The Idea of Order

There’s always a right way to do things.

That’s what They tell us anyway.

There’s a right way to train for a marathon: one must recover, and do track workouts, tempo workouts and LSD, but not the good kind. Long Slow Distance. Everyone tells us this. Everyone. But then, I read about this guy.

He’s kicking asphalt in Japan and elsewhere in marathons. But he’s just some government schmoe who follows directives. Or is he?

This is a guy who during his days pushes his pencil for the status quo. And in his off hours, he trains just as he pleases. He runs more than one marathon.a month and he’s on target to make the Olympic team. But his training doesn’t be with his culture. It doesn’t jibe with anything anyone in running says. Because it’s not the right way, his way. It’s…well, it’s wrong.

My favorite poet, Wallace Stevens, sounds like this Japanese runner.

Stevens was an insurance guy for most of his life. He worked for Hartford and he pushed the pencils. He checked the jots and tittles. He counted the beans. He aligned the decimals and aligned the risk with the reward.

In his spare time, he was a contemporary of Hemingway; the two spent time together in Key West. While Hemingway was fully thrust into the waves of The Artist’s Life, Stevens worked and wrote and maybe balanced the two sides.

He wrote of the yin and yang of art and artifice, one of my most favorite ideas. His poem, The Idea of Order at Key West is a perfect example. In it. The narrator says,

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon/ The maker’s rage to order words of the sea/ Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred/And of ourselves and of our origins/In ghastlier demarcations, keener sounds.

The Idea of order is just that; an idea. And we who strive to be artists imagine ourselves with some golden lasso of order-y truth. I wonder what kind of order the marathon man has found, running and training his way. I wonder if there was a kind of intellectual freedom in the tidy lines of the actuary business for Stevens that freed him to write so well about order, and art.

What if there really is more than one way to skin a cat?