Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Face of Physiognomy

Physiognomy (from the Gk. "physis" meaning 'nature' and "gnomon" meaning 'judge' or 'interpreter') is the assessment of a person's character or personality from their outer appearance, especially the face. The term physiognomy can also refer to the general appearance of a person, object or terrain, without reference to its implied characteristics.

Wow! You should SEE some of the looks I get while I am out running the roads. One would think the people driving by saw an alien from Mars. Cigarette burning in one hand, coffee or cell phone in another, (doughnut or doughnuts on the seat), and one knee being used to keep the vehicle straight, they zip past me during the early morning hours. Many look at me with a dis-contorted face. They either have a bad case of gas from the eggs, bacon, and their morning cups of coffee, or they can't seem to fathom why someone would be, of all things, running so early in the morning. As much as I try not to lunge into some evil surmising about the facial pictures that fly by me each morning, it is difficult at times not to break out in laughter. While running I can't help but postulate the irony of it all. Most drivers are stressed out, racing to and fro to their work place or trying to get their kids to school on time. Frantically milling along the hectic pace of life as they consume a barrage of garbage food which paradoxically continues their declining health and stress of life!

All of us have heard the saying..."Never judge a book by its cover", but it just seems to be human nature or at least one of the most used traits of how we think. As much as I am endeared to 'judge' what I see whip past me at fifty-five miles per hour, many drivers also seem to be engaged in their own predisposed surmising of me. But there is, I am probably very safe to assume, there is a very big difference! The inescapable difference is this...I have been where the drivers are and its highly unlikely the drivers zipping past me have ever been where I am. Let's face it, most people don't exercise, let alone get up early for a morning run. The majority of people are content to remain in their learned habit of stuffing highly toxic foods down their throats first thing in the morning and then dash off into the sunrise for a stressful day on a job they hate, with a boss they despise.

While these drivers are urgently zipping to and fro each morning, its no wonder they seem shocked to see someone running so early in the morning. The many facial physiognomies I have had opportunity to witness is usually full of disbelief or, in some cases, even contempt. Most facial witnesses are filled with disbelief. You can see on their faces how they can't even imagine what its like to be running, you know, like outside of their climate controlled atmosphere of their easy rolling vehicle. Consumed by their path of least resistance lifestyle of no exercise, their morning hobble to get into their car was strenuous enough, let alone run along the shoulder of a road.

Over the years I have learned to remain very aware of my surroundings while running, especially if I am running along the shoulder of a road. Most drivers, while driving, are far too consumed with what’s going on in their car than with what is going on outside their car. Whether they are playing with radio, talking on the phone, texting, eating their breakfast, lighting a smoke, or just plain rushing to get their child to school, most drivers do not have me, a runner, in their early morning radar. When I see a vehicle, up the road, heading toward me, I have learned to watch what transpires. Sometimes, the vehicle ahead will begin to veer over, which to me, means the driver has identified something is in the road up ahead. As a runner, I am relieved to 'see' this movement to give me room to run. Though I still move to the shoulder of the road, I am relieved, because it tells me the driver is 'aware' of his surroundings. Sadly though, most of the time, drivers seem content to play 'king of the road' and show little acknowledgment of my movement in their direction. When this happens, I never take my eyes off the advancing torpedo and move as far off the road as possible. I have to admit, there have been times where a vehicle's closeness to my body has caused some disconcerting emotions. When this happens, I am sure to spin and make sure the driver sees my frustration in their rear view mirror, that is, if they were even aware enough to look into it!

I guess physiognomy is a two way street! As much as I am able to observe the looks of humans in the metal container that whizzes past me in the early morning, they also get a snapshot of interesting material for their morning mental outlook. There are times when my facial expressions are not necessarily matching what I am truly experiencing. Case in point, one morning a friend of mine was zipping by in his motor vehicle and saw me on one of my morning runs. Usually, a quick horn blast will announce that someone who knows me just zipped by and I try to give a quick wave of acknowledgment. Such is what happened on this particular day, and I remember waving and feeling pretty good on a ten mile run that I was on. Later on during the day, my friend walked up to me, laughing about how bad I looked in my struggle to run. I was somewhat dismayed at his assessment of what he saw and how I felt. As he drove by, he saw a runner struggling, but while I was running as he drove by, I felt very good in my run. So, the point being made here is much as I am able to 'judge' what I see blast by me in a car is a two way street. At that critical moment, two souls collide in a mental juggernaut of quickened conclusions of what is externally seen in a moments passing!

A well known woman's marathon runner, Joan Benoit Samuelson, said when she first started running, anytime she would see a car coming she run and hide. She was worried about how she looked and embarrassed to have someone 'see' her running the roads. I can also remember feeling the same way when I began running some twelve years ago. But is a different story and I am now thankful to say that people's physiognomy has little impact on my running. As a matter of fact, sometimes it empowers me to run on! So today, I give you the same encouragement to not let the non-verbal communication of those around you to squelch your attempts to better yourself. Get up! Get out! Don't let a momentary flash of discouraging looks stop you from achieving your eternal goals!

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