April 17: An Oasis of Hope

Early this morning, Dr. Mitch Proffman rode his bike over towards Flushing Meadow from his apartment nearbye.  On most days he runs into the park and when he doesn’t he generally goes for a ride there instead.  He is a chiropractor and has a busy practice so getting a little exercise before his day starts is something he really enjoys.  This morning he was especially looking forward to what he would see once he crossed over the little bridge that arches over the bumper to bumper traffic of the Grand central parkway.


To be honest he wasn’t feeling particularly great this morning.  The heaviness and weight of the events from a few days earlier in Boston continued to linger.  An experience that he is not alone with, for it has touched and troubled many others, particularly those whose worlds have embraced the sport of distance running.   For something had come from out of the darkness and snatched away many peoples peace and for an unfortunate few it stole much much more.

Yet when Mitch got to the crest of that bridge he saw before him this humble little temporary village nestled by the lake and his mood was immediately lifted and transformed.  For this little cluster of plywood buildings covered in sheets of plastic is much more than what it immediately appears to be.    It is a unique little universe that each year at this same time, springs miraculously to life like a great blossoming promise.  For it is the home of the yearly Self Transcendence 6 and 10 day race.

He took this picture and told me he called it an ‘Oasis of Hope’.  He didn’t have to say much more than that, for I knew exactly what he meant.  Mitch of course is not only one of the races’ biggest fans he also works many long hours there on his free time giving adjustments to the runners in the medical tent.  A few hours after this picture was taken the first of the 2 races began under the glorious brilliant embrace of a perfect spring day.  38 runners began their 10 day non stop journeys to the distant realms of their own self transcendence.  Began hopeful efforts that would lead them further on the roads of their own life experience, breaking personal records, reaching new goals in the punishing realm of physical challenge, and perhaps reach up into new lofty realms of their own consciousness.


The events of the world around us will always attempt to reach out and to ensnare us with their stark reality.  As humans we are never immune or completely detached from this.  But here at this little oasis in Flushing Meadow 38 runners have set off to a place in which the falling shadows never obscure the brightness and hope towards which each runner here ultimately seeks.  Where many also come to help them on their way, both in simple and sacred ways.  Feeding them, counting their laps, and making sure their bodies stay strong.


Their hopes and dreams will of course be tested.  But not by the obscure painful truths that stomp and stride with bombast and futility in far off places.  But by the niggling doubts and worries that are buried within themselves. Ultimately the inner brightness in ways great and small always finds a way to reveal itself to all who come here and challenge themselves.  And from this little oasis of hope perhaps even just a little of this illumination spills outward and continues to flow down crowded highways, across oceans fields and forests, and into the hearts of all those who want this world of ours to become a more perfect place.

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