The Web Monkey Speaks: Pixelated Presence

How connectivity is ruining our rides

Strava1

“When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is nearby to hear it, does it make a sound?"

God, I've always hated that question–partly because I'm shallow and partly because the people who have posed the tree-in-a-lonely-f@cking-forest riddle during the past three hundred years have often suggested that a thing unobserved, is a thing that, in essence, never happened.

Rubbish.

The moon, as Albert Einstein, once told Niels Bohr, is up there in the sky whether or not you bother to look up at it. It doesn't need your permission or attention to exist.

This, I imagine, is also why the Arawaks–the first tribe Christopher Columbus encountered in the new world–were loathe to high-five the explorer when he explained that he'd just discovered their island and then demanded they hand over some gold and slaves. A real prince, that Columbus. His letter home read (and I shit you not) "They [the natives] were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

But I digress….

Things–trees crashing in forests, key planets in our solar system, the friggin' Bahamas–exist and have value whether or not we observe them, map their trajectories or plant the flag of Spain on them. To think otherwise is to be a narcissistic prat.

And yet I have to admit that I find myself often being that kind of prat when I ride my bike.

Upon planting the flag of Spain in the "new world" Columbus reportedly told the leader of the native Arawaks, "Dude, I just discovered your country for you. You totally owe me some gold. And slaves. Slaves would be rad." Surprisingly, Columbus is not considered a hero by all.
Upon planting the flag of Spain in the “New World,” Columbus reportedly told the leader of the native Arawaks, “Dude, I just discovered your country for you. You totally owe me some gold. And slaves. Slaves would be rad.” Surprisingly, Columbus is not considered a hero by all.

My life is awesome–look, here’s proof

The other day, for instance, I managed to find the perfect gear and cadence on this mother of a climb that usually leaves me weak-kneed and gasping like a fish. I crested the hill, full of piss and vinegar and at twice my normal speed. For a brief second, I was thrilled by my personal triumph and then, just as quickly, I was devastated when I realized that I hadn't turned on Strava or even captured the event on my cyclo-computer.

Shit. Now I'll never know how fast I was. Wait, maybe I was a lot slower than I think I was…. Maybe I just thought I was fast and smooth today, but really, I'm probably way slower than I was on this climb two years ago. Crap.

Then I realized I was thinking all of the above and promptly hated myself.

Did I really have to record and time-stamp that moment in order for it to be worthwhile? Isn't it enough to simply be out on a bike, doing what I love, instead of stewing away in a cubicle or mopping a floor or washing dishes or grunting my way through the myriad other crappy things I've done to make a living? Why do I even feel the need to rank that experience or record it on a graph on my laptop?

Photo by LoKan Sardari
Photo by LoKan Sardari

Hold the “sharing”

It's silly, this constant cataloging and rating of life. The social media posts about what we're about to eat, the rush to constantly pull out a smartphone and tweet what is happening around us…It all misses the point of, you know, living your life.

I know all this, but I have to admit, I still fall into the trap.

I gave my oldest daughter a digital camera for her birthday. It seemed like a great gift and she loves it–but I regret buying the thing because every time we stumble across something cool–a sea otter playing in the kelp, or a red dragonfly buzzing over the picnic table or a dead cat on the driveway (yes, my kid's morbid)–she immediately starts scrambling around for her camera while the moment slides away from her.

I shake my head at my child, but I realize I'm just as guilty. I'm often rushing to capture a moment in pixels or on a computer instead of sitting back and relishing it for what it is. Which is a shame. If you spend all your time recording your life, you wind up not actually living much of it.

Ten years from now, I won't give a damn what my heart rate or cadence was on that climb. I'll just want to relive what it felt like.

I'm going to head out tomorrow and I won't tap that Strava icon on my phone. I'll leave the GPS unit at home. Instead, I'll savor the feeling of turning the pedals. I'll remember to look around me for once–to appreciate the seasons, the trail, the simple act of escaping. If you're already doing all of the above, power to you–you're way ahead of me. If you're not, you might want to give it a try.

Related:

The Web Monkey Speaks: Creeping Death

The Web Monkey Speaks: Circulus, Where Are You?

The Web Monkey Speaks: Buzzkill