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Je suis vous.

It has been a difficult two weeks on Earth.  There were, of course, the horrific Charlie Hebdo, police, and hostage murders that took place in Paris.  I recently read that Saudi Arabia has carried out its 10th execution – beheading, that is – of the year.  Which is to say, of the last two weeks.  Perhaps most horrific of all, the entire town of Baga in Nigeria was razed to the ground, with what Goodluck Jonathon and his mates would like us to believe left behind 150 dead bodies, whilst in Realityville is looking much more like 2000+.

It is not easy being human these days.

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59 children have been brutally murdered in one go…and this isn’t breaking news.

I am outraged.

I am sick to my stomach.

This morning, scrolling through the news on the Guardian, waaaaay down at the bottom, nestled between a story about an NHS scandal and an IRA bombing suspect, was the story of 59 adolescent Nigerian students who were shot and burned to death by members of the extremist group Boko Haram on Tuesday.

At first they thought there were only 29 dead.  Apparently many of them ran for their lives, only to die along the way from their gunshot wounds.

Some of them were “burned to ashes,” according to the police commissioner.

This is horrible…terrible…I am no journalist, so I have no shame in admitting that it leaves me absolutely speechless.

But it is news.  It is very, very important news.

Appalled by the very unimportant placement of the article on the Guardian’s front page, I began formulating a letter of complaint to the editor.  Out of curiosity, and perhaps for some moral amunition, I headed over to Al Jazeera, hoping to say, “Hey, Guardian!  Look how this newspaper valued the lives of these children enough to place it at the top of the page!”  Alas, there isn’t even a mention of the event on their home page.

New York Times:  Nothing on their home page.

Los Angeles Times:  Nothing on their home page.

The Washington Post:  Nothing on their home page.

Le Monde: One of 16 lead stories at the bottom of their homepage

The Telegraph:  Nothing on their home page.

I’m going to ask you to do something terrible.

I’m going to ask you to imagine your own child, 16 years old, having just seen his or her classmates shot and burned alive, running through the bush, bleeding from gunshot wounds, until he or she finally cannot go any further, and collapses, to bleed to death, alone.

I don’t think I have a single reader out there who would contest that Africa is where it all began.  Where humans took their first steps; where farmers planted their first seeds; where civilisations were first built.  More recently, so-called “developed” countries have spent the past several hundred years endeavouring by any means necessary to systematically under-develop this massive, culture-, history-, and (perhaps most importantly to those “developed” nations) resource-rich continent to what often feels like the point of no return.

Humanity’s treatment of Africa and Africans is a microcosm – albeit a very large one – of  humanity’s treatment to the Earth and nature itself:  as somehow seperate.  Not part of us.

Listen:  Africa is us.  Those are our children. 

Consider Columbine.  Sandy Hook.  The Norway Massacre.

Why do the deaths of these children headline for days – weeks, even?  Why are their lives worthy of breaking news reports that start at the moment they happen and don’t end until we almost can’t stand to hear about it any more?

Why are the children of Buni Yadi College in Yobe, Nigeria, not headlining the news?

Please:  remember Biafra.

I should have been writing to thank the editors of the GuardianAt least they covered the story.

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Step three: Don’t just forgive your shortcomings – plan on them.

One of the greatest thinkers I’ve come to know in this life is a writer for the Guardian, Oliver Burkeman.  He’s got a regular gig there:  “This column will change your life,” and in it he explores all sorts of wonderful thoughts and ideas that maybe didn’t occur to the reader in quite that way before, but after pondering the concept à la Burkeman, they come out the other end thinking, “Exactly,” and also, “I’ve always thought that,” even if it’s the first time that reader ever bothered considering said idea.  Incidentally, that reader is me…I have no idea how he affects others.

Another lovely mind out there is the creater of brain pickings, Maria Popova, who has three extraordinary talents:  archiving some of the most interesting and worth-reading information out there, ergo consuming – if I will allow her – copious amounts of my life with all her interestingness; taking the ideas of multiple very talented thinkers and synthesizing them so that they are no longer overwhelming and instead fall right into place, one alongside the next; making herself seem somehow like this background informant, rather than the brilliant light she really is to the world of thought and thinking…humble people intimidate me.  Anyway, I digress.  Ms. Popova recently covered Mr. Burkeman’s new book, which has something to do with why setting goals is counterproductive, and she goes into very interesting detail in her post, and I intend to buy and devour this book, and I can also confirm that having read it, I will undoubtedly be in agreement with ol’ Ollie, because that is how he rolls…right into my brain, convincing me not only of his points, but also that I always thought them anyway, so no harm done.

But before I reach that point, a word on setting goals.

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Step One: Creating Space.

I am aware that if I look back on the various posts I’ve written on this blog, I would find the personal pronouns referring to yours truly too numerous to bother counting.  I’ve ventured out of my box a little here, a tad bit there, but for the most part I’ve focused my opining and whining squarely on the space that surrounds me, the things that happen to me, because of me, and by my hand.  It’s a bit boring, isn’t it?  I’m very interested in finding a place in life in which what I’m thinking about — what concerns me — is more interesting than, well, me.

For the moment, however, I’m still figuring out which foot goes where in order to move forward.  One of the biggest obstacles to that in the last year or so has been a lack of space.

I don’t mean physical space.  I’ve got enough of that.  I don’t mean time.  Time has been there – in snippets, which is a big part of the problem.  Imagining life differently than it is takes an extraordinary amount of space. That space is emotional, mental, and creative, and if it is diminished by fatigue, it is destroyed by fear.  Of course fear – my fear, at any rate – comes from self-doubt.  I’m not sure what it is that I’m doubting, because I haven’t even figured out what it is that I’m asking myself.  But I do know that I haven’t had the space to even begin to formulate that question.  So the possibilities, rather than seeming endless as they might, seemed painfully finite.  Suffocating.  Doom and gloom.

And then that changed.

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Running

I didn’t  run once in the entire time Ann and I were in the Philippines. There were two reasons for this.  First, I’m pretty sure people would have taken photos of me while running and I would have ended up on the local newspaper frontpage under the title “Tallest person in the Philippines seen running!” It was impossible to do anything anywhere without standing out due to being super tall and a foreigner, so going out for a run would be an invitation to attract tons of attention. I would not have been surprised if groups of childrens started running behing me, rocky style ;). I see running as a kind of mediation for me, and I prefer to be able to run in quieter places where I can focus on the moment without too many distractions around.. The other reason was the heat. Basically anytime after 5.30am the temperature would have made it  pretty unpleasant to run. Of course this is something that I would have got used to if I went running regularly but due to reason #1 above, I didn’t. I really missed running during that year. I had built up good habits with running and cycling in my last five years in London and I knew that not exercising at all for year would result in me losing the little fitness I had when I left. When we came back to Europe, both Ann and I were eager to get out and go for a run and it’s one of the first thing we did. That first run was painful and (at most) 10 minutes… but it felt great.

I’ve been trying to run regularly since, aiming for twice sometimes three times a weeks. I kept running as much possible throughout the last winter – something that I didn’t do in London. Running has taken quite an important place in my schedule since coming back to France. I don’t have a set time when I go run though I prefer the morning, and so it’s been more about going to run when I can rather than trying to stick to a schedule. I often complain about not having enough time to do things I want to do outside of work. I recently realised that I tended to see running as an activity that was taking time away from something else I wanted to do or should have been doing. But in the last month or so that perception has changed, and I realised that, actually, I do enjoy running very much and I’m quite happy to spend time doing it. I’m not sure why I had the idea that running was something I was sort of forcing myself to do rather than something I was enjoying.

This year was the 31st edition of my hometown annual 15K race which traditionally takes place on the 1st of May. It was also the first time I participated in it (and finished it).

Last year I remember I was working on the day and as I was looking out our window I could see the runners passing by on the street below, I thought “I should have signed up. I should be running right now, not working in front of a computer working.” This year I signed up on the day registrations opened and made sure I wouldn’t be away on a work trip that week (the 1st was a Wednesday). I did considered pulling out as during the preceding weeks I had picked up a little knee injury and I didn’t get the chance to run much as I was away for work on couple of occasions. Also the morning of the race, it was cold, grey and rain was coming down hard (a small “river” had formed on the street where 4 hours later the race was suppose to take place). It was not encouraging and I wasn’t really “feeling it”. But the weather changed in a spectacular fashion and by the time the starting gun went off it was beautiful blue sky and sunshine all around. It was really perfect conditions to run in and collective mood was firmly up. It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The winner of the race finished in 43:48 (Kitumai Kennedy from Kenya) and the first woman in 50:22 (Mekasha Waganesh from Ethiopia). They passed me when I was on my second lap (the race has three laps)… It was quite a sight to see them whiz by, it looked like their were not running but gliding. Very impressive, and beautiful in a way. I finished in 1:15:26. Not too bad and a timeI was aiming for so I’m very happy with that.

I don’t know whether I’ll go running more from now on following this little mental shift, and that’s not important anyway, but it’s good to now run with this new state of mind.

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Street is still wet from the rain but the emerging sun is taking care of that

Street is still wet from the rain but the emerging sun is taking care of that

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An Explanation.

It has been a while, gentle readers, hasn’t it?

This is partly because I’ve been run off my feet.  It is also because I’ve been a bit lost for words. It is true that when we don’t keep up our good (or bad) habits, we fall out of them.  So there’s that.  But it’s also a question of integrity.

Lately I’ve been watching this show Girls.  It’s something I’m selfish about…I don’t share it with Chris, not because of the presumably girly nature of the show itself (Chris was a die-hard Desperate Housewives fan for years.  True story.).  Anyway, it’s not even just a girly show.  But it does bring up a lot of emotional junk for me.  I started watching it, incidentally, because there is a character named Shoshana, and as many of you know, one of my besties is named Shoshana.  Not an uncommon name, but I only know just the one.  My Shoshana is also a little crazy, but more in a Liz-Lemon-as-schoolteacher sort of way, not in the way of Girls‘ Shoshana.  And I miss her a lot, a lot of the time.  There are many other reasons I heart this show, including that the main character (who happens to be played by the writer/director of the same show, the ridiculously talented Lena Dunham) is so fantastically flawed I can completely relate to her.  In fact, the likenesses between us are frightening…our differences lie only in what we are and aren’t shameless about.  I really need to take a step back from my friends on the small screen.

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