Life as a stampede

The moment of birth is a cannon firing you into the vast, endless, mindless, hoard of running rats. Millions of different contingencies converge to create the accident of your birth, and your position on the field. There is no time to look around and take it all in. No time to marvel at the wonder of what just happened. Millions of feet, some clad, some not, are kicking up a sandstorm which will never settle – you stop to take a breath at your own risk. Only one question dominates the horizon, like a giant, obscene neon sign flashing, drowning out the stars, while never being more than a faint whisper in the back of your head. Which way do you run?

Take the road most traveled, perhaps. Join the rabid mass. All you need to do is never stop – staying alive is more important than getting ahead. Yes, victory will never be yours, nor glory nor fame. But at least you will keep breathing for a second longer than the unfortunate fucker beside you who stopped to take a breath.

Fame and glory are, however, tempting. Perhaps the accident of your birth leaves you with the conviction that you can, in fact, win. Go the extra mile, run faster than you can think, and eventually you might see the stampede with its crown of dust fall away behind you. You are not alone, and the bodies you have trampled, the lives you have ruined, are mountains that never completely disappear over the horizon. No matter – close your eyes and keep going. The nagging voice in your head, screaming “there is no finish line”, will stop when you collapse into a pile of dead flesh and bones. Ignore it for now.

No, there is no finish line. Victory will not accompany an undamaged conscience. The race is an exercise in futility. Perhaps that is why you decide not to run at all? But even if you survive, even if you avoid being trampled by the stampede, if by some perverse fortune you live to tell the tale, your tale will put people to sleep. For you have seen nothing, done nothing. You have not moved. The accident of birth was a gift that you wasted – your conscience may be whole, but your soul will die thirsty of life.

There is no time to look around. But look around you must. The race is meaningless, but to stand forever in a nihilistic paralysis may be even more so. Is there not a fourth way? Can we not move without running? Must we hold our breath in order to keep breathing? Can we not escape the dust, the noise, the blood? Can we not see the mass surging forward and simply, walk away? Rabid, senseless runners will collide with you, the weak will try to pull you down, the shrewd will try to poison your resolve and instill doubt into your stride. But you must keep walking. Survive, and the stampede, the dust, the noise and chaos will one day disappear, and you can finally see, hear, smell, taste and touch the world as it should have been. You do not worry about the finish line – there is none. You walk until it is time to rest. The finish line is yours to draw. And perhaps, if fortune does glance at you with that brief smile, you might just meet another brave soul that chose to walk away.

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