The Treadmill – Going for ages to get nowhere

In recent times an anomaly has occurred.  Humans (not beasts) have gone voluntarily to treadmills.


In ancient times the treadwheel was a machine driven by oxen or humans to pump water or grind grain.  The only way they worked was if the beast or human kept walking.  The beasts were tethered – they had no choice.  The humans protested.  Consequently tethered humans were used – people in prison.  Both were driven by the whip. Both beast and human were diminished by the experience.

In recent times an anomaly has occurred.  Humans (not beasts) have gone voluntarily to treadmills.  With hand grips and mechanised floors (adjustable for fast or slow, run or walk) these treadmills exist in gyms made of concrete, glass, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors.  They exist in abundance.  People pay to be tethered to them in order to run and walk nowhere. There is no whip held over these people other than the desire to be something they are not already.  Some treadmills come with a touchpad video screen bonus feature – a blending of one form of tethering with another.

These treadmills promote minimal interaction.  Imprisoned on their individual machines, the only company for these increasingly fatigued people is reflected in the mirrors.  On completion of the activity the only voice these people hear is that of the people who have said the words that drove them to the machine in the first place, notifying them that they are not ‘there’ yet.  Which is understandable given that, for all their effort, there is no ‘there.’ For in truth they have actually gone nowhere.

Meanwhile, other people have gone somewhere.  They have chosen to run or walk in a park.  They have interacted with people and plants and light and shade.  They have completed their exercise and breathed air untainted by the sweat and heaving breathing of others.  They have been left with a feeling of having been remarkably untethered – even free.  They have entered the frontier beyond the mirror.

We lament the system that has tethered people to computer, smartphone and treadmill.
We protest the diminishing of people.
We shake our fists at the forces that constrain them.
We hold out for green grass, wind in the trees, fresh air in our lungs, and open spaces where we can exercise for free.
And we renew our call to ban mirrors.

Martin Stewart March 2016


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