Showing posts from August, 2011

Love for Gambia

I just got an email from Erin Poirer, directing me to her blog Love4Gambia. Erin quoted LLD in a couple places, and it was cool for me to see how she could relate to what I was writing. I encourage you to check out her blog, as she is using running to address some simple issues in a country that we rarely consider.

Thanks, Erin! Keep up the good work.

The Gospel of the Useful

"Even the words that could voice a hope for something besides the fruits of success have been pressed into this service. ... The idea of happiness has been reduced to a banality to coincide with leading the kind of normal life that serious religious thought has often criticized. The very idea of truth has been reduced to the purpose of a useful tool in the control of nature, and the realization of the infinite potentialities inherent in man has been relegated to the status of a luxury. Thought that does not serve the interests of any established group or is not pertinent to the business of industry has no place, is considered vain or superfluous. Paradoxically, a society that, in the face of starvation in great areas of the world, allows part of its machinery to stand idle, that shelves many important inventions, and that devotes innumerable working hours to moronic advertising and to the production of instruments of destruction--a society in which these luxuries are inherent has…

On Running and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense

We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we can live - by positing bodies, lines, planes, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content; without these articles of faith nobody could now endure life. But that does not prove them. Life is no argument. The conditions of life might include error.
--Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 121
This morning I ran with two friends of mine. We've got a good eclectic group of runners here in Nashville from a variety of backgrounds. Our conversations are always winding and interesting, full of provocations and insights, rarely conclusive of anything. The running mind seems to skim from topic to topic rather than burrow in.

One subject that we skimmed over today was my last blog post. One of my running partners, who happens to have a PhD in physiology, reminded me that I had finally cured my four-year battle with chronic achilles tendinitis by finding the right shoe (in this case, the New Balance 890). So, my last post, which encouraged re…

Back in the Goodle Days

Some rambling thoughts in response to this New York Times article on the question of whether we were born to run, trends, fads, and marketing:

As cool as it is to think that our evolutionary history was driven by distance running (and I believe it to be the case--I recommend the account given in Our Kind, which was published back in 1989, long before the argument was applied to barefoot running), giving an account of how the foot developed is very different from giving a justification for how it should be shod in any particular case.

It amazes me sometimes when I think of the miles I have put on these legs, which are still made of flesh and gristle, and how well they have stood up to the asphalt over the years. The vast majority of those miles have been in shoes, though I do have a tender spot for barefoot strides over dewy fields.

These days it's hard to sort out the difference between education and marketing. The marketers educate us. The educators market to us. Harvard and Vib…

William James on Attention: Some questions

William James, in The Principles of Psychology, on the development of attention:

"Sensitiveness to immediately exciting sensorial stimuli characterizes the attention of childhood and youth. In mature age we have generally selected those stimuli which are connected with one or more so-called permanent interests, and our attention has grown irresponsive to the rest. But childhood is characterized by great active energy, and has few organized interests by which to meet new impressions and decide whether they are worthy of notice or not, and the consequence is the extreme motility of the attention with which we are familiar in children, and which makes their first lessons such rough affairs. Any strong sensation whatever produces accommodation of the organs which perceive it, and absolute oblivion, for the time being, of the task in hand. This reflex and passive character of the attention which, as a French writer says, makes the child seem to belong less to himself than to every obje…

Pain and Fear: Sport as Ethics Education

As a sport, long distance running distills excellence as much as possible to the category of human effort. Long distance running requires endurance, by which we mean the ability to suffer. We admire good runners because of their ability to run fast, win competitions, etc. In this sense, running is like other sports: we admire elites because they represent the outer limits of human achievement. When it comes to the specific type of achievement that distance running represents, however, the simplicity of running reduces the skill factor to the minimum. Ours is an endurance sport, and as such the currency of achievement in running is pain.

One thing that is strange about pain, however, is its immediacy. With respect to our own pain, it is difficult to find distance from it in order to take it up reflectively. This is why the experience of pain is always difficult to recall in its full intensity. We look back on a race and say: hey, that wasn't really so bad. But if it wasn't so …

Running Beyond the Limits of Language

In The Blue Book, which was a sort of collection of lecture notes that he compiled in lieu of writing a book for Russell, Wittgenstein writes the following, ruminating on a common theme of his--the perils of communication:

When we look at everything that we know and can say about the world as resting on personal experience, then what we know seems to lose a good deal of its value, reliability, and solidity. We are then inclined to say that it is all "subjective"; and "subjective" is used derogatorily, as when we say that an opinion is merely subjective, as a matter of taste. Now, that this aspect should seem to shake the authority of experience and knowledge points to the fact that here our language is tempting us to draw some misleading analogy. This should remind us of the case when the popular scientist appeared to have shown us that the floor which we stand on is not really solid because it is made up of electrons.

We are up against trouble caused by our way of e…

Searle's Chinese Room and Intelligent Training

In case you haven't noticed, I've been farming out the blog recently to some of my favorite running-philosophers. This is because I've been traveling all summer, and posting presently from Paraguay. (In 2009, I wrote a series of "dispatches" from Paraguay for those who are interested in what life is like down here. Here's one on running that you might like.) Vacation and travel make it difficult to continue with your regular habits--my writing and running have both been erratic. But it's for this very reason that we need to travel, to break up those old habits and allow some newness to leak in. The tendency is to think that travel and vacation are supplementary to ordinary life, but of course the familiarity of ordinary life would be mere routine without strange and new experiences. In the very same way, I hope that the inclusion of these guest pieces are not merely supplemental, but that they give you a break from my voice and perspective. They certainly…