Monday, February 27, 2012

From Adams Morgan to Bern

"I f****d your wife. Deal with it."--Shouted into phone in Adams Morgan, 2.25.2012

You'd think that human nature can change through habit or ritual. Say we do or think about something all day. It should change us.

It often does, but it just as often doesn't.

Consider: Dentists shouldn't get cavities. How many preachers get busted for porking someone or something other than their God-given wife? The inventors of the bicycle treadmill have not yet apologized. Why aren't the best music or fiction critics themselves creators of art--I mean, if they explain it so well, why can't they do it themselves?

I have two brothers in philosophy departments where they talk about ethics all day; you've never seen so many amoral assholes going on and on about categorical imperatives and utilitarianism and then going out and punching an old grandmother in the face. I exaggerate, but you get the idea. Isn't it weird that ethicists aren't more ethical than the rest of us?

There is, in fact, a study showing that studying economics, a large part of which is devoted to solving social problems equitably, "hurts ethical inclinations."

Why are lawyers considered douchy? Their task, after all, is to fight for what is right (isn't it?)?

I overgeneralize for a reason: to illustrate the difference between doing something and practicing something. And of course to raise again the club to once again beat the long dead horse, the sole topic of this blog and its shill, Paps: riding and racing a bike.

An old Greek notion here: techne. It's often translated as "art," but it's not a product. It's a way of doing things, a craft, a skill, the etymological basis for our "technology," the product of techne. The Greeks distinguished techne from art (poiesis), for them the product of divine inspiration from muses or daemons. True practice requires both skill and inspiration, a combination you don't necessarily need to teach philosophy for (very little) money, or law (for a little more).

Here you've got the two elements of all human striving: that which takes practice, and that which takes inspiration. Our heroes combine years of skill and an ability to tap into momentary inspiration. They respond to the impulses of the world with both techne and poiesis.

It's easy to forget, as a rider, the poiesis part. It's easy, as a fan, to forget the techne part--the invisible suffering and training done over years, never caught in the camera. Of course, the reason non-cyclists rarely enjoy watching cycling is because the skill of the sport is unfathomable. And they can't fathom its poetry if they don't know its skill. These unfortunate boobs.

These are the uninspiring souls who emerge from bars in Adams Morgan shouting at the husbands of wives they've "f***ed" to "deal with it."

Of all the inspiring races I've watched, here are two of my favorites, taken from a moment when Cancellara was at both his most skilled and most inspired.



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