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pg. 34: "I never could stand being forced to do something I didn't want to do at a time I didn't want to do it. Whenever I was able to do something I liked to do, though, when I wanted to do it, and the way I wanted to do it, I'd give it everything I had."
pg. 45: "The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned in school."
 

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Haruki Murakami’s One Necessity
The wildly un-catchy title of Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running telegraphs the content; Murakami plods along the pages at the
clip of a mid-pack runner. Two quick sentences in the forward appear like staccato marks accenting a jaunty note: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” There it is—the plot laid bare. Then as quickly the writing shifts. Murakami takes readers on a meandering trip across three continents as he runs the streets of Athens (Greece), Tokyo (Japan) and New York (America).
This is no ordinary running guide or how-to book; Murakami’s memoir is constructed in the same deliberate manner as he lives—“more like a workhorse than a racehorse.” Writing talents aside, Murakami relies on two qualities to ensure his success: focus and endurance. That he strives to improve at both, through attentiveness and consistent effort, pays off in his running and writing life.
A poster-sized image of Steve Prefontaine hangs on the wall at A Snail’s Pace, a local running store in town. A quote by the legendary runner is printed beneath his image: “To give anything less than the best is to sacrifice the gift.” Murakami’s sentiments are similar: “Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: That’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life.” His essential philosophy is this: You suffer when you fail to adequately train for the race.
Writers and artists often toil in a “toxic” place, says Murakami. They spend endless hours examining the banal existence of humanity, searching for the truth of our being. Taking on marathon distances is Murakami’s way of embracing the pain that comes with that necessity, strengthening his capacity to nurture his writing craft. His longevity as a novelist is perhaps proof that the effort is paying off.
Or maybe Murakami’s gift is in knowing, and obeying, his true purpose—just as an animal knows its nature. In “Living Like Weasels,” Annie Dillard captures the human conflict this way: We make choices. The weasel, says Dillard, is free of conflict and simply “obedient to instinct.” His one necessity? Survival. Humans would do well to emulate the animal and “Stalk (their) calling in a certain skilled and supple way,” says Dillard. The advice seems instinctual to Murakami. He found his one necessity—to connect with readers, runners, indeed humanity—and in doing so, he’s managed to survive.
 

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