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Saturday 7 November 2021: Running, Listening, Thinking, Understanding

Trapped under the ice, blinding white above, deep, endless, frozen dark beneath, struggling ever more weakly, knowing he is about to die, terrifed…

Understanding by Ted Chiang on BBC Sounds.

Leon finally emerges from his deep coma and the nightmares caused by the accident that almost killed him in hopsital. He’s been given a test treatment, Syndrome K. As he takes more of the drug, an unexpected side effect emerges: the startling increase in his intelligence.

Not particularly academic at school, Leon notices with astonishment how K opens up his mind and his perception. The drug makes Leon first notice and then begin to understand strange patterns, the interconnectedness of art, music, science, everything that surrounds us.

But the drug soon starts to take over and Leon becomes increasingly enmeshed inside his own consciousness, turning ever more inward while his brain searches restlessly for the ultimate Gestalt, the pattern that underpins the entire universe.

Award-winning US writer Ted Chiang’s sci-fi thriller was published in 1991 and explores with rich lyrical density, what it is like to become ever more self-aware. The sad irony: the more self aware and hyper intelligent Leon becomes, the more he’s becoming locked inside his own head, separated from the rest of humanity while seeing how connected we all are, the strands of energy that vibrate between person to person.

‘Benevolence’ muses Leon, ‘being able to bestow generosity on other people. How many emotions are required by the presence of another person….’

Leon creates his own language from all the languages of the world so he can express the inexpressible. He writes a poem ‘which is like combining Finnegan’s Wake and Pound’s Cantos…’

Ted Chang’s book is packed with rich descriptions: Leon’s search for the ultimate Gestalt and the struggle to describe what lies beyond the capabilities of human language – yet still having to use language to describe what lies beyond words and most mere mortals’ comprehension.

Gestallt – the patterns and the systems that underpin us, climb inside and understand the secret machinations of the universe…

After his third dose of K, Leon watches his mind watching itself working itself out, each time creating chemical reactions and interconnections. Leon’s watching himself watching himself fall into ever deeper understanding but the more understanding, the less that is understood as the universe expands out in a giant fractal. Soon, he’s using more of his brain than any other human in existence but his mind is getting too big for his brain, a mere piece of organic matter, to contain.

Exploring the nature of reality and existence – that life is an illusion, that life is just a dream – that the true reality is just out of reach. That to be biologically concious means we can never get to ultimate reality – our thoughts, our emotions, our attachments constantly getting in the way.’

Ladywell Fields, Saturday 7 November, 7:49am

Patterns everywhere. Life ending and beginning across the globe one second at a time. The condition inexorably changing as time moves constantly forwards one moment to the next. Steam rises from the subway, smoke curls up from the bonfire, the child laughs, the clouds chase each other across the sky.

Plane trails, leaves falling, people walking. The exhalation of my breath running on a cold Autumnal day.

The universe: zero point, one giant fractal. Half into half into half and back out again.

Further Thoughts and Reading

There was a definite mind expanding, examining theme to this weekend. The trailer at the end of Episode 3 was for The Haunting of Alma Field.

I discovered Gestalt Therapy – developed in the 1930s by Fritz Perls in Berlin: https://gestaltcentre.org.uk/what-is-gestalt/

And then explored the infinite expanding and contracting beauty of fractals:

https://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-are-fractals/

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/fractals/set.html

Saturday 12 September – 31km

31km, 19.2 miles. My longest distance ever. I was running a steady, much slower pace than I’d originally planned; once more I found myself naturally speeding up for the final 4km and actually enjoying the run.

26.2 miles amazingly now feels achievable. I just need to figure out the final part of my route and avoid the strangely magnetic presence of the A205 South Circular when I reach Eltham…

Helen’s London Virtual Marathon Route

Greenwich  to Cator Park via the Waterline Way (Approx 7 miles).

Green Chain route to take me from Beckenham to Eltham Palace (Approx 14 miles).

The next part is still TBC as I lost the Green Chain route and ended up on the A205 South Circular for the third time. The plan on the day  is to continue on the Green Chain route  to Oxleas Wood, pick the Thames at Woolwich and loopback until I reach 26.2 miles.

Running Soundtrack

Greenwich to Beckenham: Re-listened to Duncan Marley’s Zero Point on Mixcloud.

Beckenham back to Greenwich: Change of scene via BBC Sounds. I travelled to nineteenth century Russia and a classic tale of doomed romantic love with Anna Karenina  – imagining Beckhenham Mansion (below) was the place where Count Vronksy abandons Kitty to dance with Anna for the first time…

Saturday 5 September – 27km

And welcome to my penultimate Long Run…

Where I awarded myself a Personal Best for Distance – not for time, this was one of my slowest runs ever – more like a fast walk in parts!  However, this was my first long run where not only my legs weren’t screaming at me to stop for the final 2km, but where, amazingly, I was actually picking up speed for the final few km instead of slowing right down.

So there’s a first marathon lesson – run much slower than you normally would for the first half.

Next October with one marathon under my belt, I will focus on improving my time.  This year, I’m focusing on enjoying the unique London Lockdown Marathon experience and raising money for South London Special League.

The playlist this week moved between The Prodigy Experience, Arab Strab’s Monday at the Hug and Pint and The Last Romance, Baxter Dury’s Prince of Tears and  Marhaba by Maalem Mahmoud Guinia.

The green contemplative peace of Beckenham Woods – another part of London I didn’t know existed before marathon training.

Following the Green Chain from Beckenham to the Tudor / art deco architecture fusion of Eltham Palace. 

 

Saturday 29 August – 21km

13 miles on what is now my usual running route – Blackheath, Lewisham, Waterlink Way to Beckenham and back.

Next week I’ll be in Block Three of training. And that means it’s 5 weeks until the world’s first Virtual London Marathon on October 4 2020 and my very first marathon.

Today’s soundtrack  was Jon Hopkins’ soaringly gorgeous Singularity, Underworld’s pounding Everything, Everything live album, finishing off with the Prodidgy’s seminal Music for the Jilted Generation.  Steve Lamaq and 6 Music’s Album Club  played this album out in all its uncensored, anarchic, energetic musical fury on 19 August 2020 and what a glorious, glowing, raving listening party that was. All these years later and it’s lost none of its urgent rawness.

 

Thursday 20 August – 28km

My birthday.

And I celebrated by runing futher than I’d ever run before, training for my virtual London marathon for local charity South London Special League.

28km or 17.4 miles (and I really did feel the final two km….!)

Accompanying me on my run was Zero Point, a rather fine deep house mix by Duncan Marley, including tracks from Omar S, Small People, Super Discount and Francoise K.

 

I discovered new parts of London via the Green Chain and Capital Ring routes, picking these up at Beckhenham (after coming off the Waterlink Way) getting slightly lost in Beckhenham Mansion grounds and then finished at Eltham Palace. What I should have done here is continued along the quiet routes to Oxleas Woods and Woolwich.  Instead, I headed down the relentless South Circular just as I was starting to feel the miles and needed maximum distraction.

The no filter photos –  just the quick snap with my iPhone 7  as I run past:

Blackheath. Welcome to your birthday.

Discovering a new building – Beckenham Mansion. Turned a corner and there it was.

Photoshop out Canary Wharf and I could be deep in the countryside.

Panoramic view – central London in the distance on the left, Canary Wharf and Greenwich to the right. Eltham Palace a couple of miles ahead.

Monday 10 August – 5km

There will be no summer holidays this year but as I stepped out of my front door this morning, it felt like I was on holiday. Warm sun, soft gentle breeze, golden light over Greenwich Park. I found out on Friday that this year’s London Marathon will go ahead on October 4th – but it will be an elite only event. The rest of us have the option of running a virtual Marathon – as long as we complete 26.6 miles on Sunday October 4th, we get a 40th anniversary medal. And also, be part of London Marathon sporting history at the same time.  The photo below was take approximately 2km into my 5km tempo run while listening to Four Tet’s Love Cry. Take microholidays where you can. Leave the madness for a few minutes. Don’t forget to breathe.

 

Saturday 25 July – 16km

The training plan said  19km – but it was one of those mornings where I woke up feeling tired and the legs were tight.  So I thought – just  go out and see what you find. Any steps are better than no steps. I ran down the road to  historic Charlton, the Jacobean house, the churchyard and ended up discovering something I never knew  existed – 55 million year old rocks. There’s something to consider, I thought, looking up at them, aching legs, listening to Four Tet’s Glastonbury mix. 55 million years old, they’ve been here long before all this world’s craziness and they will probably be here long after too.  (NB All the running photos on this and other pages are no filters – just as I found them on my travels.)

Saturday 18 July 2020 – 22km

One of the joys of running is discovering new parts of London.  I followed the Waterway Cycle Route 21 which runs between Greenwich and Beckenham. My running soundtrack courtesy of BBC Sounds:

Starting out with John Finnemore’s sublime Cabin Pressure – the airline where no job is too small, but many jobs are too difficult…

Cabin Pressure

Then I had my own digital dance Glastonbury to carry me through the remaining miles:

Four Tet at Glastonbury 2016  a glorious mix including a rather wonderfully twisted minimal track ‘In Here’ by Joy Orbison and Boddika

Andy C at Glastonbury 2015  – acid beats and drops and suddenly the final push up Lewisham Hill doesn’t seem so bad.

What I think about when I’m running…

Good times, good music. This was after the Hackney Half 2019. On the way back home, we discovered Gilles Peterson playing at the end of our road. I thought I’ll just dance to one tune..ended up staying for the whole set.  Sadly the gasworks is no longer there.