Monday, February 13, 2012

Long Distance and the Meaning of Life

I have just finished reading Bill McKibben's book, "Long Distance" the story of a year in his life training to be the best skinny-skier he could be, with a coach and everything, during which his father came to the end of his life. The latter was unplanned, and unexpected as his siblings and father had lived to their nineties but he had succumbed to brain cancer at 68.

In the book Bill seeks the meaning of life among other things - like the right wax for his skis at zero degrees Celsius. He ends with completing the metaphor of life as an endurance race. Much of what he wrote stimulated my thoughts and I want to explore them in writing.

The meaning of life is the substance of every book I've ever read implicitly, if not explicitly. Just as life's experience is the mother of metaphor, It is also the fodder of all writing, pun intended.

The daily routine is the core of identity, not singular achievements or unique experiences. Identity is founded in the quotidian, not the rare. Mantras, endlessly repeated, rituals performed until they are rote and literally taken for granted - exactly as they are intended to be, things done without thinking, more define the individual than stunning achievements, like finishing an Ironman, say, or writing a novel, or winning an award, say who we are. One can wear the t-shirt proclaiming the achievement but as days pass it loses its lustre and fades as does the memory of the achievement. It is merely what we once did not who we are, despite Mike or Steve's voice ringing in our ears, Daily workouts, oft=repeated doses of kilometres run, or biked, the constant association of ourselves with the omnipresent bag of workout gear, the bike on the rack behind the car, declare our identity, state unambiguously who we are. As Sartre said, it is what we do that makes us who we are.

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