Thursday, April 29, 2010

A not-so-Beautiful Mind

Dearest George,
Below is a copy of a significantly abridged version of a troublesome rant pertaining in part to some kind of irrational, long distance bike race that was recently delivered to me by one of your member's man-servant. If you have the time please read it as it may assist you in dealing with your man’s obviously fragile psyche. In my estimation it screams Oedipus complex and a host of other abnormal psychological disorders. The good news is that I doubt that your man is a danger to himself or others, but perhaps you should keep him indoors for a few days and indulge him with a bit of quality brandy (warmed is best)...Also of note, he has apparently, of late, been seen aimlessly wondering the hills of old Duluth singing, in erratic fashion, a classic Clash tune. I am afraid if you require a more in depth diagnosis, I will be forced to charge you my regular fee.
All my best,

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
if I go there will be trouble
and if I stay it will be double
so come on and let me know

The indecisions bugging me
if you don't want me set me free
Exactly who I'm supposed to be
Don't you know which clothes even fits me?
Come on and let me know
Should I cool it or should I blow

To Whom It May Concern (or to those unconcerned, as well):

This cathartic essay, I think, is about the Weather Factor and how it can act as a catalyst for subsequent group indecisiveness, which in turn can culminate into generalized doubt, which then often can lead to personal loathing and the role this devolutionary chain-reaction played in a bike race of which I recently played a minor part...All names, except that of the author's, have been changed to protect the innocent. Consequently, any and all references to characters in this essay are fictitious; if one or more are able to be construed as to refer to actual figures in history, and/or Trans-Iowa participants this should be understood to be simply the workings of pure coincidence or chance.

The adage, “be careful about what you hope for," hit me square between the eyes in this year's Trans-Iowa as I stared back at myself whilst ensconced inside a tiny bathroom within a gas station in a little farming village somewhere in Iowa after 130 or so miles of riding my bicycle in the wind, rain, and mud.

Tough, cold, and slow conditions, was a recipe that I figured was my best chance for a top five finish. Being from Old Duluth I had steeled myself, with long training rides accompanied by my DBD brethren, against the cold and the wind and the rain, plus I had the gear to "weather" all but the most lethal of Iowa's Spring arsenal, so on the eve of the event when tough, slow conditions became an obvious reality, I secretly smiled and made a mental note to pack some extra clothing, affix a rear fender, and to wear sensitive cologne so as to not repel the beautiful podium girls as they planted the customary kisses upon my manly and chiseled, albeit muddied cheeks at the post-race festivities...

As an average cyclist (even on my best dayz) plagued with constant delusional dreams of placing high up, I often pray for bad weather to occur during a big race because I know from years of experience that it can level or “reduce” the playing the field and thus it’s participant’s abilities as well. Just think of Hitler’s disastrous foray into ill-equipped and poor Russia, or Stalin’s ill-conceived invasion of tiny Finland...Classic examples of how the weather-factor played to smaller and less endowed armies. Horrific weather in both of the above examples reduced the “game “to one that could be “managed” by the patriots of lesser-gods by slowing down their overwhelmingly more powerful invaders. Furthermore, with bad weather comes indecision and with indecision comes doubt...Now letz further explore this notion of the possible relationship between the weather-factor and doubt...

Clausewitz, the Prussian veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and who in later life penned, On War, argued that in “the commencement of war”, the worse the conditions the better, because the worse is nearer to “true” rather than “real” war. But alas, he opined “true war,” is only a concept from which to aspire; a war fought solely and purely for lofty, righteous aims such as “liberty and justice for all”— in such a war there would inherently exist a matching between the forces of goodness pitted against the forces of evil; It's the same thing in cycling, when an idealistic rider exclaims, “I ride only for myself and the purity of the experience.” Yet such a war is unattainable because, as Clausewitz maintained, the “reality” of war is that the endeavor is inevitably influenced by those humanly flawed and intangible factors of “chance, misunderstanding, greed, incapacity, incompetence, failure of will or collapse of consensus”, and of course doubt— as well as geography, history and weather and many other variables. Presumably throw in some natural intangible factors or “conditions” like rain, wind, soft terrain, then mix in some human frailties, and things can get real “real” in short order...thus is the absurdity of war...and to a much more benign degree, the absurdity of bike racing on gravel in Iowa in Spring-time with a bunch of crazies.

Accordingly, if I am reading Clausewitz correctly, the only way to hold a “true” bike race would be to do so in a manner that would eliminate any and all intangible factors, which of course is impossible. Presumably as the degree to which intangible factors increase so does the likelihood that a less than deserving person can achieve podium status. The same may be said in war, but of course the ramifications are much more dire and devastating in war, perhaps warring parties should be made to race bicycles instead; the world would be a much better place...In any event, the conclusion is ironclad: the needs of the impure are met or favored with the onset of bad weather to the detriment of the uncorrupted...this is a good thing for guyz like me, but as alluded to above, intangible factors including weather, can also lead to doubt...and doubt is an impartial factor that can affect both the good and the bad...Lotz of famous good people have been enveloped in doubt...and same with the it goes...and of course, there was lotz of doubt floating around Checkpoint 2...

Doubt is our modern crown of thorns,” wrote T.E. Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom; while Carnegie concurred with his observation that “inaction breeds doubt and fear...” Doubt afflicts both the righteous and the aberrant cyclist especially when one mixes in the weather factor. So as stated repeatedly above, when I read the forecasts for this Trans-Iowa I was encouraged...because, as also stated above, the prospect of a really slow and arduous course played to my advantage for I am not a fast rider, I am certainly not a righteous racer, but I can ride slow for a long time without stopping as my nerve-endings are all shot...but what I did not count on was that the weather would be so bad as to actually force both the good and the bad to contemplate the possibility of an early exit strategy...

The Time-constraint Factor further complicates the fighting of a “true” war and the same dictum applies to the running of a “true” race. Of course, in “reality” time-constraints are normally relatively easy to determine when compared to other ‘intangibles”, but alas history is full of examples of wildly inaccurate estimations related to how long a particular campaign shall take to complete. Just look at our own devastating Civil War as a case-in-point. Most of the generals on both sides figured that, “Mr. Lincoln's War” would last no longer than a few months tops. I, too, felt that the time given to the riders to complete the Trans-Iowa was so generous that it was not worthy of serious notice. In other words, I knew from past experience that a guy could even stop and nap along the way and still have plenty of time to make the checkpoints in sufficient time. Never, ever did I think that in a Trans-Iowa, time would be of the essence. Never did I consider that time (or the lack thereof) would sound the death knell for my compatriots and me...That time would be the deciding “factor.”

So it was not the weather, it was not geography, it was not greed, or rancor, or incompetence, nor was it doubt that defeated us so soundly on the battlefields of Iowa... Surprisingly, it was the lack of TIME...I am tired now, and the bell is about to ring...Sorry, I am out of time! Help me....


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Bravo! Although it sounds as if the clock was the cown of thorns, rather than self doubt.

    "Let's wander slowly through the fields
    Slowly slowly through the fields
    I touch the leaves that touch the sky " - Leo Tolstoy

  3. O.k., I just got done consulting with a professor from U.M.D. and now I get everything you wrote. Well done!