“Mediocrity is contextual,” David Foster Wallace wrote in his masterwork and paperweight extraordinaire, “Infinite Jest.” I came across the quote today while looking up the chapter titles as possible headline fodder for the blog, or possibly as highbrow insertions for papers on library ethics. You never know. But it resonates. I suppose for 99 percent of runners, we’re all doomed to be mediocre. Only one person wins the race. The rest of us are losers. Even the Local Fast Guy sucks when compared to national times. And national times suck when compared to world times. So basically, we’re all a bunch of slow losers, if taken out of context.
Or maybe not. Maybe greatness is all in the mind. Maybe we’re all living that final scene in “Brazil,” driving away to freedom in an escape from reality. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. So it must be true. It’s just a matter of context. I can run slow, but if it’s the fastest I can run, and if I improve, and I do my best, is it mediocre? Heck, no. It’s magnificent. I can be the best runner with what I have to work with. Heads up, wings out, the prophet Fleshman cries. As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. And so that is what I do. I go out each day and lay down my best effort for the running gods. A glorious, once-in-a-lifetime, transcendent parade that is perfect, if tragically flawed. And if someone somewhere is faster, or if everyone everywhere is faster, that’s OK by me. My run. My context.
Today’s run? 3 miles on the jackalope (12:38). Mediocre at best.
This is probably why David Foster Wallace killed himself.