What is the most unfair advantage a person can have?

Being born to the right parents.

This single coincidence tends to make more of a difference to a persons’ life than any other factor, including whatever efforts the person himself makes to try to improve his lot.

Who your parents happen to be has a tremendous impact on a huge range of things that shape just about everything in your life to a huge degree.

  • It determines if you’re born in Sweden or in Somalia
  • The genes they gave you determines whether you’ll be tall, intelligent and handsome or short, stupid and ugly.
  • The genes also play a big role in whether or not you’ll be healthy, whether or not you’re likely to get a long list of diseases.
  • If your parents are kind, compassionate and nurturing your start in life will be very different from if they’re cold, inconsiderate or abusive.
  • The hobbies and interests they have in many cases have a lifelong influence on your own hobbies and interests.
  • Their wealth and their income determines what material standard of living you’ll have for the first 20 – 25 years of your life, and in fact often for your entire life. (in most cases lazy sons of multimillionaires end up better off than hardworking daughters of slum-dwellers)
  • They more or less entirely decide who is important in your life for your first 5 years. Such early formative relationships are very important for a child’s development.
  • They determine what quality education you’ll get, this depends on their wealth, where they happen to live, and their priorities. You as a young child have low influence on all of this.

I’m not at all saying that it’s hopeless to get ahead in life if you had a bad start. What I’m saying is that having the right parents means getting to play life on “easy” mode, while having the wrong parents makes everything a whole lot more difficult.

Growing wings

It started snowing on friday. Not a lot, but by sunday and time for the second of my twice-weekly runs, we had about 10cm worth of soft powdery snow. I only started running in august this year, so I’ve never tried running on snow. I was feeling uncertain about it – will it be very slippery ? Will I slip and fall, possibly hurting myself in the process ?

This time, the plan was to “run with the brakes on”, to deliberately keep the speed low, and see how far I’d get. My old record for endurance is 5500 meters of continuous running, which at my pace of around 7:25 means 40 minutes of running. The snow had scared some people away, there where fewer people than normal at the Stokka-lake. It fit. The snow lies as a soft blanket over everything muffles all sound and makes the landscape softer than it normal is.

I’m slightly careful at first, testing out my grip, but it’s more than sufficient so I quickly relax. Glancing at my GPS I can see that I’ve come a kilometre, and that my pulse is at 165. For me, that’s about 82% max, and is “easy”, normally when I run the pulse climbs gradually, at 170 easy turns to moderate, at 180+ it takes determination to keep going and I start feeling the acid in my muscles, and there’s no way I can sustain 190+ for more than a very short distance.

Having started, I put the GPS in my pocket, and run while listening to music and letting my mind wander. 4 months ago I started fixing my fitness. I signed up for Fitocracy, and started doing sports, mostly running. Since then, I’ve become friends with some very nice people. Every step of the way there’s been encouragement, good advice, friendly support and gentle prodding.

On Fitocracy, you don’t “Like” a comment, you “Give props”, but it amounts to the same thing. In 4 months I’ve been propped more than 900 times. And that’s nothing out of the extraordinary there – it’s simply how everyone is treated. Being encouraged 10 times a day is a powerful thing. Feeling like part of a group, even when you’re out running alone, is super. There’s some people more fit than me, and some people less fit than me, so whatever I do, there’s someone who’s done it before, and someone following behind.

It’s christmas soon, and we’ve ordered christmas-cards to send to our friends. I start thinking about who would deserve a thank-you for christmas, and quickly discover the list is long, there’s just so many that’s been such a nice part of my autumn.

Most of all Israa. Of all my friends, she’s perhaps the one most different from me, and yet, also the one most similar to me. Then there’s aorwig85 who is working her way trough c25k, facing so many of the same challenges I did a month before, yet always keeping her optimism. Johnr_39 which is my age, whose weight has been closely tracking my own. BackwardsRewind always have kind and encouraging words for everyone and is Canadian to boot which is always a plus. BeeCaveRoad does her own thing, which just happens to consistently be the kind of thing I aspire to be able to do. She’s in a sense my trailblazer.

Scout-Field – my usual turn-around point. I glance at my GPS again. Wow ! 4 km, pulse 168, still feels easy. I’ve run this far perhaps 20 times before, but it’s always been exhausting, at this stage I “should” be tired, and with a pulse at least more like 175-180. But this doesn’t feel similar at all. I’ve been running for 4km and feel as if I could do this for much longer. I decide to turn around, and run as far as feels comfortable, but not to push myself. It’s already clear to me that the 5500m record is a goner.

My mind wanders back to my gratefulness and my friends, Israas latest message contains lots that is worth pondering. My feet keep running as if that’s all they can do, as if it’s easy. As if distance is irrelevant.

The path is mostly flat, but there’s 3 or 4 steep uphills, each one lifting the path perhaps a dozen meters before dropping back down to the level of the lake. When I’m tired what tends to happen is that my pulse climbs as I go up, then -fail- to fall after I’ve completed the climb. By now I’m curious, curious and awed. So I glance at the GPS more often.

Foot of the hill; 171. Top of the hill; 178. A minute later, 172. This never happens. This has never happened. This is not how the world works. I’ve been running for damn-near my personal record, and should be dizzy, light-headed and out of breath. But reality is that I’m fine, and my pulse is falling. Downhill. Pulse 168. Distance 6km. Damn. Damn !

I want to say that again, to scream it from the rooftops. To dance and shout. I’ve been running for 6 kilometres, I’m fine, I can keep doing this forever my pulse is down in the “easy” area, I’ve never seen that pulse after more than 2km before today, yet here I am. I don’t intend it, but I can feel my step-lengthening, my shoulders untense, my back straightening up, and I’m dizzy, but it’s the -good- kind of dizzy.

Some of you may remember I’ve told you my goal is to be able to run for 8.05 km, since that is the distance around lake Stokka. This is also the reason my turn-around point is slightly more than 4km away from home: to give me enough room to hit 8km once my fitness is up to it. I wanted to be able to do that by next summer.

I finish my run at my doorstep at home. This also never happens, the last uphill is a killer. GPS says 8.6 km. Pulse 174. Not tired.

I contemplated making an extra circle of it, to run 10k not even to see if I could do it — the way I was feeling that didn’t even feel like a question, but rather out of curiosity: to see how far the legs will truly go before starting to protest. I’m still in awe. I don’t know what just happened.

I’m nervous about my next run: is this my new reality now, or will the next run feel like a setback ? Compared to having wings, must not everything feel like a setback ? But what if ? What if ! The distance around Hafrsfjord is 22 km, which just happens to be pretty accurately a half-marathon.

With wings, anything is possible.

4 months ago, I put on my brand-new jogging-shoes and went out to do Week 1 Day 1 of the Couch to 5k program. I ran for one minute then. Just one minute.

Yesterday, i ran continously for 65 minutes. I would not, and could not have done it without you. All of you. I know only a few are mentioned by name, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about the rest of you.

Thank you !

Special Treatment

Affirmative action, also known as positive discrimination, is the
act of deliberately giving preferential treatment to some
marginalized group. For example, women could be given additional
points when applying for engineering-school, or someone who is
disabled could be given preference when applying for a job.

When such positive discrimination happens, you always hear
complaints. Complaints that it’s not “fair”. Complaints that “she
got the job just because she’s a woman”, or “he got into that
university just because he’s in a wheelchair.” Nobody should get
“special treatment”, they say. For a fair world, everyone should be
treated the same, they say.

The people complaining are invariably privileged. Educated,
healthy and wealthy and conveniently forget that they themselves
got special treatment in a multitude of small and big ways,
starting before they where even born.

They grew up in the womb of a mother who was well-fed and had
adequate access to good-quality medical care. Then they were born
in a modern hospital with the best doctors, medicines and machinery
available.

A few days later they came home – to a house where the roof does
not leak, where there is adequate heating in winter, and cooling in
summer. Where fresh healthy water runs freely. Where the beds are
soft and the neighbourhood safe. Where books and toys are
plentiful. Where smart, healthy and intelligent parents do their
very best, using their considerable resources to give the best
possible start in a new life. Where there’s plenty of varied,
healthy and safe food on the table several times each and every
day.

All this before they even utter their first word.

You don’t get to pick your parents. Your time or place of birth.
Your gender or your genes. It’s a lottery. It infuriates me how
many have themselves had the luck of picking a winning-number, but
have no compassion for those who didn’t.

Hard work influences outcomes. A tiny bit. If you study hard and
work diligently, you may succeed in doing somewhat better than the
average person of comparable luck.

But the lottery-part dominates.

Even the laziest, stupidest, unkindest, do-nothing son of a
millionaire in most cases end up financially much better off that
the most hard-working girl born in the slum. Even the laziest
stupidest Norwegian has a standard of living that is higher than
90% of humanity.

We tell people, “if you work hard, you’ll make it”, and sometimes
that’s true. But we seldom tell them the depressing truth: If you
are going to do well, or suffer horribly in life, is mostly
determined by luck.

What philosophical principle makes “special” treatment due to
having won the birth-lottery fair, but “special” treatment by the
government in an attempt to compensate slightly for the grossly
slanted playing-field unfair ?