Running down antelope

The uniqueness of human persistence

James Taylor Foreman

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Image generated by Jasper AI

A human can chase down an antelope, which can run 60 mph.

In a town of 2000 people somewhere deep in Louisiana, I’m listening to people tell stories for a radio show called This American Life. I toss a trash bag in a dumpster behind my family’s convenience store. I just finished an 8-hour shift, it’s 10 pm, and I have school tomorrow.

In my ears, Scott Carrier and his brother spend 12 years chasing antelope through the Mohave desert. Then they write a book about it.

Chasing down antelope feels impossible. 8 hours of non-stop running instead of standing behind a register? I could barely do the latter. In that forgotten alleyway next to a dumpster, listening to the whine of the cicadas, the life of getting to tell stories about chasing antelope feels even more like a dream.

And dreams run faster than us–in the short term.

Most people, as Henry David Thoreau said, “live lives of quiet desperation.” They have nothing in their life resembling their dreams. To chase them seems silly. Antelope can sprint 61 miles per hour. A fool’s errand.

Similarly, how could a human being out-sprint a wisp of a dream?

Try writing a screenplay and see how many Hollywood agents knock on your door. That dream will gallop away from you faster than you can blink. Nobody is coming to Jackson, Louisiana, begging me to tell stories to millions of people. Why would they?

I haven’t chased after them for days, weeks, or years.

But, my dream was to tell stories for a living. I’ve wanted that ever since I was nine. I noticed how my family talked about the people on the TV. To them, they were real. Why did books and TV matter to them so much? Why couldn’t they explain it–even to themselves?

It seems improbable for a boy in the small-town deep south to make an honest living telling stories. I had never met a writer. Books and TV–they just existed–nobody we knew made them. Stories aren’t made of gasoline or steel–it’s hard to imagine they’re useful.

How do I tell a story that matters to people? Is that really labor? Or is that just a vain wish?

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James Taylor Foreman

Essays bridging mythic meaning and the modern world. Click here to have them appear in your inbox some Saturday mornings --> https://www.taylorforeman.com/