It was one of those long and dreary days today. Nothing bad in particular, just where you're ready to be done with work at lunchtime. So the prospect of hitting the gym after another four hours wasn't very enticing. But I went anyway, not wanting to fall off the wagon, so to speak. I did my half hour of weights, and hopped over to the treadmill for a 3 mile run. As I was getting down to the final minutes, one of my favorite songs to run to came over the iPod. It's a live version of Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor or Humanity." What's great about it is that he speeds up the tempo as the song continues and the band is absolutely racing by the end of it. It just sounds like the band is having a blast playing, and I almost can't help but run faster during the last couple minutes. I actually measured it tonight: 30% faster. From my normal 6.5 miles per hour to 8.5 miles per hour. Despite the sweat flying off me by the bucketload, I started smiling. I probably would've been laughing if I could've gotten in enough air for it. It was fun! I was able to revel in what my body was doing.
That's a lot of what being a kid is about. They're figuring out how their bodies move and work. A teeter-totter isn't very fun in and of itself; it's the new (or at least relatively new) sensations a child experiences while s/he is on it. Recess was awesome because you could just run -- or skip or swing or slide or whatever -- for the sake of doing it and experiencing what your body does and how it reacts. That's why kids often squeal with delight just going down a slide or climbing on the jungle gym.
As adults, we tend to forget that, though. We can remember running and swinging and playing, and we know what those experiences feel like. We've been there and done that. So there's no real novelty or freshness to the experience if we do it again. Additionally, we're often doing it for some other reason -- whether it's some manual labor that needs to be performed or it's part of a different goal like weight loss. We get caught up in the ends that we entirely overlook the means.
I wonder how much of that goes on in comics, too. How often do people let their ends -- whether that's completing a run of some title or breaking into the field or knowing more than anyone else about a character or whatever -- how often do people let their ends overshadow their means -- being entertained? How many people read a title out of some sense of duty? I know the last year or two that I was reading the Fantastic Four regularly, I know it felt that way to me. I don't mean that as a knock against Marvel or any of the creators necessarily; I could appreciate when they were well-crafted stories, but I felt like I had to read them. There was a greater sense of obligation than of anticipation or eagerness.
I think the notion is distinctly different than reading out of habit. Periodically, you'll hear someone bring up the "don't read bad comics out of habit" argument. Which is a perfectly valid argument; you shouldn't read comics out of habit. But I think that's different than reading them out of obligation. A habit is something you don't put any conscious thought into, whereas an obligation is something that you do make a conscious decision about. You might not WANT to do something, but you feel that you should.
When that song came on tonight, I was at the end of my run. I had essentially completed the exercise that I was trying to accomplish. The few minutes that I put on a burst of speed was on top of what I wanted to get done, and basically just for fun. How many comics would be more enjoyable if you didn't feel obliged to do blog posts about them, or talk about them on Twitter, or wherever? Just a thought.
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