Each morning well before the eastern horizon pales with dawn I run on the road in the valley. With moonlight it's easy to see every crack and pothole, and even when there's no Moon, starlight shows the road's general location. I've memorized where the bigger potholes are.
When there's heavy cloud-cover, it's harder. Then I navigate by the known positions of trees and electrical poles, which produce diffuse silhouettes against even the darkest sky. It's beautiful to run at that time of the morning, even when it's so dark.
I've heard that sometimes blind people offered the chance to see hesitate to undergo the needed procedures because their lives without vision already are rich and meaningful. When blind, one becomes acutely sensitized to sounds, odors and touch, which reveal an utterly engaging and fulfilling world, so why destabilize that perceived reality with visual clutter?
Moreover, we're all navigating life somewhat blindly; our senses reveal only a small part of the world around us.
Imagine how things would look if we could see in the ultraviolet, X-ray or radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum, not just the narrow bandwidth we refer to as "visible light." Cows and wild deer tend to align their bodies north-south while relaxing, but not when under high voltage power lines, so what would the sense of ease feel like that encourages facing one way but not another? The world of atoms humans deal with constitutes only 4.6% of the Universe, the rest being dark matter and dark energy we can't touch, feel or measure, so what are we missing here?
What good do these kinds of thoughts do, and how does running in the dark help anything?
For one thing, it starts my day reminding me that everything during the rest of the day will be detected and understood through my own set of sensory filters, which have been wired and tuned by fairly random life processes. And they will be analyzed by an onboard computer, my mind, with its own peculiar wiring and biochemical issues. Therefore, this thing I think of as myself not only is ephemeral but, since we define ourselves in terms of how we fit into the perceived world around us, "I" am on shaky ground; "I" am being defined by erratic and incomplete sensory perceptions.
As such, these pre-dawn runs counsel that I needn't take myself too seriously.
Yet, at the jog's end when the Great Horned Owl who hangs out at Juniper House murmurs his greetings, and a bubble of fragrance from the flowering Agarita bush is passed through, the run's teaching of detachment is counterbalanced. My sense of belonging with this owl and with this bush summons a Middle Path for governing the rest of the day, as I continue navigating by silhouettes.