On Falling Down

When we’re kids we fall all the time. Sometimes even on purpose. I stacked it more times that I can count riding bikes, skateboarding, falling out of trees and other various shenanigans in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, running downhill on a trail, I caught my right toe on something and fully laid myself out at speed. My left shoulder took the most of it, then the left knee. Rocks. Roots. It happened instantly, without warning – yet paradoxically – I have the distinct memory of that time in the air thinking, “oh, shit.” That part seemed to take a long time. Or at least long enough for me to process it.

The first few moments after a fall like that are existential. Think about the last time you fell, hard. That’s the Universe in a single moment right there. That’s Enlightenment. There’s nothing else but that moment. I guarantee you are not thinking about anything else. You could sit a 1,000 hours of meditation and not get quite the same feeling as the instant when you collide with the ground unexpectedly and emphatically. It’s Gensa stubbing his toe x 100.

“But after a period of studying with Seppo, Gensa figured it was time to go meet some other teachers so that he could get a more well-rounded education. He packed his bags and started walking toward the temple gate.

Just then he stubbed his toe on a big rock. There was blood all over the place, and his toe hurt like nobody’s business. Gensa thought, “Some say the physical body doesn’t exist, so where, then, is this pain coming from?” He returned to the temple.

Seppo, his teacher, saw him and asked, “What’s up, Mr. Hard Practice?”

Gensa said, “My trouble is I can’t be fooled.”

Seppo said, “Who doesn’t know this deep down? But who else besides you can say it out loud?”

– Brad Warner, Don’t Be a Jerk: And other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master

The subsequent moments after hitting the ground were almost euphoric. “I didn’t die.” I made it. Elation. In a weird way it almost felt good to fall. For one, it told me where the limit was, but also it brought me immediately back to the present. All the thoughts that had been ruminating in my head prior to that moment as I careened out of control down a hill – thoughts that had nothing to do with what I was doing or where I was (part of the problem) – seemed suddenly foolish. Irrelevant.

SMACK. RIGHT HERE IS WHERE YOU ARE.

The Universe was telling me to slow the fuck down. “We’re gonna give you a pass on this one ‘cause we dig what you’re doing – but don’t be an idiot about it.” Noted.

It’s been awhile since I smacked the earth that hard. Is that the problem? Is it because as we get older we do it less therefore it’s a bigger deal when we do? Should we be falling more? Seems that’s a double-edged sword.

Sage Internet Philosopher of our times, Stevil, is perhaps onto something:

It would seem more accurately, we’re never too old to do anything – except fall down – that’s the part that becomes problematic. Please pass the ibuprofen.

In the final Universal twist of irony, Coach has me running same trail today on the training plan. Back on the horse as they say.

50@50

Was out running the other day and had a brainstorm – or a brain fart depending on how you look at it. Decided since I’ll be 50 this year I’d try to run 50k on my birthday in November. So here we go.

Started ‘training’ last week and Coach made me get on the Strava again to see my numbers, so if you’re so inclined you can follow along there.

Coach’s new website sure is fancy. [wink]

Morning Stretch

Yesterday morning I thought of my friend Movement Amy as I was outside watering plants around my yard and stretching down and pulling 100’ of hose and balancing on rocks and off camber surfaces and stooping and swaying my arms and I thought ‘geez how many million things are firing right now in my body to make all these things happen without me thinking about that until just now and how good it feels to use it and revel in it as I move.

I noticed she’s opened a new chapter in her book of whatever it is we’re all doing on this planet:

If you’re local, you should check her out. She’s the goods. If you’re not local, she’ll also make you your own special videos and send them to you with internet magic. I got 3. Game changers.

No more events today.

Saturday was open. Up early and made coffee in the underground lair while listening to the Bosstones. Headed out for a walk with Titus.

Talked about nihilism and child prodigies. Sartre and the Stoics. The weekly menu and cooking rotation as an element everyday existence. Russian prisoner camps and optimism. Canadian Literature and its identity crisis. Drank coffee.

Later. Bike ride. Old haunts have changed color. Watched some light dance in the sky.

May, 2019
Same spot January, 2021

Soon I will eat my fill of instant-pot French-dip sandwiches and most likely fall asleep watching the Habs game before I pull myself up the stairs to collapse and sleep the sleep of Ivan Denisovich. I have a bed and some SkratchLabs for tomorrow so tonight I am the King of all I survey.

That’s it. You’re up to speed.

Productivity & Distraction

Cal Newport dropped Staying Productive on Distracted Days over on his blog and it’s a nail-on-the-head observation for me.

“Productivity” is a slippery term. It’s often used to refer exclusively to the rate at which you produce value for your business or employer. I tend to apply it more broadly to describe the intentional allocation of your time and attention toward things that matter to you and away from diversions that don’t.

A lot of days, this probably involves a solid push on professional activities, as craft is an important part of cultivating a deep life. But not every day. If there are consequential national events transpiring, or you’re dealing with a crisis in your personal life, or you’re not feeling well, a productive day doesn’t necessarily require steady progress through a task list.”

Since the switch to working from home as a result of Covid-19, this has become a daily reality for me. I’ve come to look at it more as being ‘productive’ on the project of what David Cain likes to call ‘getting better at being human’. Sometimes that means day-job work and sometimes it applies to other things as well. In the end, both streams benefit.