September 20th, 2010

Phenomenological thoughts about speedos

Phenomenolenology, or even phenomenolenolenolenology as some have been known to pronounce it, is a rather tongue tying and discombobulatory collection of phonetic units, to signify what I must say is a belieingly straight forward collection of thoughts*. As an idea that privileges the subjective first-person take on a subject, I feel entirely entitled to cast aside whatever Sartre or Merleau-Ponty may have tried to say on the topic of phlegmononology, in that bastard tongue French, and offer instead a "behooving" description, one I suspect will eclipse all others by virtue of its virtuous elegance. You be the judge though.

Continental philosophy's usual culprits

When entertaining the popoffenologist's conception of the self while riding my bike, I imagine my consciousness residing in my whole body. I am not my brain driving a body, or a little pilot in a cockpit behind my eyes, or a soul, or an aura. I am a sentient, but moreover a material being, occupying the whole of my body. If you will, my brain is in my head, but also the nerve endings in my fingers and toes. My mind is my body. Sights, sounds, feelings and smells are constantly being judged either as threats, things within the sphere of influence of this embodied being I'm describing, or as too distant to be of concern. In a sense, the road's passage beneath my tires, vibrations through my forks to my grip-tape and gloves, the air in my spokes, the competitor following along in my draft, and various other close objects, all come within the broader purview of my body as well. My body becomes the sole frame of reference that matters.

Don't get me wrong, I love the life of the mind—reading, lecturing, researching... blogging—but I for one need to be using my body (by which I mean the whole of my mind), mainly through cycling, sometimes through surfing, and of late through yoga occasionally too. Plato, about whom I know much darlings, having earned a PhD by studying his writings, laid the foundations for a mind/body split in Western thinking. Saint Poofy Pants Augustine went further and allowed us to see all of nature as hostile to souls. Being out in the wind, rain, heat, bliss, or whatever else is thrown up, and being in command of whatever power and reflexes my body possesses, is my way of winning back a few moments of this one precious incarnation that I might otherwise have slept through on my lounge, or all snug in my car. (I'm not sure if all that will be taken as Spartan or Hippie. Who cares.)

I'm not alone in choosing to race with no bio-feedback or speedo.    Gadgets worth more than the bikes!!

Which leads so elegantly to the subject of speedos on bikes. I used one for a few weeks a year ago. A girt of love from my Primrose, on the occasion of my 41st birthday, paid for with reward points earned via my other consumption. This little device relayed information pertaining to my heart rate, how many calories I might have burned in a ride or a week, my speed, how far I had ridden, oh and whole range of tid bits. I recall riding along a cycleway late one night in the bush, the trees lit up by my headlights, me lit up green like The Hulk by this little monitor thingo shining information into my eyes, my phone to my ear as I told Primrose I would be home soon for dinner, and a crimp in the road's surface approaching unnoticed. Dear reader, were it not for my ability to steer using my head on the fork, I would have came off, and most likely died, completely, as in deader than Lazarus, Shadrack, Meshach, Abednego, Saint Andrew or Jesus. Having nearly been deaded, I naturally paused to consider how I had been retreating into this virtual world of technology, when my mind/body needed to be on my bike.

Prior to that I had not used a speedo since about 1994, when my first one stopped working. Back then I realized my speedo had been less effective at monitoring distance and speed, than monitoring guilt. My guilt monitor, lovely, cursing me for not going fast enough, far enough, often enough, and all according to arbitrary targets I would set in my mind. My disembodied mind. I know now the only speed that counts is that of the race. As for distance, it's that of the race. And frequency? When's the next race?    

*those among you with basic literacy, yet no humour to match, might object to the use here of "belieingly", a word I asure you I have googled, and found in common useage on at least one other web site in the whole world, this one. Mazing!    

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