Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Parallel of the day: Music and Cycling

Ah, the wonder of the interwebs.... Today while conversing with a colleague about music, he suggested I seek out Robert Fripp. You see, we share an interest in minimalism and post-rock, and, as it turns out, Fripp has remained outside my radar until today. A simple youtube search conjured up this piece, which is, quite frankly, terrific.

Now, what's the parallel, you ask? Well, its really about humility and pain. Fripp is unquestionably a philospher, deeply thoughtful. He recognizes, and this is contentious, I know, that music manifests through us, rather than being created by us. His line about bringing about the conditions/context within which music can manifest being the key to the process, is ATMO, right on the money. This is in fact exactly what any creative process requires, context and inspiration. This is also why researchers have found that cluttery spaces tend to be more conducive to creativity than highly ordered spaces. Think of your desk. Is there stuff on it? Is it neat and tidy, or messy? Clutter/messes are conducive to creativity because the elements of our messes register at the sub-conscious level, and at that level, we process them, recombining, morphing, juxtaposing (however, there is a point at which clutter becomes paralyzing). Creative cognitive processes go on behind conscious thinking. THEN, ideas cross over into our thinking. Eureka. This is all about inspiration, and it fundamentally comes from without, not within. This is why Fripp talks about creating context, and, if I might hazard a guess, why he plays in a large empty space (reverberation chamber) in the video. The space gives back sound in ways he cannot control, which in turn stimulates creativity and a flow of music....through him. Its a dialogue.

Ok, so still, what's the parallel to cycling? "Humiliation is inevitable, painful, and if one has the strength to bear it, very useful." What humiliation you ask? Fripp talks about the humiliation associated with the realization that musicians do not create music, as discussed above. Similarly, cyclists do not create their performances. Rather, what we do on our bikes is bound up with place and our relation to it, along with the others who share that space: context. Riding alone has its advantages: one can riff off the road or trail according to one's fancy. There is certainly a lot of potential for creativity whilst riding alone.

Riding with others affords us the opportunity to learn, challenge ourselves, and be inspired. We pick up a lot we don't register, from the subtle efficiency of the pedal stroke a fellow rider demonstrates, to seamless transitions from hoods to drops another carries out. We don't control our ride, its a dialogue with the others in the group. When the group is right, everyone performs at a level unattainable alone, and the beauty that is a smoothly functioning pace-line manifests. This is poetry in motion, indeed a creative process, and a humbling one at that. The rider who fails to recognize that h/er experiences are bound up with those of others will inevitably suffer humiliation over a poor performance. Recognizing that the elements of success are dynamic and dialogical is the first step toward growth and contentment with riding, at whatever level. Yes, there might be pain associated with the humiliation that sparks this process, but, as Fripp says, "if one has the strength to bear it, [humiliation is] very useful.

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