I compare my novel Time is Gold (2019) with a book I love, Robert Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), reputed to be the most popular philosophy book ever written, selling over 5 million copies.
Time is Gold is fiction with a similar philosophical underpinning.
The genre of Persig’s novel is a roman-a’-clef, in which real people or events appear with invented names, in much more than a travel story. Time is Gold is a coming-of-age epic adventure thriller.
Both books are steeped in Zen philosophy applied to adventuring.
Robert Persig cared for his motorbike, often taking it to pieces and reassembling it, the way people care for their horses. In his book The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance he demonstrates his Zen philosophy of ‘quality’ living, with care as a compromise between mechanical classicism and romantic spirituality. His son, Chris, goes with him as pillion passenger on a long journey and learns his philosophy of ‘quality’.
In Time is Gold, Maxi is a schoolgirl with running talent whose training is taken over by a team of expert coaches from whom she learns ‘extreme flow’, a philosophy of optimal performance time. Jack Cram is a university research student who helps his girlfriend Maxi to combine, physiology, physics, psychology and neuroscience and Zen in her training. Her story is punctuated with marathon race reports in high level competition.
Maxi tunes up her body for marathon running like a complex technology, in the Zen way, with her attention on goals and processes but not outcomes. Maxi balances physical and mental demands as she approaches Zen mastery.
The protagonists’ journeys are seldom downhill. Phaedrus, Persig’s autobiographer, contends with the aftermath of an earlier nervous breakdown. Jack’s career in industry gets off to a rocky start. These experiences open them to radical experimentation to achieve their personal needs. They have successes, becoming euphoric, with some poetic descriptions.
Maxi’s racing is punctuated by coaching dialogues, whereas Persig’s protagonist Phaedrus reflects between adventures.
Readers interested in endurance and resilience in any field of performance or problem solving will be enlightened by Time is Gold. Why do athletes inspire us so much?
Available from Amazon. Reviews at https://martinknox.com
You may already be using ‘flow’ for optimal achievement that is timeless. Extreme flow is ultra goal-focussed, fully mentally engaged and skilled to automaticity. Enforced isolation is an opportunity to attain these through more concentration, less disruption and honing of your skills in any occupation. Benefits are improved performance, dilation of your time and delay of aging. My novel Time is Gold explains how an endurance runner trains to break the world record using Extreme Flow. Book available on Amazon https://martinknox.com
Why strive? Unless you are a masochist, or obligated to a sadist, you need to understand why you habitually compete, train, perform, rehearse, withdraw, study, read, write, paint, lift weights, golf, run, swim, diet or engage in physically and mentally strenuous activities.
Maybe you do it to relieve physical exuberance, social sensation or to ease status anxiety.
You could also do it simply for the joy of it.
Joy manifests happiness, which according to Aristotle, is the Chief Good. There are 4 kinds of Happiness recognised by the Happiness Alliance: hedonism, eudaimonia, spiritualism and flow. I believe Extreme Flow is optimal achievement that dilates time.
Extreme Flow is joyful accomplishment by focussing on a personal goal with full and skilful mental engagement. It is not meditation or mindfulness. Nor does it nurture you to seek external rewards. The joy comes in achieving continuously, striding over hurdles like a succession of sub-goals that are part of achieving the overall goal of a personal best. It is joy you can have training and performing. It is joy that takes your mind off the pain in your body. Your mind has to be totally committed to your every stride.
My futuristic novel Time is Gold tells the story of Maxi, who trains using Extreme Flow to break the world marathon record, coached by experts. It is available from Amazon.