Recently a friend texted me and asked me to plan on hanging out the following night. He mentioned the time he’d be arriving and that he was looking forward to it. Taking him at his word, I set aside the time he’d requested and on that night he texted me that he was running an hour late. One and a half hours had passed and, not hearing from him, I texted him asking him if his word meant anything.  He finally arrived two hours late. That wasn’t so much the problem, but what happened after he arrived made me wonder if I’ve been expecting too much from others or if I’d just encountered a RUNNING MAN.

Upon arriving, he immediately started texting other people and his phone was blowing up with texts and phone calls the entire time we spent together. Was I justified in being upset? I recognize that in modern society texting is a way of life and that we all are juggling relationships and meeting times, but on that night I felt angry that we had little to no experience of relating to one another and it seemed like wasted time. He bolted within 30 minutes, anxious not to miss the next big thing in town. After his departure, I was left considering what makes men run.

The Running Man has no loyalty – except to himself. He is lost in a world of self-absorption. He has MANY friends, but no best friends. He is liked but seldom loved. He looks good, and spends a lot of time concerned with looking good (and I’m not referring to physical characteristics alone). His life has to look good. His is a world of appearances –having a lot going on and a lot of texts must mean he is important and desired.

I’m sure many people have dated Running Man before. They know the experience firsthand of not being chosen for certain nights out on the town but then being gently caressed when Running Man needs their comfort or support.  So is it fear of intimacy that makes him run? I think running men are scared of themselves and being fully present in a situation. That would require (God forbid) vulnerability. And running men, well they just don’t want to be vulnerable. Their egos run amuck.

In the summertime in Nevada there is an annual experience called Burning Man. It’s a week-long event held in the desert  in northern Nevada.  The event starts on the Monday before the Labor Day holiday, and ends on the holiday itself. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday evening. The event is described by many participants as an experiment in creating community, radical self-expression and radical self-reliance  As I see it, Burning Man is an exercise in destroying the Ego and creating a context of community. Burning Men take a look at their insides and detonate their self-clinging, like a Buddhist monk would aspire.

While the Burning Man is destroying his Ego, the Running Man has no interest in self awareness. He is hallow on the inside and a shell of a person, living out his days in a series of carefully constructed compartments. He has compartmentalized his entire life. He sees no problem having Sally on his arm, while Caitlin is at home thinking they’re dating and Running Man will even lead gay Mark on a string, dangling the carrot of an empty possibility so he can get what he wants from him too. Running man doesn’t care who he hurts or the collateral damage he causes. He is a step beyond Douche Bag, because his life is a game. And he intends to win, but never does. He just keeps playing because the game is far more interesting than stopping to take inventory. That is simply too scary for him. These modern day sociopaths are adored by strangers because they’re glittery and exciting. They’re avoided by intelligent people because they are toxic and immature. Those who are initially swayed by them will eventually learn to grow tired of them because ultimately they are ciphers.

The Running Man wants options – to play people like a deck of cards. He wants what he wants when he wants it and how he wants it. The irony is that ultimately he does get options because anyone worthy in his life will leave him and his silly games. They will move on with their lives, meet someone meaningful and capable of relationships and see him down the years, still playing his running game. Burning Man may have less visual appeal and be a bit of a misfit regarding their priorities, but their inner life is infinitely more developed and they are able to be present to someone else.  In the final analysis, the choice is clear. To be involved with someone who has “burned” their ego means experiencing a person on solid ground.  And while the Running Man looks good and is a peacock, I am reminded of an old Chinese adage. Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.