17 Jan 2019
I am probably the only New Yorker to have ever been arrested for possessing nunchucks ironically (this Washington Post editorial writer doesn’t count, because he was a genuine nunchaku enthusiast, whereas I was just a dumbass), and frankly, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.
07 Jan 2019
We all know what we see on Facebook or Instagram isn’t “real,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t judge ourselves against it. I find that millennials are far less jealous of objects or belongings on social media than the holistic experiences represented there, the sort of thing that prompts people to comment, I want your life.
29 Dec 2018
While Rockstar’s histories capture an accurate sensibility of American history regarding capitalism, intellectualism, and violence, there’s nevertheless a gaping hole in that narrative regarding race and gender. Red Dead Redemption, again, stands out in the worst way in this instance, with women appearing primarily as prostitutes or damsels, Indigenous Americans depicted as violent drunks, Mexicans shown as backstabbing sex-crazed lunatics, and African Americans not appearing at all. I’ve often read that these problems relate more to the source material Rockstar drew from for Red Dead Redemption - namely Spaghetti and Peckinpah Westerns - rather than any innate desire to replicate racism and sexism on the part of Rockstar itself. This excuse didn’t work in 2010 and certainly doesn’t work now.
28 Dec 2018
Magic is hard and David Blaine and David Copperfield are good at what they do. But magic is also a strong intellectual thing that people don’t see as intellectual, and it’s weird that David Copperfield never addresses that. In his act he goes into “let’s talk about dreams; let’s talk about fantasies” as if he had magical powers. David Blaine does the exact opposite. He wants to present everything as though it were real and not a trick. That’s strange to me morally. I don’t agree with wanting people to leave your show believing something that’s not true. But the fact that David Blaine and David Copperfield are both called the same thing — a magician — when they’re doing the opposite work is something you don’t see in other art forms. That’s the funny thing their success says about magic: Copperfield is going this is totally a fantasy and David Blaine is going this is totally real and yet they have the same job.
27 Dec 2018
Only a true collector would think that art’s power to tie people together could give a helping hand to the Bible.
(Via Hacker News)
26 Dec 2018
Which is why my library is what I call a “sentimental library.” A sentimental library is characterized by memory and association. It’s the halfway point between alphabetical and aesthetic. And, in my case, each book’s placement corresponds not just to when I read it and how I felt, but to whatever activity takes place beneath it now. They are thus animated in a way they might not be otherwise. Like it or not, I am in constant, real-time conversation with their contents.
23 Dec 2018
Changing ones mind, even about core values, is a sign of strength. It means that you are willing to see different points of view, even while you passionately believe something.
28 Nov 2018
In a letter to Hannah Arendt1, Martin Heidegger claims that Augustine once said, “Amo: volo ut sis” — without citation, of course. This leaves us to fend for ourselves in the vast world of Augustine’s writings. Arendt herself continues this sin, first, in Origins of Totalitarianism2 and, again, although less egregiously, in Life of the Mind3. While both Heidegger and Arendt provide us with translations of their own, we are given nothing in the way of guideposts to the original source. In as much as such delving is important, we could be stumbling around in the dark at length. Yet we can do ourselves a favour by turning to Augustine’s most famous conception of love:
For many things may be done that have a good appearance, and yet proceed not from the root of charity. For thorns also have flowers: some actions truly seem rough, seem savage; howbeit they are done for discipline at the bidding of charity. Once for all, then, a short precept is given you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
“Love, and do what you will”. And so, from Augustine we get the same kind of love of Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” — or Samuel Butler’s more popular articulation: “Then spare the rod and spoil the child”. That Butler had a more indecent meaning in mind has not stopped his version from becoming the standard-bearer for the concept. The sentiment behind this kind of love is that of a crucible, that cares not for the object at hand but what it could be. It is the kind of love that acts upon the loved to better it, as a preparation, of sorts, to help it realize the truest version of itself.
Love not in the man his error, but the man: for the man God made, the error the man himself made. Love that which God made, love not that which the man himself made. When you love that, you take away this: when you esteem that, you amend this. But even if you be severe at any time, let it be because of love, for correction.
There are times where one acts in the best interest of another, despite what may be easier or what either may desire. Even when we find the rod itself to be too extreme, there is something common enough about this notion and it is one that any parent understands: “though I may appear rough or cruel, I am trying to do what is good for you”. This is the love by which the world grows. That which, in recognition of an error, is compelled to act as a corrective. When we do not take the world as it is, but as it could be.
Amo: Volo ut sis is not this. The Latin translates, most directly, to “I love: I will you to be”. Not merely “want” but “will” in that there a sense that my love brings you into being. It is a definition of the concept, but love must always be directed, it requires an object towards which it is aimed. A relation, not an emotion. Which is not to say that love is unfelt, but it is felt in that relation. Arendt (and then Augustine) tells us that, “Love is the soul’s gravity, or the other round: ‘the specific gravity of bodies is, as it were, their love, whether they are carried downwards by their weight, or upwards by their levity. For the body is borne by its gravity, as the spirit by love, whithersoever it is borne.’”.
I love — and the very fact of my love is that I wish for you to be as you are, without response or reciprocation to be fulfilled. That I am pulled towards you without pulling back in kind. Volo ut sis. I love what you are. That you are. Without the need for the lover.
But even the pull helps highlight the tragic sense to it. We are broken, we are messy creatures — and if our love were truly perfect, it would not need to be articulated at all. Amo. I love. Not te amo. Without the object even being needed to be directed at. It simply would be a love that is. So, when we say it — and when we experience the gravity of it — we bring our desire for other into the world. We want to praise and appreciate and maintain the object at which it is directed, but the direction frames it as something that we want. As a possession (or to be possessed by the object of desire, likewise reducing it).
Yet this is still the highest form of love, the greatest affirmation. It was with this love that Augustine’s God willed the human into the world, not as something desired, but as something to be accepted as is. That God is capable of such love is a matter of divinity (and with the advantage of eternity). All we can do with our mortal measure of grace is make the attempt. So we try and we pair our love with a promise. “I will you to be” says “I will you to be as you are, but my very willing reveals that I desire to possess or fulfill rather than simply appreciate — but I wish that I could will you to be. And I wish that I could overcome my imperfections to accept, without conditions, instead of desire.
Amo: Volo ut sis speaks to a love that seeks. That wishes. That tries. It is neither an emotion nor a relation. It is a reminder and a promise. It is a desire not only for the object towards which it is aimed, but also a desire that wishes mastery over itself. To love with a love that is more than love.4
It is through this promise that we arrive at true political life, power with rather than power over: we love the world in which others are possible, not for their particular qualities, but the mere possibility of those qualities being expressed in public. It is a love empty of possession by virtue of the fact that it is independent of what will be revealed in that space of appearances where you become you — and that is only possible by virtue of being together. It is not merely that I want you to be, but my love wills you into being because you appear as you in this space that is politics.
I love. Through my love, I will you, as an individual completely apart and distinct from me, into being. By the sign of my love, I bring you into being — and you me. The possibility of that can only ever be promised, not held. So I love and I promise and together we make the world. Amo: Volo ut sis.
“Thank you for your letters - for how you have accepted me into your love - beloved. Do you know that this is the most difficult thing a human is given to endure? For anything else, there are methods, aids, limits, and understanding - here alone everything means: to be in one’s love = to be forced into one’s innermost existence. Amo means volo, ut sis, Augustine once said: I love you - I want you to be what you are.” -Letters, 1925-1975 ↩
“This mere existence, that is, all that which is mysteriously given us by birth and which includes the shape of our bodies and the talents of our minds, can be adequately dealt with only by the unpredictable hazards of friendship and sympathy, or by the great and incalculable grace of love, which says with Augustine, “Volo ut sis (I want you to be),” without being able to give any particular reason for such supreme and unsurpassable affirmation.” -The Origins of Totalitarianism - Chapter IX: The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man ↩
“What is saved, moreover, in this transformation of his earlier conception is the Will’s power of assertion and denial; there is no greater assertion of something or somebody than to love it, that is, to say: I will that you be—Amo: Volo ut sis.” -The Life of the Mind - Part 2, Chapter 2: Augustine, the First Philosopher of the Will. ↩
“I was a child and she was a child, / In this kingdom by the sea, / But we loved with a love that was more than love— / I and my Annabel Lee—.” -Edgar Allen Poe, “Annabel Lee”
28 Oct 2018
- What? Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
- When? 21 October, 2018
- How far? 42.2km
- Where? Toronto, ON
- Website: http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com
- Sportstats: https://www.sportstats.ca/display-results.xhtml?raceid=94600&bib=2858
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1919192250
- Finish time: 3:14:12.4
That this was my first full marathon meant that it was going to have a weight to it regardless, but this year has been a hard one – more than this year, truthfully. At points I have felt a bit untethered and getting out to train has been one of the ways that I have stayed grounded. Even when I had a bad run or fell off my plan, the routine was a banister that I could reach for when life did what life does.
I can’t recall how far back I set my B and C goals, but coming in under 5 min/km was the aim from the very beginning. It was completely arbitrary and, after my first half marathon back in May, it was fairly clear that sub-3:30:00 was an entirely reasonable time to aim for. Over the summer, I swayed between overconfidence and worry, neither entirely grounded in reality, but eventually I settled into 3:25:00 as within reach if the conditions were right.
On an unrelated note, it doesn’t take much for me to consider assaulting strangers: my Airbnb was next to some sort of acoustic guitar open mic night that went until well beyond my entirely reasonable 10pm bedtime. Upside: I had a roommate. I have not decided if that roommate made up for the 5 hour Greyhound ride I had to take in order to get into Toronto (and nothing makes up for the 5 hour ride back after the race, but #lifechoices).
There was one additional detail that I couldn’t resolve in training, but had to learn by doing: each race I did this year had me bursting out of the gate, trying to go stride for stride with those who were in better shape than me. As far as strategies go, it is not a particuarly strong one, but adrenaline and idiocy are hard to overcome. The plan this time was to set myself up so that it would be difficult to lead the pack, even if I wanted to: I was going to start at the very back of the first corral and gradually work my way up to race pace. When you don’t have very good discipline, sometimes you fake it.
Race Start - 10km
And sometimes, you’re a liar. No, I was nowhere near the front – and I did have the 3:25:00 pacer a decent length ahead of me – but the back just felt so far… back. To my credit, I did start off at a comfortable 4:45 min/km pace. I distinctly recall thinking that I could have kept that up forever. It is a completely different sensation to be casually rolling along with a pack of runners rather than weaving through them in an attempt lead rather than follow. Gradually, I settled in somewhere around 4:30 min/km, which was ahead of my goal time, but I had no intention of maintaining that for the whole race. If I maintained it through the first half, even when I hit the 30k wall, I would have banked some time.
I am not a cold weather runner. I much prefer the sensation of rapidly approaching dehydration that comes with hot weather running. But people who race in late October can’t be choosers. While I had a couple of long training runs in the cold, I hadn’t figured out what my clothing strategy was going to be. So my game day decision was to stick with a long sleeve technical shirt and leave my running jacket at the bag check, on the assumption that I would regret racing with it. This was a silly idea given that I checked my bag almost an hour before the start, but it was the right call: very early in the race I was gazing longingly at folks running with exposed skin, which is somewhat of a creepy sentence to have written, but I regret nothing: I was warm and jealous. To get a bit of cool air flowing, I pocketed my gloves and took my stretch headband/cap/thing off and wrapped it around my wrist. It proved to be a weird look, but I appreciated the cool air.
11km - 20km
The first half of this course is a delight: nice scenery, comfortable elevation, and good spots for crowd interaction. I was glad to have had my “bad” half-marathon last month, because I remembered to have fun with this one. I laughed and smiled at strangers. I tapped those tap here to power up signs. I even grabbed a couple selfies on the course – which felt strange at the time and feels stranger still in retrospect, but I tried to enjoy myself with the course. Plus, I wanted to commemorate the moment on the course where the half-marathon runners split off to do their last couple of kilometres, while the rest of us fools were just getting started.
Around kilometre 18, a runner ahead of me fumbled while taking off gloves, and one fell to the ground. Before I knew what I was doing, I leaned over and scooped it up as I ran by – only to see another drop. Not wanting to either return a single glove or hold onto a stranger’s sweaty glove for the rest of the race, I grabbed the second and sped up to return them. The confusion I saw looking back at me as I handed them back made me realize that it was deliberate. But, because I had done a mitzvah, they weren’t going to just throw them away. Worse still, I settled into pace with them, so they were stuck with those gloves for the foreseeable future. At least until I was out of sight, anyway.
21km - 30km
Somewhere around this point, I had one of those dumb runner fantasies that are completely ungrouned in reality: “I bet a sub-3:10 is possible”. Sure, I had run a comfortable half and felt like there was lots of energy left, but that energy was already claimed by my traitorous brain to fuel my legs for a reasonable finish. There certainly wasn’t enough for me to shave 2 minutes off over the next 21k. But we runners love our lies like “I’m saving something for the last 5k” or “I don’t care when someone passes me”.
The race began to get a bit lonely towards the end of this stretch. I had joined a few racers who pushed ahead of our pacer, but we lost cohension as people started to hit their walls. All of my training this year has been solo, so I was surprised to find myself looking for a buddy to stay with for a while. Yet, despite the fact that I was keeping relatively steady splits, anyone I fell in with either pulled ahead or dropped back. The legs still felt good and my breathing was fine, so, as I crossed the 30k marker, I resigned myself to keeping company with Chromeo and Carly (Rae Jepsen).
31km - Finish
For the last year and a half, I have used my AirPods almost every day – and certainly for all my training. The problem is that the battery has to be big enough to fit inside your ear and, over time and usage, batteries degrade. Add to that the fact that I had a solid hour between putting my headphones in and the race, and it is no surprise that Chromeo abandoned me at 32km. It be unfair of me to blame a Canadian electro-funk duo for my lagging pace, but it certainly is not this guy’s fault.
However that guy clearly did something wrong: a woman passed me in this section with a level of aggressiveness usually reserved for people trying to bring a full shopping cart to the 10 items of less lane. We were on what might have been the most wide open stretch of the course and I was hugging the side of the road pretty tightly. Apparently, not tightly enough. After staying on my heels for a few strides, she decided to overtake me with something in between rubbing elbows and a body slam. I made Canadians everywhere proud by apologizing for her behaviour, but I am not sure she even noticed what had happened: whatever reserve of energy she was drawing on to burst ahead had her stumbling along like Jackie Chan in The Legend of Drunken Master. Remembering how that movie ended forced me to reconsider returning the favour.
There were couple minutes here where I swear it started to faintly rain. It was so light that I thought I might be imagining it, but the cold reached my fingers which made it real enough for me to care. I had a brief thought for my glove-dropping friend 15k ago and wondered if there was an engagement ring waiting for me at the end of the race (or bread – boy did I want bread more than anything in that moment), before snapping back to reality and putting mine back on. Unfortunately, they were not magic gloves of endurance. Every kilometre from the 35th on, I told myself, “Next kilometre I’m going to turn on the gas”. That… did not happen. No amount of Maple Syrup Gel, chewable gels, or Gatorade was going to change the fact that I was tired down to my bones. If the half-marathon turnoff had come at this point, there’s a very good chance I would have taken it. Unfortunately, the only way out was through, so I shambled onward to the finish line.
A constant theme of my races this year has been that I end them like a drama queen. This was no exception and, thankfully, a race photographer snapped what might be my favorite photo of me ever. That is a man with regrets. It’s also a man steps away from the finish line and I certainly was grateful for that.
I was also grateful that the photographer did not follow me after that last shot, because I immediately started to have a big ol’, cathartic ugly cry. One of the medical staff came over to check up on me, which I simultanously appreciated and recoiled from. He seemed to understand and left me alone after confirming that I was not dying on the outside. The same level of understanding cannot be said for the volunteer who handed me a space blanket: that teenager looked horrified at the conspicuous display of emotion and tried to give me the blanket without being any closer than he had to be. The difficulty I had wrapping it around myself did me no favours in earning his respect. Rather than trying to convince him of my coolness, I let it slide and sought out the sweet oblivion of warm clothing – or, at least, warm reflective plastic.
Just like with my first race of the season, I again exceeded my most optimistic expectations. That has a lot to do with being new to this and not having the best sense as to what goals are reasonable, but I also put in the work necessary to have a great running year. Crossing that finish line in Toronto comes from almost 1500km of training runs this year and I feel good about it. I am already idly wondering how low I can get that time and there are obviously lots of things to improve (diet, pacing, moving to a climate where there is no snow), but this is an unequivocal win that couldn’t have come at a better time. Knowing me, I am very quickly going to move onto the next challenge, but this race was last weekend and I’m still basking in its afterglow. Granted, that might be indicative of brain damage suffered over the course of the marathon. Still, I am going to enjoy it.
See you out on the pavement.
28 Sep 2018
“That is both the gift and the curse of the marathon,” Cass said. “When you finally get it right, it’s the product of 30 variables that you have maybe 50 percent control of. When you get it wrong, you try to analyze all 30 of those variables. It’s nearly impossible to figure out exactly what went wrong and how to make it better next time. But that’s the goal. To take a look at what happened and go back to the drawing board. And, if it’s in the cards, to give it another go.”