Reflections on the Tough Mudder
by January 'High and Tight' LaVoy
So, October 13th, we conquered the Tough Mudder. 13 old and new friends, on an epic journey of the unexpected. We laughed, I cried (just a little…), and I think we all came out the other side changed, at least a little.
The thing I enjoyed the most about the Mudder -- and I don't think I even realized it until we were (relatively) cleaned up and in the van headed back to NYC -- was that for the first time in YEARS, there was no technology to rely on. No phones, no internet, no google maps, no wiki anything. At any given moment in the Mudder, you are completely reliant upon yourself, your strength, your wits, and almost more importantly, the strength, wits, and generosity of the people around you. Generosity is probably the word that comes to mind more often than any when I think about that day.
I remember when we reached our first real mud obstacle -- deep trenches that had been dug in the woods and filled with sticky, oozing mud. Without thinking or organizing, we simply grabbed each other's hands and made a human chain, making sure that no teammate was left behind. By the time we reached the next obstacle -- and enormous, slick, nearly impassable hill (with no apparent footholds) that we all needed to climb -- we were already so muddy and so focused on the task at hand that I was shocked to find that the hand that reached down and pulled me to the top was not, in fact, one of my own teammates, but a woman from another team, who was patiently and calmly assisting random people up the slope. And so it went, for the rest of the course.
Every time I turned around, one of my teammates or a complete stranger was lending a hand, offering techniques and advice, and gently (or enthusiastically) saying, "You can do it!" When we got to an obstacle, no one said, "Hold on, let me just look up the best way to do this." It was trial and error. We figured it out the first time, or we failed and tried again. We learned from our own mistakes, and the mistakes of others. We looked everyone in the eye, friends and strangers alike. We waited, patiently. Not just for our teammates, but for anyone we saw who needed us. And others did the same. We laughed at the things we saw happening around us, and when there was nothing to laugh at or to amuse us, we didn't look for something distracting on YouTube or check our Facebook page or our email. We watched the people around us, we empathized with their struggles, we cheered their victories. The world felt comfortably small, relatable, even with some 7,000 people on the course that day. I felt that the experience I was having was somehow confined to that moment, with those people, in that place. It's like theatre, in that way.
Our social boundaries have become seemingly limitless in the internet age…every story comes with a "you have to watch this clip", or "wait, let me look that up", or "hold on, let me figure out how I know him/her". Our devices have become an extension of ourselves. We often feel "incomplete" without them. And, on the whole, I think technology is a wonderful thing; it enriches our lives in so many ways, but...I guess what I'm trying to say is that I felt more completely human that day, than I have in a very long time. What better experience could there possibly be for a group of artists?