- Deep Loafe
- The Anatomy of Decline
The Anatomy of Decline
From the top:
Welcome back, friends.
Read time: beside the point.
Meme theme: None. Only text. You have been forewarned.
See you out there.
A note about today’s post:
The labor of writing is for the writer. Should the writer choose to share that writing, what is produced is taken and interpreted by the reader. There can be a relationship between the writer and the reader where the reader benefits from the writer doing a key thing in the practice:
Writing for one.
Should I choose to spend week after week writing to you, I would need to take into consideration the knowns, and more challenging, the unknowns, for each of you. Rather, I prefer to do my absolute best to write for one: myself. That should get me to producing my best writing, or at least the writing I enjoy producing, and that hopefully, you enjoy reading.
Today’s is such a post. What I have written about here has made sense to me as I wrote it. I needed to write it to reflect on the observations I’ve made about it.
That is the point.
I do hope you enjoy it, or can at least make sense of it, but that is not the only goal necessarily.
“I have long been interested in motor-car design, or the lack of it, and this for two reasons. First, I used to like motoring. Second, I am fascinated by the anatomy of decline, by the spectacle of people passively accepting a degenerating process that is against their own interests.”
E.B. White, One Man’s Meat
Over the course of this summer, I estimate that I’ve ridden my bike several hundred miles in commuting alone.
Most every day, I’ve taken it into town, at least once, in a trip of about 2 miles each way to work from a coffee shop or the library. I often will bring home this or that thing that, upon realizing it is needed (or more often thought of as needed), I’ll pick it up and put it in the remaining room in my backpack.
There is a process each day of choosing which of the two bikes I own to take. Everything I need has a certain place in the house that has found, over time, more of an efficient storage method that makes it a bit more enjoyable the next day to pick up and go out. That doesn’t require it to be faster getting out of the door, but it does mean things have their place.
There’s a helmet, a cycling cap, and either a pair of Vans or cycling shoes with cleats on the bottom, depending on which bike I take.
A pair of white Apple wired headphones connect from my phone in my pocket up and through the buckled straps of my pack, finally looping through the ear holes of my helmet strap and into my ears.
A wallet typically goes in the brain of my pack, but sometimes it will go in the back pocket of the two different pairs of shorts I wear each day: either a black pair of Guess jeans shorts from Goodwill (now forming a sizeable hole in a particular spot, not that one) or a new green pair of shorts that I do not know the name of that Sadie, my wife, got me from a thrift store.
My way into town is largely car-less, involving a wonderful .3 mile stretch of greenway. Although it is short, it is appreciated.
There are a total of 3, but perhaps 4, hills into town depending on which way I take. If I go to a different coffee shop that’s off the highway next to our house, it is rather flat but does involve riding on the sidewalk which I find to be pleasant but inconsistent with norms. It does not involve the greenway. This coffee shop is preferable and is a place I feel known, making sidewalk riding conceivable.
Going the car-less way, I see many of my neighbors, their names I do not know, and say good morning to most of them. I try to make eye contact, acknowledging that we are both in this together.
I pass many squirrels and rabbits along the way. Birds moving this and that way. An assortment of thoughts about these animals come to mind some days - like, Where did they sleep last night? or How long have they been up? or Do they think ‘ahead’? - and other days I just ride, listening to a podcast.
Nothing, essentially, is wrong with the car.
It is a tool created to move and transport across space and time. It has design, intention, creativity, and perhaps even character.
Cumulatively, my car plus your car, plus their car, a real effect is happened upon yours and mine and their neighborhoods. Emissions aside, because there is a vast amount of space in this country and because I can get to you in 15 minutes, being 10 miles or more away, there is less of a reason for your house to be near my house. There is less of a chance then, to notice this and that bird, that neighbor, the opportunity to stop and ask another cyclist if they need help putting their chain back on, or the conversation with a stranger.
And so perhaps I know you less and you know me less. And when the time comes for that to matter, well then the car matters.
These have been my recent observations on The Anatomy of Decline, through riding my bike.
The infrastructure, tools, reality, and conventions we come to accept, whether out of necessity, desire, or foolishness sometimes need to be seen from a different angle.
And sometimes while wearing a helmet.
My car has been a useful tool for me and will continue to be, I am certain. I do now have a counter point of view which is that I have taken many more minutes and at this point potentially a few hours, to travel by bike rather than by car.
It has increased my vitality, a hedge against all that previous decline. A chance each day to gather the things I believe I will need, in an intentional order, and slowly make my way into a place that welcomes me and give me near infinite places to park.
A machine that has no horn of which I should use to transfer the dark thoughts of my heart into the bumper of my neighbor. Instead, I frustratingly capitulate my stature as a cyclist to their right-of-way as a motorist, and my decline again starts over.
And so I ride.
Stuff I’ve Been Into
I am reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Karel Sabbe is one of my favorite runners. He philosophically combines incredible endurance with a beautiful appreciation of moving through the mountains. This is an incredible film about his attempt to set the FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Via Alpina trail in Europe.
Cool thing to check out
Tim Ferris’s “5 Bullet Friday” newsletter.
Training for running again. I’ve chosen a run to do this fall in the mountains near to my house that I’ll be training for over the next 8 weeks or so.
Welp, have a great week. Thanks for reading.