Monday, May 24, 2010

Tools and limits.

Blake, via Wendall Berry on the proportion of just control: "No bird soars too high if he soars on his own wings." Only when our acts are empowered by more than bodily strength do we need to think of limits. Think of the axe. Before the tool, a fight between two people could be healthy. Harm could be caused, an issue subdued in physical form, a dance of fists ending with lasting pain, but rarely death. Suddenly a simple hatchet appears, and the force that goes into, say, a slap, ends in a decapitation. The invention of tools led to a very real need for restraint.

In all phyiscal activity I often find myself coming back to something I first realized skiing. The model of human body I was delivered is capable of about 12-18 MPH unaided, and is built to sustain a fall of 12 feet or so from a little cliff. Into soft things, like dirt and foliage. Something to remember when zipping through a city of concrete grids in between 2 ton chunks of metal on a bike at 25-35 mph. It's a little bit like cheating. A psychological balance, a suspension of disbelief. The high that comes with playing this game is not unlike the experience of an urban Icarus. Except in place of something ambivilant and poetic, like the sun, on a bike you're snuffed out by a trucker with an eagle tattoo and a penchant for Rush Limbaugh.

This is the talisman of restraint, the quiet check and balance that keeps me alive. It is renewed, from time to time, with gruesome stories floating in from friends or the web. 6 cyclists in Montreal scattered like bowling pins. A friend with no memory. An acquaintance with no face. Life is a normaling network, days strung together, how quickly it changes. I consider myself fragile, consider myself lucky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Completely random, but you brought me back to the good ol' days. Last season or maybe the season before (can't say for sure) the skiing world record for largest cliff skied was broken. It was some Norwegian guy who made a wrong turn in his line and ended up hitting a 300 foot , give or take a few feet, cliff on accident. He was okay. The human body is invincible!