked him, "Chuang Tzu, what is the matter?"

Chuang Tzu replied, “It is much more difficult than you think. It is not a matter of a small illness.  Last night I dreamt that I had become a butterfly.”
His disciples started laughing. They said, "That is not much of a problem. Everybody thinks many things in his dreams. Happens all the time to the best of us.  It’s to be ignored”

Chuang Tzu said, “I don’t know or care about how everybody thinks. I know only this much: it has created in me a very existential question. If Chuang Tzu can dream that he has become a butterfly, why can a butterfly not go to sleep and dream that she has become a Chuang Tzu? Now the problem is whether I am the butterfly who is dreaming she is Chuang Tzu or I am really Chuang Tzu.”

I explain to Neepa that I too, have been caught in a very existential question.  Am I a 7 min/km runner who was dreaming that he is a 3 min/km runner or is it the other way around?  Am I a 3 min/km runner who is now living a nightmare? 
Which is my reality? Am I in the dream state or in the waking state?

"So what happened with Chuang Tzu?" asked Neepa.

Nobody knew what to do about it until Lieh Tzu, who was away, returned from work.   He was brought up to speed about the problem: “Chuang Tzu is still sitting in his bed. He does not want to get up until the problem is solved. And we are all trying to solve it but there seems to be no solution. It seems logical that if Chuang Tzu can dream he is a butterfly then why can the butterfly not dream she is Chuang Tzu? We are all so confused."

Lieh Tzu said, “Wait, I will solve the problem.” He went to the water well, pulled up a bucket of ice-cold water, then went into Chuang Tzu’s room and poured it over Chuang Tzu’s head.
Chuang Tzu laughed, and he said, “You came at the right time; otherwise, I would have spent the whole day sitting here, feeling mighty sad. You solved the problem.”

Lieh Tzu asked, “Do you need another bucket?” Chuang Tzu replied, “No! The water is ice cold. I am Chuang Tzu, because if I were a butterfly your bucket of ice-cold water would have killed me.”

"We don’t need a bucket of ice cold water", said Neepa.  "Why don't you simply run with me for the next 10k?"

About 70 minutes later as I sat in the car on our way home, with my vision out of focus, my legs trembling and my heart ready to burst out of my chest, I had an epiphany. I knew my reality. 

All I wanted to do was to get back in bed.


  1. Amit

    This comment is (belatedly) on your last blog in relation to your question about being a hedgehog or a frog.

    To the many problems and dimensions of life the single minded approach and solution of the hedgehog is most inappropriate and often unsuccessful. The "one solution fits all" syndrome represented by the hedgehog is not the answer to the kaleidoscopic problems and situations of life. It requires adaptibility, choice, patterns and limits of implementation,choice of the most appropriate response in a given situation and, of course, the mental application to know and select the choices.The frog is better equipped for all this. Having said this, once the frog has decided on the particular action or response to aparticular situation, the hedgehog's single minded pursuit of that action or response is required.

    So how shall I answer your question am I a frog or a hedgehog? I believe my answer is both.At first a frog to determine and plan the options.Then a hedgehog to implement the one finally decided upon. A typical lawyer's answer you might say !!

  2. Amit,
    Good least we can beat the Kenyans in our dreams.

  3. Good One.

    Your write ups are inspirational for me. Thanks a lot.


  4. I think you can write another book soon !!
    Happy New Year !