StefanoGregoretti and Ray Zahab completed the latest of their many feats together. This time they crossed off-road (not “with” an off-road, but off marked roads and trails) the Death Valley from west to east. For the uninitiated, Death Valley is one of the most extreme places in the world, with heat spikes as high as 57°C and a real risk of becoming completely dehydrated due to the rapidity with which sweat evaporates. They did it in 34 hours instead of the 48 they had planned, also shortening our suffering because every time Stefano tells us what he plans to do we get anxious.
But this is not what I want to talk about, or rather: this is only the pretext.
The reflection stems from what Stefano wrote a few days before he attempted this umpteenth adventure, namely:
“They tried to inculcate in me that when you do something you have to know how to explain why: why I ran across Namibia, the Arctic deserts, Siberia, etc.,” he said.
Every time you ask me I have to stop and force myself to think why. Everyone asks. The answer is that I don’t know either! I just do it and that’s it.”
Needless to deny that this question is very reminiscent of the many times we are asked “why do you run?” Why do we do something that has nothing productive, that has no reason? After all, we do not have to run from lions who want to eat us nor do we run because that is what children do, because alas, we are no longer children.
If you think about it, from a certain point in life anything had to have a justification, a reason. The whys we turned to our parents for explanations to make us understand the world were turned against us: why are you doing this? Why do you do that? Why do you study this? Why do you choose this job? Perhaps it is the revenge of the whys: we abused them as children and now they send them all back to us, yet I think it is about something else. Humanity needs to have a purpose, always. The purpose is a direction, and the path to get there is life.
Then Stefano comes along and says he does things without knowing why. How dare he? Why can he and we can’t?
So I gave myself this answer: it’ s not that Stephen doesn’t know why, it’s that he still doesn’t know why. There is a big difference, and it’s all in the relationship that each of us has with time.
What Stefano has been used to doing for years has allowed him to develop a particular sense of the future, which, simplifying, is composed of “predictable things” and “unpredictable things.”
Planning allows him to prepare for many of the things that can happen to him during an expedition, but there always remains a gray area of things that cannot be seen clearly and cannot be predicted. In the midst of these things-which the human mind is inclined to think are all bad-there are also explanations to the whys that are now unanswered. Not bad things, in short. Not at all in fact: they are answers to questions we ask ourselves without knowing how to find a reason.
You have to look for the answer, it doesn’t come looking for you
The fact is that you have to make the journey to answer those questions, you have to go through Death Valley-the real one or the metaphorical-and you have to go find that Future Self of yours who sent you a message one day. It was an almost inaudible voice saying, “What if?” It was a suggestion posed in the form of a question. For Stefano it was “What if I ran through the Death Valley with my friend Ray who didn’t make it last year?” while for us it was “What if I ran?”
In short, I want to say that one can calmly answer the question of why we even run with a round “DUNNO!”? Indeed!
In truth, however, what I mean is that it is very healthy and very normal to do things without knowing why. Not because there is no reason to do them but because we do not yet know what the reason is.
We must do them to find out, we must live to get an answer, we must move to understand. Running, possibly.