I came across this piece at the discussion forum on running - http://groups.google.co.in/group/BloreRun/browse_thread/thread/c79056e9a34cc573/b9fe931e0b5dc076#b9fe931e0b5dc076 . I shamlessly reproduce here because the whole piece resonated in some way deep with me.
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, (1.5.16)
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end, (1.5.19)
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
Indeed, I will.
Indeed, I will.
As an ultrarunner I have often seen and felt moments of extreme distress due to exhaustion. When I was injured in a race and walked back 25K to complete a race; the famous scene in the Hawaii Iron man Triathlon when the lady runner was crawling to the finish line even though she was almost senseless from extreme effort; Cyclists in the Tour du France struggling towards the end after grueling races, etc. I have also questioned and examined where the will comes to keep moving when the easiest thing to do would have been to quit and lie down or not to start in the first place. I have given answers to this in a part serious and in part facetious vein in the my top 10 reasons to run. Yesterday an event happened. As I was returning home from work I turned off the Kanakapura main road towards my home when I vaguely saw a half bent old lady stumbling along the middle of the road oblivious to the perilous traffic swirling and dodging around her in annoyance with the truck drivers grinning malevolently at her. I stopped the car and my driver and I got out to examine the situation. What we found was shocking. This bent form was an old lady of uncertain age, shriveled, toothless, hair a-mess, in rags, foot lacerated with open wounds perhaps due to abrasion of slipper and road rash, with flies etc. She was walking (more like stumbling) using a short staff to guide her for she was almost blind and partially deaf and practically senseless. It was like seeing the face of death. It took us a several moments to compose ourselves and to try to help her. This place is outside Bangalore and fairly rural. We guided her to a place of rest on the side of the road at a bus shelter and fetched water and some idli's from a local roadside restaurant. We tried communicating with her but her language was almost unintelligible (we later found that she spoke "lambadi" dialect). Some passerby informed us that he had seen the woman in the morning about 15kms further south from where we were. So she had walked like this all day covering 15kms! We couldn't elicit anything from her as to where she was from, where was she going, etc. When I gave her 30 rupees it was pathetic to see how she ignored the food and water and futilely trying to tie a knot around the money with her sari and failing. We helped her tie the knot. We tried to get some oldage home to take care of her but they refused. We tried to get the local village doctor to come and treat her but he initially refused fearing a medico-legal complexity. After 30 minutes of patient imploring on our part and indemnity he condescended to come with us to see her. He treated her wounds and claimed she was not ill. To his credit he refused payment. So we left her for the night seeing that she had eaten and drank and lay down to rest. In the morning on my way to work we bought some breakfast and visited the bus shelter only to find that she was gone. We went looking for her and found her 2km away with heavy traffic swirling around her. We again got her to one side gave additional breakfast and instructed a bystander to guide her to the edge of the road when she was ready and left to work with a heavy heart that this was all we could do for her. She seemed so near death. With no place to go, no belongings, old age, the easiest thing for her would have been to lie down under some tree and just fade into a coma and call it quits. I would have done this in her place. BUT SHE KEPT MOVING! This surely is the defining attribute of a sentient being. Even at the very end till you have the energy to move even a step you must have the will to move. For that's all you may have in the end like this old lady. Aristotle's De Anima.