Thursday, December 5

Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing

Earlier in the week I wrote about authenticity.  This is a concept that I've been thinking a lot about lately.  I've been refiltering my life through this new concept, straining out the bigger material looking for gems of thought to polish and exhibit.
My lifelong subconscious quest for authenticity explains much about my behavior.  I understand now why I hate going to a gym for exercise.  I've never looked forward to riding an exercise bike or running on a treadmill.  My driving compulsion is movement, travel, exploration.  There is nothing new to discover while tromping on a treadmill or elliptical machine.
Riding a bike is more authentic than riding an exercise bike.  Is it just me, or does no one else realize that you'll never get anywhere on a stationary bike?  They only have one wheel!
In my mind I can easily classify 4 types of rides: 1) Commuter--I need to go somewhere so I hop on my bike because it will get me there faster than walking; 2) Utilitarian--I need to take something somewhere or obtain something and bring it home so I hop on my bike with a backpack or on my cargo bike; 3) Recreational--I have some free time to kill and want to spend it on my bike; or 4) Fitness--I'm fat and out of shape and I must burn some calories.
With similar ease I can classify 1 and 2 as authentic purposes for riding a bike.  The bike meets a need. It magnifies my life energy and transports me with maximum efficiency.  3 and 4 are, at first glance, much harder to shoehorn into the realm of authenticity.  I'm not saying it can't be done...just that it's more difficult.
Let's start off with a story.  Let's say you are the main character in the story and I am the author.  I write that you race home from work in your SUV, you change into your workout clothes (with the stretchy waistband for better fit), you jump back in your SUV and you come to a complete stop in gridlock rush-hour traffic that clogs every road between your house and the gym where you are headed.
Isn't it cruel that I'd subject your character to such indignity?  What's even more cruel is that after sitting in traffic for an hour I'm going to write in a scene where you spend an hour running on a treadmill in front of a TV with no sound, turned to a station you don't want to watch as you run in place alongside a dozen other schmucks doing exactly the same thing.
Medicine Bow Trail, Wyoming
To change it up I write that the next night you go to a spin class and get yelled at by a woman who doesn't own a bicycle to stand up on the pedals, increase the resistance, decrease the resistance, pick up the pace, ease off the pace, warm up, cool down, and she also gets to pick the music.
Why, oh why, Dear Reader, wouldn't you just take advantage of the vast planet on which you live which provides so many wonderful opportunities in the out of doors to expend surplus calories?  Why would you ever get in the derned car to carry you across the landscape to a far destination where you while away the time, cooped up inside sweating under fluorescent lights,when you could be running along a creekside trail, or a country road, or an underutilized city sidewalk or riding your bike home from work, or out beyond the suburbs, or up into the foothills, or down the river road?  Why?!
Or even better, why wouldn't I write a story about you riding home from work on your bike as the sun sinks in the sky, your spouse then asks if you'd run to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner so you haul out the cargo bike, snap on the headlight and rear blinky light and head off toward the store, take the long way, just because it's a fantastic night for riding, and...when you return home you eat a wonderfully huge dinner with a clear conscience?  Well, actually, if I were going to write anything about you, that's exactly what I'd write.
That story runs the gambit of authentic types of rides.  But the earlier story, the one where you get in your car to go to the gym...not so authentic.  The gym is a pretend situation.  You're moving about, but with no real purpose other than to "get exercise."  And why do you need exercise?  Do you not get enough in the course of your day?  Don't you go to "work?"
Our social arrangements, particularly our modern occupations, have stripped us of dignified and purposeful exercise.  And not a meaningless exercise, but the expending of calories that result in some beneficial outcome.  If we were to use our human renewable energy more we'd need less fossil fuels burned, we'd need less time in the gym, we'd need less money to spend on fitness and health, we'd be healthier, and we'd be more satisfied in our own skins.
Instead of reveling in our own strength and abilities we rely too much on machines and appliances to do things for us, including the bicycle sometimes, but more true that we don't use the bike often enough as a species.  It magnifies our own potential which only expands our human abilities exponentially.  And it does so at a human pace, within a human scale, and without sacrificing human dignity.
I'm still struggling to articulate this idea.  Bear with me; I think I'll nail it down by the end of the year.


  1. I am going to differ with you here. To me being authentic is doing something that is consistent with who you are and what your goals are. Your driving to the gym thing. Maybe the weather outside is crappy. Maybe, it would be dangerous for you to go out and do the activity you want. Yet, you still have a goal (I don't know, say getting in shape for Leadville or something). I think it's perfectly authentic to go to a spin class or run on a treadmill. Maybe the weather is nice, but the place you live is dangerous. You might have to go to the gym to work out because you value being in good shape. I hear what you are saying, but it's simplistic. Maybe you go to the gym to run next to people, while going nowhere, because its social. I don't think you can judge how "authentic" an experience is for someone else.

    I go to work everyday and don't get a ton of exercise when I am working. But I teach, and to me, that's an authentic job. It's me and what I want to be doing. My uncles are dairy farmers, they work their asses off physically. It's who they are. No less authentic or important than what I do.

    To me being authentic is being who I am and not pretending to be someone else. It's doing the thing I think are important because of who I am.

    1. I get what you're saying too. What I'm trying to resolve (on some deep, obscure level) is why maybe I DO drive to the gym when the weather is crappy to ride a stationary bike because I want to finish sub-9 hours at Leadville but it still doesn't feel right. I don't enjoy it, it's not what I want to be doing, and it's possible that's it's taking time from or distracting me from what I really want to be doing.

    2. This is why I think "authenticity" is personal. It's not the activity of riding a stationary bike inside that is the problem. Its the goal you need to look at. Is your goal authentic? If it is then you sometimes need to do things to achieve that goal. That makes those activities authentic.

      Why are you still thinking about Leadville? I get the impression you still are (which may not be correct given my limited interaction with you ;) ). Is it because you want to achieve something there or because you feel like you need to achieve something there? Is that "need" externally driven or internally driven? For me externally driven goals don't feel authentic. It feels like I am doing something to show other people or prove something to other people. The only person I need to prove anything to is myself. And when I get on to proving something to other people that's when I have inner conflict.

    3. Oh, and as for Leadville...I am adamant that I will not even try to get in the lottery this year. But I am nagged by the absence of a belt buckle to display prominently in my house somewhere. I'm thinking this year when we go back to visit I'll volunteer and then go back in the lottery for 2015. I'm not done with it by any stretch, but I need a break from it. A long break.

    4. I wear my buckle around my waist. They are going to burry me with it. They will not pry my cold hands from that sucker :)

      My only regret is to not have the picture of me smiling at the finish line. That of course is balanced by having professional photo's of me crashing after the finish line!

      Take your time. When YOU feel the time is right. Go for it.