November 13th, 2006

World's Fastest Indian

"The World's Fastest Indian"

I just got done watching "The World's Fastest Indian," and what a great movie! It got my eyes all watering throughout, and I laughed and cheered and everything else. Loved it! This is a movie I'll watch over and over, I expect.

As is my habit, I rode the exercise bicycle during the movie. It's one of those exer-cycles that tracks your calorie burn, heart rate, and speed - and no, I'm still unable to join the 200mph club, even after pedaling my ass off during the exciting bits. So after the movie and the included 1971 documentary special feature about the real Burt Munro, I discovered that I had gone more than 17 miles and burned what the bike thinks was 815 calories, about 50% more than the last movie's caloric burn. Wow, who knew that setting land-speed records could be so good for one's health? This bodes well for my 50cc record attempt! By the time I get to Bonneville, I'll be a lean, mean, racing machine *g*

Sleep well!


the numinous and growing old

After watching the movie tonight and reading an entry in kijjohnson's LJ, I got to thinking about that momentary rush of... what is it? Connection with something greater, communion with genius or something; how it's always momentary, and once experienced one always seeks it again, but doing the same thing doesn't always stimulate the same response, at least not for me. I need to have all the elements in place. So it's not easily repeatable, and when one stops getting the same emotional reward, one faces the prospect of losing interest in continuing to seek that something magical.

For me, this happens when motorcycling: Once in a while, for no apparent reason other than everything in the universe of my mind is aligned just so, I feel this surge of pleasure, and the world is brighter and smells fresher and I feel alive. When I was first riding, every ride was ripe with excitement and rife with danger; I would ride for hours on the most uncomfortable mount imaginable, heading nowhere. Now I find myself forgetting the joy of the ride and often just hop on to go somewhere and hop off when I'm there. Also when skywatching: When I was a kid, I could feel in touch with the holy so much more easily than now; now I need to keep scanning the skies past the "I've seen a blue star before" until I find that something which offers the reward. I need to remember to ride, say, out to Target not to buy something but to enjoy the sensation of moving.

I have found that patience is more difficult to summon now than it was when I was younger, because then everything was shiny and new. Now it's not just about the newness - which, itself, can be a reward - now it needs to be about the thing that really matters, the thing that woke my sense of the numinous when I first learned that I loved the thing at hand: That's still there, still shining from behind every color of star and within the surprise puffs of nebula that I discover when my patience holds; those fleeting glimpses of storm-cloud detail in the clouds of Jupiter or snow-caps on Mars; that haze of the Milky Way which resolves into millions of stars, at least in my mind's eye, when that I open that eye. It's all there, just as magical as ever: As is typical for so much about humans, I'm the thing in my own way most of the time.

I often forget the pleasure I feel once I make an engine work again, or that jolt of transcendence when I write the perfect sentence, or engage in the perfect class. I think that this forgetfulness is what drives us to stop seeking those perfect moments. Perhaps that's what it means to grow old: To lose the desire to seek those moments of magic. I'll call this lack of desire by it's true name, "death." It approaches us by inches, sneaks up on us hidden in the shadows of time and our own blindness.

I realize now that this is one of the things that made me so teary-while-smiling while I watched "The World's Fastest Indian" tonight. Burt Munro was like that, a man who never forgot the beauty and power in going fast that got him going as a kid. He seemed to possess that same sense in his 80's that he had when he bought his bike back in the 1920's. That's rare and beautiful.

Do me a favor and remember to do something today something that gives you joy.


another thinking post: love

While exercising today, I got to thinking. This is something that I enjoy about mindless activities: They turn on one's mind to deeper consideration, because turning a wrench or lifting something heavy doesn't require much mental effort.

I have a question, one that I've been trying to understand for a couple of years now; not that I haven't always tried to understand it, but of late it's become a core need to grasp it:

What is love?

I have always considered myself an optimist (as does everyone I know considered me that), and I usually find the good in everyone. I have always believed in romantic notions (often with the capital R, as in the movement); I have always believed in the notion of true love and the possibility of tomorrow being better than today and so on. That's to put this in perspective. Keep in mind my questions don't indicate that I'm leaning in any of these directions; I'm just trying very hard to understand what is "love" right now, and these are things that people use to define love.

Is it chemical?
Surely, that's part of it, at least for passionate love. Those drugs our bodies create when near the object of our love can overwhelm us and lead us to believe love is more important than anything else. Thus it like addiction.

In my last post, I equated comfort to dying. All animals seek comfort, but why? If it leads to stagnation and intellectual death, why do we seek it? Thus, why is this a good thing?

A cure for loneliness?
How can we separate a salve for loneliness from the real thing... if there is such a thing?

A proxy for the numinous?
Being "in love" feels a lot like being in touch with the transcendent, and this likely leads back to the chemical aspect. But what if it really is the source for the numinous? Jesus seems to have taught that, though using different language.

Lots of people get pleasure from service or helping others; I do, for one, in certain ways. This is part of why I teach: I can see how what I do helps those around me, and that gives me pleasure. But is that love? Do I love everyone? Hm.

Does the mere proximity of someone to you lead to love? Or time with that person - can people who like each other and enjoy fucking become true lovers and call one another, "My love"? Do shared experiences - good and bad and everything in between - build into something that lays the foundation for love?

Affection from the other?
Does repeated display of love from someone else lead to feeling in love, one's self? Does the mere act of reciprocation become love?

Expedient or practical?
Being in love leads to living together which leads to reduced bills and greater security both in the now and for the future. It's like the feral cat who discovers that allowing those big, scary humans to pet it leads to food and bowls of milk on the back porch. It's how we turned wolves and wild dogs into creatures who roll over on their backs when we scold them for barking. This is domestication, a synonym for becoming tamed, becoming under someone's control. So does love lead to comfort which leads to the mind-death?

I could ask other questions, too, but you get the idea. A cynic might wonder if love is pure selfishness - but mindless biological selfishness. That is, love makes us feel better, less lonely, and in touch with the numinous while it satisfies other needs. Biological selfishness is something that drives us rather than something which we understand and can control; and if we're driven toward something that kills us by inches, why do it?

I love tatsuko_shikibu, my kitty. I don't understand that. Yes, she's a pleasure to pet, and she does things which suggest that she loves me, whatever that means to a conscience-less predator. I protect her and feed her and clean her litter box; I make sure someone is home to watch her while I'm away. We have more than a decade of history together: I watched her evolve from a puff of fur to a violent play-partner to an adult cat who sleeps on the comforter of my bed in the winter. I behave in these and other ways that suggest I love her. But is that love?

I want to believe love is something magical and core to being alive, but what if it's just these things, just a biological drive no more important in the scheme of things than clean water or a roof over one's head - or less important, really. What if it's just a program in our mammalian genes to ensure the survival of our species, no different from LJ's line of code that translates my typed text here into a post others can read?

What is love? What are your thoughts?


Jack Williamson memorial this Thursday

From Betty Williamson:

For those of you who have not yet heard, or who will not have access to the local newspapers, Jack's memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16th [this coming Thursday], in the Ballroom of the Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. Connie Willis, Patrice Caldwell, and I are honored to be speaking, with possibly some other friends. A reception will immediately follow to allow family and friends an opportunity to visit.

In lieu of flowers, we are suggesting contributions to the Jack and Blanche Williamson Scholarship, ENMU Foundation, ENMU Station #8, Portales, NM 88130 or the Portales Public Library, 218 South Avenue B, Portales, NM 88130.

Best wishes,
Betty Williamson