Running with the Pack: Thoughts from the Road on Meaning and Mortality
In this follow-up to THE PHILOSOPHER AND THE WOLF, RUNNING WITH THE PACK returns to both Mark Rowlands’s love of wolves and dogs and some particularly moving and meaningful ideas about the meditative quality of running, and all the connections that have evolved in his life between the two.
“I suspect children, and the dogs of children, understand what is important in life far better than adults. When I build the sandcastles, it is work: I do it for the enjoyment of my sons. When they destroy those castles, it is play: they do this for no other reason than to do it. As the castles die the death of a thousand belly flops, I can think of no more emphatic affirmation of the value of play over work. There is a joy that goes with this --- the joy of giving yourself over wholly to the activity and not the outcome, the deed and not the goal.” Through observances about the world combined with the teachings of different philosophers throughout history, Rowlands gives us his own particular take on the interconnectivity between seemingly disparate things --- animals and running on the open road.
"RUNNING WITH THE PACK is a lovely book, a reminder that there are still some very human ways to deal with life in general."
When was the last time someone combined the thought process of forcing oneself to get out and run with a C-level horror film like Village of the Damned? Or snakes and Tolstoy’s faith? There is no shortage of intriguing and compelling conversations in RUNNING WITH THE PACK; it certainly bodes well for Rowlands that his voice is so accessible and gentle. The stereotypic philosopher he is not --- there is no above-it-all attitude or language that separates the reader from the thoughts of the writer. Instead, there is only a heartfelt, warm and understanding discussion about one man’s journey and the ways in which he finds connections between his own worldview and all the pieces of culture, literature and science that he has crammed into his brain. When running, it all comes together. A more intense connection between the mind and body there could not be in a book for mass consumption.
“Thoughts only come when they are ready. They cannot be forced, they cannot be hurried --- they cannot be bargained with. They come in their time, not ours.” Rowlands has a good grip on the importance of problem solving, allowing the brain and the body to do what they need to do in their own time to make sense of what is happening in their own world and the world in general. Rowlands is the perfect philosopher for our age of technological overdependence; he is able to show how the body and brain still have their own process to undergo, regardless of what little gadgets try to reconfigure our neural pathways.
RUNNING WITH THE PACK is a lovely book, a reminder that there are still some very human ways to deal with life in general. In these days in which the theory of mindfulness becomes a more and more intriguing study, helping us to stop the brain-addling multitasking to which we have grown addicted, Rowlands’s message about the meaning of life is a welcome respite in a busy season.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on December 7, 2013