Saturday, January 3, 2009

Life Off The Bike: A return to books, late nights, and....relaxation? Maybe?

I haven't exercised in three solid weeks. I'm not even all that fat, really, just a couple of pounds heavier than I was all 'cross season. Hopefully, as I start some running and gym work this week, I'll start leaning out and feeling ready for bike riding again.

So far the off-season has been fun, but I feel almost more tired than when I'm racing. I tend to be a bit of a night-owl when left to my own devices and between holiday preparation, near constant travel, and a renewed enthusiasm for my academic life, I am on a terrible sleep schedule. I slept until 11:00am today...for the third day in a row! I haven't done that since I was a teenager.

I have a cold, and that hasn't been helping. The debacle with US Airways resulted in a near all-nighter, which resulted in a sore throat. It is nice not to have to worry about being rested to train, it's kind of relaxing. But it isn't actually recovery time, so I am going to be a good kid and take another week off of coffee and start getting to bed at a reasonable hour. This is/will be my longest stretch off the bike ever. I think it will lead to good things: increased motivation, better recovery from training, and perhaps a later onset of fitness for road season.

On Monday we--brother Pete, father George, daughter Silas, partner Charmaine, and I--are off to the British Virgin Islands for a week of bare boat charter sailing. My dad is a lifelong on-and-off sailor and we did this trip last year. It's an interesting experience to be at once in the middle of what feels like nowhere, and at the same time having a very stable, relatively safe, and entirely demographically marketed and highly socio-economically privileged experience. Nevertheless, the Ocean, she is fickle, and the objective dangers are real. Cruising, or pleasure sailing, is one of those rare experiences in modern life where through a voluntary and essentially contrived activity, you get to have an immediate relationship to your basic needs and experience actual dangers. In that respect, I suppose it isn't unlike bike racing or running or mountaineering--these are all things we get up to in order to experience a grounding of some sort, a relationship to the moment we are in that is unmediated by a graphical user interface or other technology.

Island life is such a mind warp, too, particularly for those of us who spend our time engaged in the practice critical literacy and cultural studies. On the one hand it's idyllic, and incredibly relaxing. On the other hand, it's almost an embarrassingly over-privileged sort of circumstance to find one's self in. Never will the reality of several hundred years of Euro-American colonial rule be so apparent to you as when stepping off a boat or plane on these magical little Caribbean islands and noticing, immediately, that all of the tourists are white, and all of the service personnel are brown.

And so what? Well, so awareness is all. Life is good when it is, and it's to be grateful for.
I turn to Jamaica Kincaid and she tells me,

Of course the whole thing is, once you cease to be a master, once you throw off your master's yoke, you are no longer human rubbish, you are just a human being, and all the things that adds up to. So, too, with the slaves. Once they are no longer slaves, once they are free, they are no longer noble and exalted; they are just human beings. (A Small Place,80)

But any good neo-Marxist would tell you that the neo-liberal juggernaut of global, imperialist capitalism makes somewhat quaint any stable notions of the terms "Master" and "Slave". Yes, slavery is gone in its formal sense, and direct colonial rule is, for the most part, no more. But what once was of these resourceful, unique nations of indigenous people is, in large part, no more either. And the opportunities of contemporary, techno-centric capitalism have not yet arrived. What there is, then, is a service economy.

I don't feel bad about participating in my privileged role as a consumer in a service economy, but I do think it's worth thinking about, and considering how the circumstance I will find myself in has come to be. And, to borrow a pedagogical panacea from my favorite scholar, Richard E. Miller, I think it is also worth considering how it, or I, could be different--to imagine a different set of assumptions, which could result in a different set of relations of production, and therefore, in a different sort of economy.

Ahh, thinking out loud in true blogosphere fashion. I read an article this morning by my friend and neighbor (also snazzy, young Rhet-Comp scholar) Janice Wendi Fernheimer, that says a lot of neat things about the role of blogs in public discourse and classroom life. In that spirit, I offer these thoughts and hope people will feel free to contribute.

I leave you with the aforementioned Richard E. Miller's inspiring thoughts on the New Humanities.


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