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Why do we do what we do and how much do we really want it?
14th of August, 2022
Yuval Noah Harari calls that modern type of behavior of us humans to try and experience as many things as possible during our lifetimes an inter-subjective romantic myth. What he means by inter-subjective, is, that this is a perceived fictional truth (or an idea) that many or most of all humans believe in – just like the existence of nations or human rights. Our shared belief is the only thing making it real. Romanticism is classified by him as a belief system which tells us to open our ourselves up to as many different experiences as we can – relationships, cuisines, arts and cultures, distant lands.
The myth part seems strange, but it’s nothing more than a shared belief system. It could be religious but it’s most of the ideas surrounding us which aren’t material. Harari offers the example of the company structure which is “Peugeot”. It only exists in the minds of all humans who know about this car manufacturer. We commonly accept that there is this invisible entity called Peugeot whose existence can’t be denied. The corporate laws manifesting the company are just the same, non-tangible made-up myths in which we all believe in and which are enforced by some of us, like lawyers or government officials. I think that’s a fascinating way of looking at our human way of living.
He goes on to compare our modern behavior of “making the most of our lives by experiencing as much as possible” to that of a human who lived during the early stages of the Agricultural Revolution, some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. It would have been the last thing on that human’s mind to go on holiday in, say, Babylon, to experience the people and culture over there, although it would have been possible. It sounds ridiculous, yes.
So, why do we do this?
We all share the belief that this is something worth spending our time and money on, but why? What is it about collecting experiences that makes us happy? What is happiness anyway and what role does it play in our existence as a human species?
I don’t have the answers, but I think it’s fun to think about it and really try hard to reflect our own inner-most motivations for the things we’re doing. Maybe that’s the fulfilling experience about the human experience! 😉
“How much do you really want it?”
That’s another deep question with the potential to make us grow and understand ourselves better. I had to ask myself this question yesterday when I started planning out a short trip to the village of Millau in the South of France, where I intend to run an ultramarathon at the end of October.
As everything else these days, the cost of making it happen to travel to this remote village and stay there for a few nights seemed to have risen significantly. Up to the point where I was contemplating just skipping the race. After sleeping a night on it, I decided to book everything. I do really want it, it turns out – but why exactly, I’m not so sure. In my mind this race will make me happy and will therefore be time and money well spent. Happiness, whatever that is!
DNF = Did Not Finish.
Last weekend, as the end point of my week of solo travel, I ended up in Munich to run the 2nd edition of what we called the Munich Great Breweries Ultra, a 75 kilometer foot race to all the seven major Munich breweries while drinking a beer of each. Last year, with just my friend Nico and me, went great. But this year, after having just come back from the US, seriously jet-lagged and tired, running through the rainy 15 degree weather (32C on the day before, what are the odds!) just wasn’t fun and I called it quits after just 30 kilometers and one of the seven beers. Even though the group had grown to six runners/drinkers total, which is an interesting development. Who’s in for 2023?
This year, apparently I did not want it bad enough. Sometimes it happens. I felt exhausted and a bit sad afterwards, but bad days like these are part of it.
You might remember from a few weeks earlier, my friend Frank Stamp, who was about to embark on what seems like a nearly impossible triathlon race: a ten-time continuous long distance triathlon, consisting of 38 kilometers of swimming, 1,800 kilometers of cycling and 422 kilometers of running.
After a total of 282 hours, 32 minutes and 53 seconds, Frank crossed the finish line, just six fewer hours than 12 whole days. Isn’t that incredible? He did it. I am in absolute awe. Here are the results. Check his Instagram for a picture of his sleepy face after finishing.
Amsterdam, my first EU capital marathon of the 28! This one is special because it was the first and at that point I did not yet know I was about to run all 28. Amsterdam just was a conveniently located and great city which seemed to be worthwhile visiting and running a marathon in. Absolutely true! I would definitely come back and run it again.
When I now read the linked report I wrote at that point, I do cringe a little. It ends with a stop at a Burger King, what a stupid idea. Well, recently I heard someone say that if you don’t dislike anything of what you did many years back, you have not learned anything.
Amsterdam. Where it all began. I suggest reading that post and following it up with my last one of the EU races, Brussels. Then compare.
Thanks for reading this week’s edition and have a great next week!
All the best to you,
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