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THE ART OF BODY MAINTENANCE AND PERFORMANCE

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

DO YOU LIKE ANY THING?

If you answer ‘no’, welcome to the company of non-materialists whose members eschew unnecessary consumption. 

Socrates said “we should eat to live, not live to eat”.

Eating is necessary, but Epicureans eat abstemiously. Epicurus drank only water and ate with others.

Minimalists do without cars and clear their homes of clutter. In their view most products lack beauty, utility and real value. Conservation minded non-materialists believe acquiring things uses scarce resources and pollutes the environment.

Kaczinsky is opposed, violently, to industrial technology because it is created as a surrogate by inept technologists with corrupted goals. He is an extremist included here to show the anti-technology end of a spectrum. Train and plane spotters could be at the other.

Stoics are materially frugal because maintaining luxuries takes a lot of time. It is acceptable to enjoy wealth as long as one is careful not to cling to it.

According to stoic Marcus Aurelius:

‘Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.‘ 

For Marx and Engels, materialism meant that the material world, perceptible to the senses, has objective reality independent of mind or spirit. According to Hegel the world is to be comprehended not as composed of ready-made things but as a complex of processes, in which things apparently stable go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away. These socialists thought that things define the social order:

The master is in possession of a surplus of what is physically necessary; the servant lacks it, and indeed in such a way that the surplus and the lack of it are not accidental aspects but the indifference of necessary needs.

Things can have importance beyond objectivity. People have real affection for certain things and take good care of them. They are fond of the tools they use to make other things in crafts and arts.

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. 

My book Time is Gold is a story about a marathon runner who tunes up her body and mind like a complex technology, in the Zen way, with her attention on goals and processes but not outcomes. When the thing is you, self-care causes liking. https:/martinknox.com

HOW MUCH TRAINING IS JUSTIFIABLE?

‘It’ll be all right on the night’ is the philosophy that a performance will be successful, overcoming problems earlier. Performers can be athletes, sports players, stage artistes, musicians, artists, writers or orators. The presence of an audience, other competitors or judges can possibly stimulate achievement surpassing what they had attained previously in training, practice or rehearsal. A performer who has a large home crowd on the edge of their seats usually does her best.

A performer can’t count on rising to the occasion. Having achieved a personal best in training is an advantage. Not all training is for fine tuning. Training can be done for preparation, technique development and refinement, physical testing, assessment, familiarisation, habituation to venue and climate, lowering of perceived effort, hypertrophy and to build self-confidence. Practice and rehearsal aim to anticipate performance and competition conditions. At an elite level, ‘It’ll be all right on the night’ is less acceptable and instead many performers follow long, intense training programmes.

In my novel ‘Time is Gold’ Maxi experiments with and learns to use Extreme Flow for an attempt on the world marathon record, coached by her physicist partner Jack and a team of experts in psychology, physiology, neuroscience and Zen. The story is futuristic and describes fine-tuning for top performance. Available on Amazon https://martinknox.com

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