Weis: Collective Perspiration

Print More

As the seasons change, commentator Russ Weis is thinking about some
provocative reading he did while sweating through the long, hot days
of summer.

(WEIS) I’ve read a couple of
life-changing books recently. Though very different in style and
scope, they share an important common theme.

The first, Born
to Run , is about how we humans are designed to be long-distance
running machines. In it, author Christopher McDougall tells the tale
of a reclusive native tribe – the Tarahumara Indians of northern
Mexico – who are able to run vast distances across their beautiful
landscape at an incredible pace. Whether young, old, male, or female,
the Tarahumara think nothing of briskly covering scores of miles –
up and down mountains and barefoot no less – just for the sheer joy
of it all. From an early age, these peaceful people play cooperative
games that prepare them for a life of long-distance jaunts that would
tire most of us out just thinking about them.

But McDougall
asserts that all of us today, regardless of ethnicity, retain the
ability to run such ultra-marathons ourselves, if, that is, we run
with heart and a noncompetitive spirit.

McDougall says how
our Stone Age ancestors engaged in long-range collaborative hunts. He
talks about how Homo sapiens sweat better than any other species,
enabling us to stay cool over long distances. The book was so
persuasive that I now take my weekly jogs in unpadded sneakers. But
I’m still working on the whole noncompetitive thing.

second book that also made a deep impression on me is Teaching the
Commons, by Paul Theobald. Theobald traces the complex history of
rural cooperative instincts vs. urban competitive impulses. He argues
for the restoration of community in today’s world. His book
elevates the common good above individual desires, offering an
antidote to the toll our feverish consumer culture has taken on local
communities and, indeed, the entire planet.

So, in their own
way both books emphasize the inherent cooperative nature of our
humanness. This was dramatically illustrated by the admirable
communal response by the people of our state to the recent massive

In a stark contrast to this all-for-one and
one-for-all attitude, a few days after Hurricane Irene blew through I
happened to view a network meteorologist who sounded more like a
stone caster than a forecaster. He was much more interested in
bashing those who believe in global warming than in reporting the

Since there is no disputing that our ability to pump
oil out of the ground without ecological consequence is rapidly
coming to an end, how much better it would be if we could set aside
our differences and summon the heart necessary to point our
collective feet uphill and start pumping in new directions as a
united people.

To keep us from heading back towards the Stone
Age ourselves, it’s time to harness our propensity for prodigious
perspiration and focus on what we have in common, and then together
make our way briskly and with heart toward more promising vistas

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Russ Weis at


Comments are closed.