The legend that inspired the modern Marathon says that almost 2,500 years ago, a messenger ran from the city of Marathon to Athens communicating the victory of Greece over Persia. In 2010 a very different race started, the Marathon of Freedom. Meet Sonny Davis, a warrior and a messenger with a mission in mind, making apathy about Muscular Dystrophy ancient history.
When I said Sonny is a warrior, it implies an incredible amount of inner strength and being victorious in numberless battles during your life time. Please could you briefly describe your personal history and how you discovered your mission as a messenger in this Marathon of Freedom?
To begin, I would like to offer these words: “You are Freedom itself, embodied as the observer as you read this text; fluidly and dynamically. Remember now who and what you are, where you came from and where you are going.” “This process, the journey back, the inner work of remembering, that death defying choice to live the dream, to find and create your life with intention and purpose; can and will at times feel like running a marathon.” Like our old friend Pheidippides thousands of years ago; his was a message of victory. The question is, was that victory over himself or another?
Many of us feel a calling, a message, to share, to shout, to shine upon the world. I tell you this – face any and every obstacle that impedes you to give or offer your message with great humility and courage for there is a great teaching in the offering. My message is not unique, but it is served up in a way that only Sonny say’s it, therefore it is special. Mine is a message of victory over physical limitations and although there is still much to learn; I had to fall down many times to get up and get clear on the message I chose to give.
As far back as I can recall, I have always fallen down; physically tripped up and kissed the pavement without a banana peel in sight. This continued for a few years when at the age of five my mother took me to several doctors who all seem to think I was just being lazy. Deep down I knew this wasn’t the truth. I was very active as a child weather it was swimming, gymnastics, playing basketball or climbing trees for bananas. Until one day after weeks of bloody noses, muscle tests and shock therapy it was concluded that I had a particular type of neuro-muscular disorder; also known as Muscular Dystrophy. The degeneration of nerve and muscle affects my legs and hands. Today with hundreds of different types of MD it can be difficult to get caught up in all the names and lables of “she has this or he suffers from that.” Where awareness is key; I wanted to be free from the definitions. I wanted the truth. Something was telling me that I was more than a doctors diagnosis, more than my name; my body.
Now, at age 30, I still walk and use a wheelchair. I look back and ponder where and when did I start believing that what I have been given is a true gift and not a limitation, and I am reminded of a great man, a warrior, Terry Fox. Out of the millions of people Terry has inspired, I am one. I see Terry and the journey to cross Canada as his unique way of making art out of the dis-ease in his body. And therein lies a great secret to true freedom – take your limitations and make art out of them.
Nowadays is quite easy to see that most people live a very sedentary life. Now we can send a text from one part of the world to another in seconds within a couple of clicks. Why it is necessary for you to cross Canada, one of the largest countries in the world, to communicate your message?
I am grateful for the technology of today. It has afforded many of us a great deal of freedom. Still though, talk is cheap and if your question is true then I have my work laid out for me. Call me optimistic but I like to think there are more people than ever jumping on the “movement” movement and taking their lives to a new level. I know I am not blazing new trails by pushing across Canada…in my wheelchair; typically Canadian. The blessing of my life is that I am able to take all that I have and do and create an artful offering to the world through whatever means possible. I wish to connect with many people by being an example. I had to contemplate and later had been asked many times “what makes my journey different or unique out of hundreds of others doing something similar?” I would say, “Hello, I go by Sonny Davis. I experience Muscular Dystrophy AND I am pushing my wheelchair across Canada.” My message and purpose has everything to do with freedom including freedom from dis-order, dis-ease and dis-ability.
In 1979, Ste-Croix, one of the founder of the Cirque du Soleil walked 90 from Baie-Saint-Paul to Quebec City on stilts, convincing the Quebec government to help fund his production. Less than a year later, Terry Fox, one of the most beloved Canadians in history, started in 1980 the Marathon of Hope in order of raising money and bringing awareness for cancer research. Two absolutely different situations, that later on became by their own means into a huge movements and undoubtedly icons of the Canadian culture. What are your wildest dreams that the Marathon of Freedom will bring to the world?
After the classification card I needed to go to the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, as a member of Team Canada, was revoked due to again, “labels”; I knew that I wanted to keep rolling, training, moving and offering. I was already inspired by Terry Fox, now I had even more fuel to add to my message. I took that experience and created a way I could offer to the world what I had learned. What was a childhood dream became reality when I began the Marathon of Freedom in the summer of 2010. I wish to share the inspiration I received with others in order to discover what it is that is their deepest and truest gift and purpose, and to offer it to the world unabashed.
My wildest dream for the Marathon of Freedom is to have eliminated self doubt and en-able the planet.
While preparing this interview, the idea of being released from labels echoed in my mind all the time. Labeling people is easy, comfortable and very effective, the being set free of all labels is amazing and scaring at the same time. What do you do in order of avoiding being labeled and at the same time not labeling somebody else?
Be frameless. A key needs a door. If there’s no frame then there’s no door and the answer (the key) is in your hands. It is a practice. To be free in the moment from words, names and labels means to exercise not having an opinion, of anyone and especially your self. That includes preferences and first impressions. Yes I am out there raising awareness and money for my chosen charity and beyond that I am bringing the truth of what Muscular Dystrophy really is to the world, a gift. I need to play in the realm of labels for it to be understood in eyes of the public. I’m a guy that uses a wheelchair AND I can walk too. What do you call that?? I call it “walk and roll.” haha. I especially take delight in the confusion on peoples faces when they see me one day and I’m in the chair and the next day up and walking; now that’s just my opinion – so my practice would then become to breath it (confusion of others) in and feel it fully, exhale and release it to not having an opinion either way. The same goes for things that are irritating, like loud people. It is a moment to moment practice. Make it fun. It doesn’t have to feel like discipline. The point is to practice being free from your opinion of the thing. Try this in the realm of dis-ease and you’ve got a healing journey on your hands. Beyond that I stick to the simple wisdom of judge lest, lest you be judged.
Coming from the place of giving an scale to your effort, I really want people to understand the dimensions of this, because saying “crossing Canada” only takes two words, and they do not imply what it takes you to do it. So here comes the question…
Let’s say that my imagination wants to take a ride with you in your wheel chair. Could you describe a day during your journey crossing one of the biggest extensions on the planet?
Imagine your desire to create something that is bigger than what you are, well, bigger than your body anyways. What we are beyond our bodies is infinite. Realizing this, it didn’t seem like such a daunting task and goal to push myself in my wheelchair across the second largest country in the world. However, once the rubber hit the road, I received a healthy dose of raw truth and reality. I had an end goal in mind and I was determined to reach that goal by October 1st 2010. Whatever happened in between the start and the finish line; from day one, was truly put into the hands of the great mystery.
Building this vision manifested through the help of some very important players, one of which joined me on the road, Twyla Martin. This was a grassroots project coupled with the reckless abandon of jumping and trusting the net will appear. Not all of my ducks were aligned and I am glad they weren’t. I threw a date out there to depart; May 30th 2010 (my 30th birthday) and I met that date head on, leaving from Victoria BC, eastbound. I knew I wasn’t going to let anything stop or slow me down but pushing up to five or six hours a day began the wear and tear on my body, especially my hands. There is already degeneration of nerve and muscle in my hands due to the MD, and the up hill squeeze on my near surface veins would cause them to go numb on a daily basis. On roadside breaks; Twyla, who was also driving my support vehicle, would care for my shoulders and nutrition; gallons of fluids and bunches of bananas.
Eventually I got feeling back in my hands and would continue to push on to the next telephone poll. I would be in awe of the scale of beauty that was surrounding me; through the mountains, across the prairies, lakes, animals, sending love to road kill; trusting it was fast and painless, the head winds, the rain, the air, even some unexpected roadside donations. The presence of local Fire Fighters escorting us along route, stopping traffic, sounding their horns and sirens, was truly a special and extra-ordinary experience.
I had a lot of time to myself pushing along the shoulder of the #1 Highway. I would contemplate and meditate. My personal awareness would go from a more local state of being in the “mind and body” to total expanded oneness with the environment around me. Any constriction, closure or pain I would experience, was always balanced through fleeting moments of sheer delight and freedom. The eagle flying overhead, eclipsing the noon sun was enough affirmation for me to know we were safe and guided.
Being on the road definitely had its ups and downs. Quite literally, I believed that rolling downhill on wheels made it so I only had to do half of the country haha. Well this became the reality when after 3 months and 11 days and experiencing several setbacks along the way, including the sudden death of my father; I had to revisit my original intention and refocus my goal. Half way to Thunder Bay is what I accomplished, and I intend on completing what I started. Working through the limitations of my mind and body and despite any numbness of my spirit; Thunder Bay All the Way will happen in spring 2011. Stay tuned to www.marathonoffreedom.com
Pheidippides, the mythic Greek messenger and first marathoner at the end of his journey exclaimed to the Athenian assembly, “Nenikékamen”, (which means ‘We have won’). In 2011, you will be crossing the finish line of the Marathon of Freedom, what are the objectives that you plan to achieve at the end of this journey so you can happily say ” Nenikékamen “?
The essence of the Marathon of Freedom is about discovering who and what we truly are – free moving and loving infinite beings and putting forth real work in order to shine that in the form of a gift, offering or service to the world. I wish to raise $150,000 dollars and make a donation to Muscular Dystrophy Canada. I wish to help other MD associations around the world by speaking my truth to them and listening to their stories. I wish to see this message go on through the movement movements and the arts where anyone, disability or not, can have a chance to give their gift, which is the courageous offering of the call answered from deep within; to be free from it forever.
What phase one of the Marathon of Freedom - “Half-way to Thunder Bay” has taught me is that we humans live on such a huge and ancient rock called Earth, and that there’s ultimately no where to go but to move. Movement for the sake of movement…while I still can.
By being born and taking on a body; I have already won. Nenikékamen!
Sonny and Chair.
It has been amazing being a hitchhiker in your Marathon of Freedom, a great example of how the final frontier is not space but the space within us. Mindwriters will follow you very closely not only when you restart your journey or cross the finish line, way more after it. Thank you very much Sonny. Now I would like to address my dear readers. Sometimes the largest distance is the distance between people. Sonny is crossing Canada to reach you. He is officially doing this journey to fight for Muscular Dystrophy, and at the same time, he is taking a stand to conquer a sneaky malady, Empathy Dystrophy. How far does he have to go to connect with you? I invite you to meet Sonny half way and be part of a winning team. Donating is the most obvious way to collaborate and if you are not in the economical situation to take some dollars out of you budget, the good news is that there are many other ways too. Saying a pray for him, sending him an email wishing him well, talking about him to other people, contacting his team and offering them your help… just to name a few easy and economical ways to push him forward. At the end, if there is something I would like you to keep from this interview is this lesson, if nothing is stopping him, nothing is stopping me and you. Movement for the sake of movement. Claim your victory.