Monday, October 29, 2012

Mile Repeats as Religious Experience

"There is a state of mind, known to religious men, but to no others, in which the will to assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the floods and waterspouts of God. In this state of mind, what we most dreaded has become the habitation of our safety, and the hour of our moral death has turned into our spiritual birthday. The time for tension in the soul is over, and that of happy relaxation, of calm deep breathing, of an eternal present, with no discordant future to be anxious about, has arrived. Fear is not held in abeyance as it is by mere morality, it is positively expunged and washed away."

-- William James, "Circumscription of the [Religious] Topic"

Last Wednesday, around 6:15pm at Rose Park track, as the long shadows of the afternoon had just faded into the half-light of evening, I had a religious experience.

Or at least I think I did.

The Rose Park track is a brand new state of the art red mondo rubber track. In the middle of the track is a soccer field that I suppose some material engineers also figured out how to make out of rubber. As far as I can tell, it's all the same thing. The green "grass" and black "dirt" are basically different colors and shapes of rubber.

The track was built by the city of Nashville and is also Belmont University's home track. The surrounding neighborhood is rough and centered on public housing. It lies about a kilometer from the university of Cornelius Vanderbilt (the 2nd or 3rd wealthiest person in American history), where I work and which now sports a 3.4 billion dollar endowment and in addition to educating their students, funding the research of academics, and fielding mediocre football teams is also in the process of building some high rise dormitories that look like something out of a Peter Jackson movie.

Rose Park, in short, is a strange type of place. It is glitteringly new in a neighborhood that is decidedly run down. Even though it is open to the public, you still feel like you are trespassing when you go there, as if something that nice must be owned by someone very wealthy. But it's not. It's owned by us. You kinda feel like one of those kids who doesn't want to play with a new toy on Christmas morning because he knows that it won't be new for long. The general decay of the surrounding neighborhood is a constant reminder that someday Rose Park track like all earthly things will be old and used up.

But last Wednesday, under late autumn skies, Rose Park track sat on the top of its hill as it has for the last year in its full and fragile rubber splendor. The Nashville skyline rising below it, rolling down to the Cumberland River.

When we started the workout, it was early evening. Soccer players were scattered across the infield, passing the ball around before their game. We warmed up, jogging loose laps clockwise (the wrong way). It had been a long day at work, and I was happy to be outside in the open air. The workout was the classic runner's workout -- mile repeats. None of us were training for anything in particular, just training. We would do six of them, jog a lap for recovery. The agreed on pace was 5:20, 80 second laps.

I led the first 800m of the first interval, then Ted came swinging by and I settled in behind him for the last half. The first one is always rougher than you expect, as it takes a little while to get warm. But I could tell that Ted was feeling good, as he wasn't really breathing hard when we crossed the line. Our other partner Hunter had gotten a little out of shape, and he dropped at the 1200 and would just try to hang in on the rest.

We jogged the first 400 pretty quick, getting around before 2:00 even, and were into the second. I let Ted lead the first half, then came up beside him and asked if he wanted me to lead. He said he would take it, and so I just tucked in, knowing that that he liked to lead when he felt good. Night was falling quickly, and as we swung around the back curve on the track, the sunset over the city skyline glowed a dull red.

Somewhere in the middle of the second mile, I realized that it was going to be a good one. It's odd how you just know, but you just do. The body feels light, the legs feel quick, the breathing controlled and relaxed. You know. When you feel this way, you can go one of two ways. You can choose to run faster than the plan -- a choice I probably make too often for training purposes -- or you can choose to settle into that feeling, to flow with it, to kinda cultivate that feeling. This is the choice I made, and it's what opened the door to what I still think that I want to call a religious experience.

In the passage up there at the top, James contrasts religious experience with moral experience. He explains that moral experience is draining effort. The moral realm is a struggle -- to be good, to be better, to conquer our fears. It is ultimately tiring. Religious experience on the contrary is "a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the floods and waterspouts of God." It is "happy relaxation," "calm breathing," an "eternal present." As I ran along, tucked behind my running partner, feeling the intertwined rhythms of footfalls, the circling scenery, the deep breaths, the gently building fatigue, the sweet stretches of recovery, watching the evening light spill away into dark, I felt simultaneously present and removed. My daily worries and fear simply vanished--not because I fought them off but because I felt at peace.

That's when I thought: this is almost religious.

I say "almost" for two reasons. First, it didn't feel like it was about God. It just felt like being alive and taking pleasure in being alive. I mean, maybe it was about God, if God simply means something like "the direct pleasure of life," but I guess that definition of God just seems like a stretch to me. Second, it didn't really feel transcendental. I didn't feel like I was touching a great truth or uncovering the essence of anything. It didn't feel like Truth -- if anything it felt like Art. I just felt like I was blown away by experience, while actually being in experience. As if the entirety of that particular moment were the finished product of undoubted genius.

This awareness lasted for probably the last 4 mile repeats. By the last one, I felt so relaxed that I just took off on the last lap and ran a 70 for the last quarter like it was nothing.

After the workout, we stripped off our flats and jogged a lap or two. Ted ribbed me gently for tucking in and using him, then running away from him. Turns out he was suffering the last couple of repeats while I had been spinning off on my little trip. It was totally dark out now, and the soccer players were huddled in clumps. I looked over at Ted and grinned and said the only thing I knew to say: "That was a good workout."

In that instant, the stadium lights flickered on, bright and fluorescent. The muted night lit up like a truck station bathroom stall, and the soccer players let out a cheer. The spell was broken. Ted and Hunter trotted off to their cars. I had parked on the other side. I collected my shirt and walked down the hill, feeling the familiar ache of hard effort in my legs.

For a moment, I just sat there in the car. What happened up there? Did I see God while doing mile repeats as the sun went down?

It's hard to remember exactly. But it's also hard to forget.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blood in the Heartland: The Adidas Invite

[Editor's note:]  I had just put on my flats for that most glorious of runner's runs, the October morning tempo. The brilliant fall leaves out my window brought to mind the flashing of spikes and the copper taste of hard effort that we runners associate with the season. I opened the door and was slammed by the stench of stale whisky. There was a bottle laying there with a note stuffed inside. In the bushes were scattered loose papers. Apparently the good doctor RVT had dropped by during his daily stupor and left me a gift.

I picked up the bottle, shook out the note, and deciphered the scrawl:

"If Weldon and Robert are too shaken by our Fear fiasco where we had to tell Various lawyers to climb back in their ambulances and read up on Defamation law, we can always shop this piece down our Purple Cow pipeline to fellow Eph Tim Layden at Sports Illustrated.  I'm sure they have a battery of lawyers bigger than Penn State's attorneys in the Paterno pool."

It took me a few days and a few drinks, but I was able to get the pages together in rough order. It was a report from Dr. RVT's recent trip to the Adidas Invite -- the pre-eminent college XC meet. As always, it is difficult to separate the mad ravings from the actual facts. But that's life. The truth doesn't take its hold direct.

*  *  *

Here we go again.  I was 30,000 feet above Mad City when the Adderall began to take hold.  This was gonna be a blitzkrieg of a trip - in and out within 24 hours- but little did I know what a war zone it would turn out to be when the spike dust cleared.  For such a lightning strike trip where I knew sleep was not an option, I needed to call in the Panzer Division of drugs that my cancer doc was willing to deal me: amphetamine salts.  Yes, concerned parents, that is the real name for the learning meds you foist upon your children.

My bosses, the Texas Twinkletoes Twins couldn't be bothered to personally cover The Biggest Meet of the Collegiate Cross Country Season, so they mumbled some excuse about Rojo's wedding the next day and also wanting to get press passes to the VP debate to ask Paul Ryan if he really said, "I coulda beat that midget Ethiopian at the Chicago Marathon if I hadn't followed Kip Litton and taken a wrong turn shortcut."

As my usual per diem request, they provided me with provisions of whiskey and dope.  But it wasn't the weed that caused my head to spin as I stepped off the plane in Wisconsin.  It was the smell of cheese.  One of the fun side effects of the 10,000 dollar a month chemo pills I swallow each day is an ultra-heightened sense of smell.  I could hire myself out as a sniffer dog for the customs officers at airports.  It'd probably pay more than this crummy journo gig.

I needed to get to the bar that my buddy and creator of this ungodly meet, Mick Bryne, had reserved to entertain his guests, the best cross country coaches in the nation.  The joint is called Brocach's which is Gaelic for "Badger's Den."  The pub is owned by two Dartmouth guys and it's a safe bet they are not gonna let that loser Andrew Lohse past the bouncer to throw up on people like he bragged about doing in his Poser frat at Hanover.

 What drew me out here was Mick's brainchild, the Adidas Invite, where every cross team worth its oxygen comes to test itself against the best and brightest.  The fookin course is a dream, a true "Dedicated" XC course: spectator friendly, wide open, perfectly groomed.  Although Pre-Nats, a chance to preview the National Championship course in Louisville “nowhere” Kentucky is this exact same weekend, most programs snub the affair or send their B teams to Kentucky.  Wouldn't you?  I wouldn't let a healthy athlete enter that state if I could help it.  But perhaps my distaste stems from their distilleries as much as it has to do with a bitter and twisted series of events at the Derby that has sourmashed my mind. But that was another story.

Yes, anyone with any real brains goes to Wisco.  Why, you ask?  To chase points, you fool.  Yes, CHASE POINTS.  That is the name of the NCAA game.  That governing body, in all their infinitesimally small wisdom, has devised a process by which teams can get invited to the 31 slots available to the National Meet.  Forget March Madness selection.  That is child's play compared to Cross Nationals inclusion.  This method will make your head spin.  It requires the mind of a Wall Street derivatives broker to explain it to a normal person.  Even CEO's at Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan , and Morgan Uceny (no Yank too Big to Fall) are at a loss to when you confront them with this NCAA algorithm.  It would take a footnote the size of USADA 's 202 page indictment of Lance Armstrong to bring you up to speed on this equation, but suffice it to say that it took 32 hours after the last NCAA XC Regional to determine the final invites to The Big Dance.   

Screw this math, let's get to the bar.  We were all awaiting the Big Questions for the weekend: will coach A arrive with a new tattoo?  Will coach B show up with jailbait on his arm?  Will coach C finally change his name so his moniker doesn't sound like a Harry Potter house elf?

Of course no coaches that I can name drank anything containing alcohol.  So if you are a collegiate Compliance officer, you can stop reading now and go back to your cubicle hovel and continue looking for ways to punish your school's distance runners just because you are pissed that the University's star quarterback drunkenly drove his alumni-bought BMW through your living room wall, killing your Golden Retriever in the process and the college told you keep it hushed.  Over Cokes and Sprites, a collection of the best minds in the business laid down bets in the Points For Pints game.  If my guys beat your five and you end up auto-Q at your Regional, I'll owe you a pint at Nationals.  God, I hope no compliance cranks show up at the Louisville bars.  There'll be hell to pay -- and it might be for throwing a comp-nerd through a window.

There are other compelling reasons to make a pilgrimage to Madison.  Reason number one: Suzy.  Reason number two: Favor.  Reason number three: Hamilton. Forget the multiple National Cross Country titles throughout several decades.  Forget that former Badger mentor, Jerry Schumacher, now has a stable of Wisco pros to drool over: Solinsky, Teggencamp, Bairu, and Jager.  Forget all that.  But don't forget Suzy Favor Hamilton.  This Battling Badger may have looked for all the world like a blonde Homecoming Queen, but on the track she would break your ribs and puncture your lungs.  She brought Euro-style barging and full body contact to the US college scene.  Lots of people were not happy, especially the Emergency Rooms.  Long live Suzy!

In my sober moments, which aren't often, I tell myself the real reason I'm here is to witness one of the last pure sports available in college athletics.  We are not counting water polo, wrestling, golf and other sports where the object of the event is to put spectators to sleep.  In Cross, there are no fatcat alums to give these harriers a Cadillac, no pushy dads getting kickbacks as signing bonuses, and certainly no hookers provided on recruiting trips. Shame about the last bit.  Skinny high school distance geeks get no action and they darn well deserve some! Lastly, there sure ain't any One-and-Done clowns.  Ok, we won't count Webb and Jager.

Gratefully, Mick knows what he is doing and schedules the meet to go off at noon so we can sleep off our Cokes and Sprites.  In the hotel breakfast room, I gulp coffee with all the Ivy grads who are doing a fifth year at Texas.  Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, pick your Ivy; they all end up In Austin, where they get those dime-sized ear plug earrings.  I guess if you are a nerd all your life, you bust loose by listening to ZZ Top and dreaming of going to Texas and piercing like a badass.  Then you go make triple figures on Wall Street.  But how are you going to explain those gaping holes in your lobes in your Goldman Sachs interview? Our HEPS reunion reverie is broken by Defense Secretary Lou Panetta coming on the news and warning us of cyber attack on America the scale of Pearl Harbor. Yeah, yeah, blah, blah.  We had more important worries: who would garner golden points today?

The course is a fan's wet dream.  You can watch all the moves from the "Spectator Burm." You hear announcer updates, informing you of team scores as they fly across timing mats in their electronic chips strapped on to their spikes.  Whatever happened to handing out numbered Popsicle sticks at the finish?  I was about to find out. In a big way.  But that comes after the flawless femme fĂȘte.

For all those Letsrun chicks, all two of them that read those puerile wanker boards, who decried me as a male chauvinist pig, I will say something about the girls'...I mean Women's meet.  A true freshman... Er, I mean frosh or freshwoman ... From Cal Poly went out hard, looked over her shoulder and screamed, " Fetch this, bitches!" and blew away the loaded field.  The announcer told us she was a "true frosh." What is a False Frosh?  Or would she be an Untrue Frosh, meaning she cheated on her boyfriend?  My favorite team was Vanderbilt who wore pink singlets in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.  How cool is that?  I cajoled a dumb-struck boy to snap a picture of me with one of the Vandy gals after she picked herself up off the ground in the carnage of the finish line paddock.  I got her cell phone number.

I readied myself for the next race, arguably bigger, badder, and more bloated than the National meet.  There would be teams here that won't make it to Nats but would rip your head off in some D1 Conference champs affair.  We are talking Braveheart.  The ground literally shakes as four hundred horses thunder off the line.  Problem was today, they didn't thunder; they dawdled slower than the Olympic 5k Final that resembled a bad d D3 women's meet.  We are talking 4:55 thru the mile.  It was such a slow start, the fastest miler in the field, Kyle Merber, couldn't run that slow.  His body got confused and he fell over himself.  Other guys were stepping on one another, punching opponents, swearing revenge at a later date.  The Suzy Favor Hamilton effect.

Basically, if you're looking for results, here's what happened.  Some good teams ran well.  Some other good teams shit the bed.  And some teams didn't even belong in the meet.  For all I know, the Nebraska team is still out on the course.  As for individuals, we have a similar situation; a couple of Kenyans who were airlifted into Arizona chatted one another up as they ran away from everyone.  Several promising studs fell down and turned tits up.  A few Ivy Leaguers questioned their Wall Street worth as they wondered aloud, "what the fuck am I doing at this meet?!"

The race rolled, the runners ran. Everything seemed white bread normal in the Heartland.  Then the terrorist struck.

 Lou Panetta was right.  I've always thought Al-Queda leaders were dumber than a stick.  They think, "America...New York, New York, New York." Stupid.  Hit the Heartland instead. Strike fear into the seemingly safest meat and crops of America.  It happened at Wisco and the media missed it.  A compu-code hacker assaulted the most important meet of the season.  This cyber- villain short-circuited the timing chip system.  Haywire is not the right word for the confusion that broke out in the scoring.  Greece would be a better word.

When you have twenty runners crossing the line within a two second span and Big Dance points on the line, you have a problem.  Coaches had to ask their athletes to try and remember or guess their finishing time.  Some poor sod had to go to the video and try and match those marks with visual shots.  The huge and beautiful digital scoreboard was spitting out "unofficial results" for teams that had as much truth to them as Paul Ryan's claimed marathon time.

What most spectators and Letsrun "pundits" missed was the strategic mid-season gamesmanship going down.  Quite a few coaches held out several runners.  In doing so, they wouldn't reveal their full hand till the Conference or Regional meets.  Even the Cover Story on Letsrun bemoaned, "Oh My Gawd, Number One Ranked Wisconsin Finishes 17th!" I can't give away the workout that Mick's Canadian 10k Olympian Mo Ahmed did that very morning, but it was not for the squeamish of feint-hearted.  Let's put it this way, the Arizona Kalenjin duo won't be holding down a conversation at Nationals. 

Essentially, this race sets us up for a heckuva smackdown in Louisville.  Even some teams that chose to risk Redneck Flu by entering the state of Kentucky, look to be threats at Nats. Guru Ponytail Philosopher Wetmore has his Boulder Buffs ready.  OSU's Smith has once again distilled the waters of Stillwater, making his guys potent proof.  BYU's Eyestone is riding a Romney Mormon surge at the Prize.  [I can't resist a codicil here: if some proselytizing Mission Year Mormons sweetly knock on your door and want to talk, tell them you will give them all the time in the world if they can name Three Great Mormon Distance Runners.  I actually did this.  I'm not kidding.  Can you name them?  Olympians, big dog college coaches and a former Steeplechase record holder.]

Back in Mad City, everything was getting weird. Despite the fact that I was on a prescribed learning disability drug, I didn't have the wherewithal to figure out this scoring madness. Gaunt men with bad tempers were yelling at each other, and I was tweaking bad. I got outta Dodge before someone killed someone.

Mick texted me as I was at the airport. Said, "bad day at da office.  Do you have a couch I can sleep on and hide out at your place for a while?"

Always, my brother. Just bring our friend Glenn.  Fidditch.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Race Report: 2007 Flying Monkey Marathon

In anticipation of the best (and toughest) marathon around, the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, which takes place in about five weeks, I thought I would publish an old race report that never made it up on the blog. If you don't know about this marathon, you have to visit the website and check it out. The marathon takes place in my favorite place to train in Nashville -- Percy Warner Park. It is sublimely hilly, nicely shaded, and a kind of shelter from the two things we deal with as runners in the city -- heat and traffic. 

These things are great, but what makes the race truly special is the community of runners that attend the race, the great potluck, the local beer. Race director Trent Rosenbloom pours a ton of energy into doing it the right way. It's a celebration of what we love about running -- namely, working hard then eating and drinking with friends afterwards. This report was not from my best race or fastest race -- just from an ordinary plain old race. Hope you enjoy!

* * *

Flying Monkey Marathon, 2007

I told myself before the race that I would "run easy" and be happy with anything under 3:00. Well, why I thought that it would be possible to run 26.2 miles "easy" in PWP is beyond me. Especially at 6:50 pace. As most of you know, my training hasn't been great since this spring, so I thought it would be pointless to get into a battle with Chuck Engle. However, I figured that 2nd place was wide open. So, these were the goals I had coming into the race. 

1) Run easy and enjoy the park. 
2) Run under 3 hours. 
3) Get 2nd place. 

Looking back at them now, I realize that goal #1 and goals #2 and #3 are kind of in intellectual tension with each other. The ideas don't overlap completely. The marathon would write this tension all over my body over the last six miles. It would inject it into my calves, wash over my stomach, deaden my mind, settle in the joints of my hips. Whoever doubted the relation between body and mind has never run a marathon (are you listening, Descartes?). 

The hills had their say.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I did a good job of going out easy. Steve Gordon (a friend who bandited the first 20 miles as a last hard effort before his goal marathon in Huntsville) and I ran the first few miles over 7 minute pace. Chuck and a couple other guys--Pete Mueller and a guy from Colorado running his 87th marathon headed out a little quicker. I figured the other two would come back (see goal #3), and it is a long race, so no worries (see goal #1). After a few miles, Steve and I settled into race-pace rhythm (see goal #2), and it felt faster than I expected (try not to think about goal #1). We passed the Colorado guy going up 9-mile hill the first time. Steve and I chatted, enjoying the early miles of the marathon, the fog in the fall leaves, the perfect temps for running. 

We came through halfway in 1:29:18. I was starting to feel a bit better and was happy to be on sub-3:00 pace. I thought to myself--once more! And picked up the pace a bit. Pretty soon I could see Pete ahead through the trees. Goal #3 in sight. I think I let my competitive juices outrun my notions about taking it easy (I also thought back to last year, about how I ran this section of the course hard, and it worked well for me), so I started clicking off the miles a bit faster. I caught Pete and passed him around the 17 mile mark and began to have visions of running a monster negative split. 

Then came the hill at mile 19. Trent. You bastard. It sapped my momentum, sucked my verve, destroyed my enthusiasm, and instantly transformed my pleasant run through the park into a marathon-death march. (It wasn't just the hill--it was how hard I'd been running since mile 13. I hit mile 20--at the top of the hill--in 2:10, which means I'd averaged 6:00 pace from miles 13-20. You have every right to ask me--what happened to goal #1?). 

So, there I was. Hurting. With 6.2 miles to go and 50 minutes to break three. What pace is that? 8 minute miles, or thereabouts. I would use almost all of those 50 minutes to get home. It wasn't pretty, but I didn't walk, for whatever that's worth. There were waves of fatigue that I fought through. Pete slowly made up ground on me, but his fast start doomed him to a miserable last few miles as well. Goal #1 was out the window. All that were left were numbers 2 and 3, and frankly I didn't care too much about them either. I counted the miles, put one foot in front of the other, and made it home in 2:58:17. 

Lesson learned. Marathons are not easy. Especially in Percy Warner. It's better if you train for them. But I felt proud for pushing through. It was great hanging out after the race, and awesome to see Trent finishing after all the hard work and crappy asthma he's had to deal with. I even had a good talk with Chuck, who had graciously broken my course record. 

Now, it's time to rest, work on the dissertation [Yes, I have finished it now, thanks for asking!], and let this body of mine heal.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Racing Season, Election Season, and the Role of Intuition in Making Some Sense Out of It All

"In the great boardinghouse of nature, the cakes and the butter and the syrup seldom come out so even and leave the plates so clean. Indeed, we should view them with scientific suspicion if they do." --William James, "The Will to Believe"

One of the reasons I so admire James' view on things is that I think he's got his epistemology right. He understands that as knowers, thinkers, and understanders of reality we are vastly limited. Experience is pretty much chock full of uncertainty, vagueness, chance, and openness. Things hardly ever come out even or add up exactly. The truest confirmation of this fact is the feeling of pleasure that we get when our preconceptions about what's about to happen are actually fulfilled. If we were good predictors of the future and had a clear and firm grasp on reality, that satisfaction would be unwarranted.

The attitude of science -- by which I mean no more and no less than the attitude of intelligent inquiry -- is therefore suspicious from the outset of neat conclusions. In a prior life, I was a physics teacher, and the best sign that students were fudging their lab numbers was that they came out too well. In the lab, we left the realm of theory, where F always equalled (ma) and entered that great boarding house of nature with its marvelous multitude of variables, most of which seem especially placed to muck up the data.

At the time I was more focused on the outcome of each lab, whether the students made connections between the equipment and the concepts, and whether they could follow the instructions. I see more clearly now that much of what I was doing in that lab with those high school students was introducing them to the true difficulty involved in drawing conclusions in the real world. It's often said that the best thinkers rely on facts and evidence for their arguments. But isn't it the other way around? Aren't the best thinkers the ones who start out suspicious of settled conclusions and intent on remaking the facts?

I suppose my mind settled on these thoughts this morning for two reasons. The first is that it's racing season, and runners everywhere are all a-flutter trying to determine in advance what the training they have done this summer really means. We want to draw clear conclusions from the cold facts of training. So, we pore over our running logs looking for signs and indications, a few solid facts that can peg marathon pace for us. It's a doomed project from the start because as we all know, we had good days and bad, and we weren't really racing those workouts anyways. In the end race pace is an intuition, not a conception. What the work does is add up to a feeling that I can hold this effort for this sort of race. That feeling is not the result of an argument; it's more like a built capacity, the product of work and experience not conscious reflection. The very best racers--Sammy Wanjiru comes to mind--run intuitively. [Definitely check out this piece on Wanjiru from Toni Reavis.]

The second reason I've been mulling these things is that it's political season. The last debate was a total snooze-fest, and I think it's because both Romney and Obama overestimated the role of facts and evidence in decision-making. Their responses to each other and to the questions were, in a sense, too heavily loaded with facts, and too often the evidence for their views was presented in a way that made their argument too neat. Like James, my tendency was to view all the numbers with suspicion because I know that in reality the political process will disrupt all plans--as it should! Our political choices are very rarely a consequences of weighing arguments or evidence. They are, instead, the culmination of many experiences. We choose, in other words, on the basis of intuition rather than reason.

That our intuitions are not wholly rational does not mean that they are ill-informed. On the contrary. Political intuitions are a consequence of our temperaments, but they are also formed through direct experience, through habits and encounters, and indeed through the work of living. Jonathan Haidt describes this well. We know who we will vote for in the way that we know what pace to run in the early stages of a marathon. The choice is not conscious and reflective; it is deep and intuitive. It is not based on reasons or arguments, but on effort, choices, and experiences.

None of this means that we shouldn't try to find facts, give evidence for our claims, or scrutinize the rational basis of our decisions. These are all essential ways of developing good intuitions. But we shouldn't neglect the role of intuition in intelligence when considering the important choices we make this fall -- and also, as we are forced to come to terms with the fact that half of America, more or less, will make a different choice than the one our own intuition says is the smart one.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...