Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Of Things That Weren’t

Oddly enough time has been rushing by of late and I’ve been meaning to post a few thoughts. I guess this one is an effort to get some of those thoughts across.

Red Queen Hypothesis

In an effort to reacquaint myself with things long lost, I dug out my old intro Bio textbook buried deep in a closet in Pennsylvania. I immediately opened to a page that had an interview with Stephen J. Gould. I used to love reading his science writings as I felt that he had the amazing dual facet of being equally brilliant at research and explaining it (the two seem to be much more commonly mutually exclusive and often inversely proportional). Anyway, in this particular interview he explained how a commonly held conception about evolution was that it was constantly improving things. In reality this is far from observations. I think that people, even I the ever pessimist included, like to think that things are getting better, when in fact they are just standing still. Professor Gould popularised the idea that the bulk of evolution is neutral and only very infrequently advantageous. There is a constant state of flux, but it is merely to keep what you already have – running to stand still.

A quote from the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland:

"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

Although I despise the application of scientific concepts to popular culture, I feel that the parallels between training and evolution merit examination. We like to feel that we are getting stronger, despite going for long periods making little or no progress. It takes an enormous effort to stay where you are. I was going to post with this, but given that my injury brought on such a decrease in performance, there was only one way to go from there. Every session has seen some progress, but I do still remember a time when this was painfully true.

To Dream Again

This leads me to another thought… I’m no longer horribly injured, weak or just trying to survive the monsoon season. Eek – it’s time to climb again. It’s time to set goals and have dreams again. Having survived this long, I can easily say that this is much harder than not dreaming at all.

You have ideas of things in your head that you might accomplish. These goals usually stem from some form of self belief. You might be able to do it or you might not. I sometimes don’t know which is worse. Letting yourself dream again is leaving yourself open again – to disappointment, failure and so forth. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all’, or so I keep telling myself. While the less poetic side of me is saying, ‘here we go again…’

Of all the things that weren’t… most importantly (even more so than bouldering, gasp!) I ought to be off doing a PhD, not another MSc. I actually gone through all of the motions of being upset an angry about this so many times that I actually got sick of myself. Now I think that it’s finally time to say, yes, I ought to be in a different place, but what I have isn’t that bad either.

I wish life was different. I wish I was hiking V7 and getting on better with running. I wish that I automatically woke well rested at 7:30 AM each day. I wish that my hair was shinier and I was more settled and not afraid to cross roadworks covers for fear of fracturing my foot again. I wish that I always sat up straight and chose whole grain bread. I wish that I was I more mature about tomatoes – everyone else seems to get on with them. I wish that I accomplished more, yet still was able to believe deeply in what I already had.

Or alternatively, I could agree that life is hard and doing something with it is even harder (Rock Warrior’s Way again, can’t be bothered to look up the exact quote).

Of all the things that weren’t… can’t be and should never stop what will be.


Stubbs said...

Thankfully the 'running we do to stay in the same place' (training) is normally fun - I enjoy it, and from your previous blog entries it seems like you do to. I think it's important not to lose sight of this - it's hard work and sometimes the gains can be hard to see, but this type of hard work is fun, right?


ps - i agree about tomatoes, yuk.

Jenn said...

Cheers for the comments.

Yes, I agree it is fun, but extremely frustrating when you pick up an injury and are forced to stop! I’m still struggling with making up for lost time. Oh well, it’s definitely preferable to not being able to climb at all :-)