Words (not mine) to live by

This week, philosopher Ken Chung died of pancreatic cancer.  He was 39, and a friend and former student of people who read and write for this blog.  I never met him, but I did get a chance to read his blog— some essays and thoughts on life and death and cancer and philosophy.  I read his essay, “Struggle”, here, and found some words of his that really resonate with me–about life, about movement, about self worth, about work, about love– well, they may work for just about anything.  Here they are below:

  • Try to maximize the amount of work that you enjoy doing for its own sake, and minimize the work you do only because of its results.
  • Try to find a way to love the process over the outcome.
  • Try to accept the fact that success depends on factors outside our control, and try to allow only what is within our control — for instance, the efforts we make — to affect our state of mind.
  • Try to see that we’re playing with odds here, and that even though we know that the harder we work, the greater the disappointment, greater too is the likelihood of success.

What about this passage speaks to me?  That life is lived in the moments and weeks and years of untidy process:  of slogging, restarting, retooling, zigging and zagging, plowing through, grumbling, and persevering.

This is exactly how feminism informs fitness for me:  that the process and the experience  of putting out effort is what we spend virtually all of our time with (as opposed to the moment of finishing or accomplishing or abandoning, etc.) .  My approach to fitness is littered with plans and goals and hopes and expectations and fears.  But the process is really what matters–what is it like on my yoga mat, on the saddle of my road bike, in the cockpit of a kayak?  Answer:  sometimes good, sometimes painful, sometimes boring, sometimes sublime. Mostly ordinary.

Tomorrow I’m taking a day for myself to go for a solo ride up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, around Gloucester and Rockport.  The coastline is sublime, and the weather should be fine–a little cool but sunny.  I’ll be thinking of Ken and his wife and his friends and family.  And I’ll be turning the cranks and taking in the scenery, on my way to the next thing around the corner.

Here’s to life.

The author, posing confidently on rocks by the ocean on Massachusetts' north shore, despite the fact that she's wear cycling shoes with metal cleats and standing on a rock.

The author, posing confidently on rocks by the ocean on Massachusetts’ north shore, despite the fact that she’s wear cycling shoes with metal cleats and standing on a rock.

 

 

About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

7 thoughts on “Words (not mine) to live by

  1. natalieh says:

    Damnit! You got me crying!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post! I wonder if one of my words should be “struggle” because it reminds me of pushing through the shit you normally take pains to avoid…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma says:

    Terrific piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim Solga says:

    Absolutely words to live by. How moving – thanks Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

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