My friend found an insanely sincere old e-mail I sent him and said he thought, in retrospect, that it was funny. I've copied it below and yeah, it is funny. But I still believe every word and I'm pretty sure I gave this exact same speech to some poor bastard on Friday night.
But you know, if I believe it, then I believe it.
The context is... I said doing an IronMan was a spiritual experience. Now, I am not the sort of person that uses the word 'spiritual' sparingly. I have walked out of yoga classes because the instructor referred to the 'spirituality' of the people in the room. Manufactured collective sentiment makes me nauseous, which is why I hate going to gigs. But anyway, my friend said there was nothing spiritual about a triathlon, it's just a bunch of people in weird clothes performing a difficult but ultimately trivial task.
Well, by any definition of spirituality I have read, I disagree and maintain what I say below.
I should also point out that I kind of plagiarized some of this from 'Hands on a Hard Body', a beautiful documentary about mental strength and probably my favorite film ever.
I just saw this email from you, well funny:
Nothing is spiritual when described in those terms. You could call bathing in the Ganges "dipping your ankles in some shitty water" or a pilgrimage to Mecca as "a long hot walk to some dustbowl". And agreed, there is nothing spiritual about running on a treadmill. Or eating liquid sugar. Or buying a carbon fibre bike. But, like Lance Armstrong said, it's not about the bike, it's about the soul of the person riding it.
"‘I had learned what it means to ride the Tour de France. It’s not about the bike. It’s a metaphor for life, not only the longest race in the world but also the most exalting and heartbreaking and potentially tragic. It poses every conceivable element to the rider, and more: cold, heat, mountains, plains, ruts, flat tires, high winds, unspeakable bad luck, unthinkable beauty, yawning senselessness, and above all, a great deep self-questioning. During our lives we’re faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope."
I agree with that 100%. Maybe its trite, maybe its laughable, but I don't care. You look at cycling and you see some fit guys in stupid outfits pushing wheels round. I see guys who are at their pain threshold, looking inside themselves to see who they really are. There's no knowing irony, or pretending that we didn't really care in the first place. The layers of bullshit that most people, especially myself, project outwards on a daily basis are blown away.
And that's the thing about IronMan or the Tour de France or whatever. It is so insanely fucking hard that when you compete you are vulnerable. You are putting yourself on the line. It is brave and not a lot of people want to take that sort of risk, expose themselves like that. To me, the underlying pointlessness of the whole endeavor only magnifies it's beauty.
p.s. When I googled Mecca, the first listing was Mecca Bingo.