Showing posts from November, 2010

Training, Playing, Running

In his thoughts on art and experience, John Dewey distinguishes between three forms of human activity. The distinctions are as follows: labor, play, and work. The differences between these three kinds of activity are qualitative and immanent to experience, and they each are distinguished by the relationship between effort and ends. Bear with me here as I lay out the differences between these three related concepts.

Labor is experience that is instrumental. We are in a state of labor when there is no real connection in experience between the activity we undertake and the final product of that activity. We have all participated in this sort of activity: it is effort that takes us nowhere, does not develop or enrich experience. It is effort that is spent without return, or perhaps co-opted by interests that are actually opposed to the one who is putting forth effort. Labor is effort that is organized around certain ends, but the ends are in opposition or at the very least unrelated to the…

Honest Work

My grandfather died last night.

He was the son of a muleskinner and watermelon farmer. His family were tenant farmers, and he grew up on the banks of the Nolichucky river, upper East Tennessee. They worked for a place to stay and the food they ate. My grandfather was a boy during the Great Depression, and he used to tell me stories about cleaning a riverbank for a nickel a day. There were a lot of brothers and sisters, and they all raised each other up. We talk about the nuclear family these days, but their family unit was more like a patch of blackberries, thorny and wild.

The 'Chucky.

So, my grandfather learned to be independent from an early age. One summer day when he was 12, he rode his bike to Knoxville about 40 miles just to see what he could find. He'd fish the rivers with his brothers and talk about walking down the frozen creeks sometimes to school. He didn't go to school much.

In World War II, he went into the Navy and rode a big boat into the South Pacific. Tha…

On Vulnerability

The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas has done some really interesting work on human subjectivity. Instead of locating the essence of the individual inside the self and calling the project of that self "freedom," Levinas writes of the subject as de-centered and vulnerable, and located outside of the self. Its project is not to free itself into authenticity but to be responsible to others.

Emmanuel Levinas
In her book "Levinas and James: Towards a Pragmatic Phenomenology," Megan Craig puts it like this:
"The Levinasian subject has her center of gravity outside herself. Orbiting against her will, she is caught, like a planet, in the gravitational pull of a distant star. In 1514 Copernicus scandalously threatened the geocentric theory of the universe by suggesting that the sun, not the earth, occupies the center of the universe. Similarly (and also scandalously), Levinas dethrones the "I," the "ego," and "consciousness" from their privileged…

Dull Training Post

The last 9 months I've learned a lot about how to run high mileage--its benefits and its drawbacks. You could describe the last three years of my training life as one of trying to figure out how to run 100 plus miles per week.

It seems easy, right--you just go out the door and average 14 miles a day.

But the problem of course is that training only works if you are well-trained enough to absorb it. Although I've been running on and off for 20 (gulp!) years, these last 3 years were really my first attempt to push the envelope of the volume of miles that I've run. Even in college, I would never run much more than 65 miles per week for an extended period.

So, over the last three years, more often than not, I've run too much too quickly, and in the wrong ways. This is the primary reason that it took me so long to improve on my first real marathon attempt. I would have moments where the miles would really work well for me, and I would do things in training that I never could ha…