Still thinking about breathing today.
On Breathing, 25 Versions
in 2 3
in 2 3
take in oxygen
release carbon dioxide
take in the world
the colors: the greens and browns of the gorge floor, the greys of the sky on a cloudy day, the electric blue of the yarn bomb on the railroad bridge, the bright yellow-green of the runner’s shirt, the orange of the traffic cone, the red of the stop sign, the purple of the lilac bush, the pink of my jacket, the silvery-white of the river as the sun dances on its surface.
breathe in and accept what the world is offering: energy. life.
release worries and doubts
expel that which is toxic
breathe out and offer up what you don’t need.
What you might say to your kid when she’s freaking out: why don’t you try to calm down and take some deep breaths? It will make you feel better or Breathe!
What she might say in return: ha! don’t hold your breath!
What, in retailiation, she might do: Turn blue.
the song that has made it onto several of my running playlists: Breathe (2 am)/Anna Nawlick
what you need for breathing: lungs, intercostal muscles, a diaphragm, comfortable pants
my most reliable method for stopping hiccups: holding my breath, not by pinching my nose but my just not breathing. Does anyone else do it this way?
Favorite reason for holding my breath, kid version: completing 10 back flips in a row under water at the neighborhood pool.
A haunting description of breathing, from a poem written shortly after 9/11 by Juliana Spahr in This Connection of Everyone with Lungs:
as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.
My interpretation of Judith Butler’s ethics in Ethical Ambivalence:
Having space and ROOM to breathe is an ethical imperative for the livable life.
Having access to good air that encourages effective inspiration and aspiration is an ethical imperative for the valued and valuable life.
A life that is livable is only possible when you can breathe.
A life that is valued and valuable is only possible when you breathe more good air in and more bad air out.
How Judith Butler discusses air in her caution against reducing ethics to an oppressive moralism: “I’ve worried that the return to ethics…has meant a certain heightening of moralism and this has made me cry out, as Nietzsche cried out about Hegel, “Bad air! Bad air!” I suppose that looking for a space in which to breathe is not the highest ethical aspiration, but it is there, etymologically embedded in aspiration itself, and does seem to constitute something of a precondition for any viable, that is livable, ethical reflection (15-16).
What Nietzsche writes about bad air in On the Genealogy of Morals
“What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul!”
Smells I’ve smelled while breathing during a run:
Fresh donuts from Mel-o-Glaze Donuts
Bacon from Longfellow Grill
Smoke from a fire, below me, somewhere deep in the gorge
Too much perfume on the runner I passed
Chemicals after the rain
A lilac bush
freshly cut grass
The inside rim of my super nasty baseball cap that I’ve been wearing, and have never! washed, for almost every run and almost every race for the past 5 years.
my own breath when I wear a buff around my face in the winter
Haven’t smelled the entrails of a failed soul….yet.
Types of Breathing
even, 4 in/4 out or 3 in/3 out
odd, 3 in/2 out or 2 in/1 out
What breathes: noses/mouths/skin/living things
What doesn’t breathe: that annoying race t-shirt/my mom, not since September 30, 2009.
Reasons why we breathe:
so we don’t die
to embrace the world
to take in oxygen
to calm down
we don’t need a reason, our body will do it anyway.
I despise breathing in bugs when I’m running. Most of the time they’re tiny, so it’s not a big deal, just annoying. One time, I swallowed a really big bug. I could feel it inside me, still alive. As it crawled around the back of my throat, I choked. Yuck! Kept running though.
Breathing in winter is _________.
- difficult, my lungs are burning!
- fun when it’s so cold that the snot in my nose freezes up. No, really, it is. I’m not being sarcastic.
- the best. I love the cold, pure air.
Breathing in summer is __________.
- dangerous. Watch out for the bugs!
- incredibly difficult after an open swim.
- so thick! I fucking hate humidity.
how to breathe:
use your lungs:
breathe in deeply
through your nose and mouth,
with your diaphragm.
as your abdomen extends,
so does your invitation to the world
to enter and fill you
with wonder and gratitude.
reminder: when running, you don’t fly with your arms, you fly with your feet. And you don’t embrace the world with a hug but with a breath.
in and out