by Mark Rowlands (2013). The misanthrope philosopher, author of the amazing The Philosopher and the Wolf is back at it – teaching us about the meaning of life while running medium-distances (5-26 miles) with his various canine companions at various locations in the US, Ireland and France. A few chapters are absolutely brilliant, in particular when explaining the difference between running for instrumental reasons – longevity, health, fitness, relaxation – and running as a value in itself – reaching the beating heart of the run to use his poetic expression. Essentially, he describes the difference between work – always done in the service of something else, most often for pay – and play – carried out for intrinsic reasons, for joy. To whit,

Joy can assume many experiential forms. There is the joy of focus, the experience of being completely immersed in what one is doing. There is the joy of dedication, the experience of being dedicated to the deed and not the outcome, the activity and not the goal. There is the joy of enduring, the experience of playing the game as hard as you can play it, of giving everything you have to the game and leaving nothing in the tank, no matter the experiential toll this exacts. This is the joy of defiance, wild and fierce: no, you will not break me, not here, not today.

Rowlands is at his best when writing passionately about running, his wolf Brenin and his canine pack. Many other chapters are rambling reflections on the misery of life (why must so many philosopher be so unhappy and cynical? In his previous books, Rowlands refers to his fellowmen as manipulate and conniving apes while in this book, they are downgraded to worms) and on the mystic and undecipherable writings of Sartre and Heidegger – one of the bigger intellectual windbags of the 20. century. Yet I did read the entire book within 24 hours, crossing the continent both ways.