I awoke in the corner of my tent
wrapped warmly in my sleeping bag. As I began to move I felt the stiffness
settling into my limbs from riding. Walking out of my tent I was crouched over
and limping. I took my time packing my tent, carefully trying not to strain my
tight back. Doppel came back from the riverside.
"Another beautiful day," he said.
"There's something very cleansing about Canada's
summers. How's that bum knee today?"
"Sore knee today but it should iron out. Pain is one
of those things one has to live with."
"Very Aristotelian of you."
"I remember that year you couldn't walk," I said. "I
know you know about pain." We seldom discussed his arthritis during that year
he couldn't walk, I wonder if the scar tissue in the ankles bothers him. Both
twins taken down with a limb-related illness.
"It was more like two years."
"Weren't you on crutches for twelve months?"
"About that, but even after I ditched the crutches I
was limping pretty badly for another twelve. In the mornings getting out of bed
was the worst time. Sometimes it took me a few minutes just to stand up. But
one morning the pain just disappeared. It was two weeks shy of two complete
years. That was exactly twenty years ago."
"Has it bothered you since then?"
"The odd time, when I'm overtired my ankles and toes
stiffen. It's just like an old injury."
"Ever worry it may come back?"
"Well, yes. If I were to become sick or run down, it
could return but this time it would be longer and more permanent. But if that's
my fate then I accept it. We are all lily pads partially eaten by some insect
that lives around the pond, eh?"
"We all get nibbled."
"Pain reminds the Viking-Poet that he is living. And
maybe through his exploits can attain freedom from his pain. If he can immerse
himself so deeply into his flow, his zeitqualia, that he loses his sense
of pain and actually skims atop the earth using his momentum to overpower
gravity. Perhaps there is qualia in his pain."
"So, this zeitqualia again, what is
it?" Hand on my chin.
"It's being in the marrow of the
moment, the point zero of incongruity and the flight of least turbulence. It is
the full manifestation of being in the now, sliding on the wet ice of time."
"Okay, but what I mean is, is it a
"Yes. Kant calls it ‘intensive
magnitude' or a degree of influence on the sense. He believed perception
contains sensation and that a magnitude of apprehension causes increased
intensity in the sensation. By removing the translucent glass protecting you
from ontological reality, perceptions clear, become in touch with the raw
texture of adventure, the movement, the strategy of conquering, the mastery of
elements. There is a synergy you get, a high, from the act itself. So many
choose not to undertake exploits and they lack the essential zeitqualia
elements in their lives. That's the point."
"So then this whole thing is a
Crusade? You're a Crusader?" Irony thick.
"You could say that. It's a Crusade
to enlighten those still slumbering, whose instincts are drowsy, and who have
forgotten the thrill of adventure. I care for my fellow man despite the fact
that he is sickly."
"Do you think I'm sick?" That laugh
again, felt good and sad. Most genuine laugh I have ever heard, as if he were
trying to stifle it.
Doppel was packed up so he checked
the air pressure of his tires, tightened his brakes with a quarter turn of the
micro-adjustment screw. He checked the rack before he put his tent on it and
discovered one of the screws fastening the rack onto the back frame had come
loose. So he took out a square-head screwdriver from his tool kit and tightened
it one-and-a-half rotations.
"I'd say this was the source of the
rattling over the bumps yesterday," he said. Since he was at it, he put his
bike upside down on its seat and handlebars and oiled the chain lightly with
more Phil's Tenacious Oil. As he rotated the pedals the chain flowed
smoothly almost without sound or friction, the thick protective oil covering
each link in the chain. His Miele mountain bike was in prime shape.
"It is curious to find so many
behind bars and locked in their jail cell by their own hand," he said. "One of
humankind's most comic traits is shown by those who self-censor their own
spiritual expression and development through the constant and perhaps
uncontrollable repression of their true person. It is a fortress of
self-censorship that imprisons countless people the world. It very well may be
a more punishing form of imprisonment than physical incarceration."
After I loaded the tent and my bag
on the rack, I climbed on my machine and began riding along the smooth, freshly
paved road by the waterway.
For a while I wondered if that
comment about self-censorship and imprisonment was directed at me. I was a
brother who had shut him out. I had lost touch with my compassion and with my
instincts, so he saw me as sick, not quite a 21st-century man but
certainly not a full man.
Coasted with the current of the St.
Lawrence getting close to the Quebec border. The eastern peach warmed the
morning air as we cycled past cozy motels littered along the Parkway near
Maitland. A plaque:
LIEUT.-COL. THAIN WENDELL MacDOWELL,
V.C., D.S.O., 1890-1960
Born in Lachute,
Quebec, MacDowell moved to Maitland in 1897. He attended local schools and
graduated from the University of Toronto in 1915. During World War 1, he
enlisted on January 9, 1915, in the 38th Battalion, C.E.F. On April
9, 1917, during the battle of Vimy Ridge, assisted by two runners, he captured
two machine guns, two officers and seventy-five men. With the vision of the
enemy obscured by a turn in a passage in the dugout, he was able to convince
them that he commanded a vastly superior force. His action eliminated a serious
obstacle to the gaining of his battalion's objective, and he was awarded the
British Empire's highest decoration for valour, the Victoria Cross."
took a swig of water and let it all sink in.
"Sounds like our own Sergeant York,"
"Good example of someone who thrived in the art of
exploit execution. Remember an exploit is when one can see ones own worth,
whether mediocre or filled with modest greatness."
"A good war story."
"Well, that's it isn't it? We don't have wars to fight
- not our generation. So this is our battle: the choosing and the excellent
execution of exploits."
"Well, without the outlet to exploit, a man
with passion will implode from lack of use of vital sensibilities that
make man full."
"Addictions and whatnot."
"Abuse like that, yes. Give a man a battlefield or
playground; it's the same thing. But playgrounds can be truly unique, like the
mountains of Taiwan or the rugged beauty of the St. Lawrence Seaway. But
exploit or war, it's the same ancient codebook of behaviour that springs into
play. The important thing is to expend that energy so that the organism may
"A snowballing action."
"Precisely. It snowballs, both in abilities and from
the inner glow of accomplishment. Part and parcel with the accumulation
of creative achievement is the fervor and flush of what I call infinite
goodness. The outlet of expression is compassion you have for others. Over
time the snowballing glow spills over creating an urge to spread the goodness
around. The act of giving is poetic; so manifesting this action only adds to
the richness of ones brush. "
"I don't know how you did that."
"Howie adapted quickly after that dangling episode off
"She did have excellent balance at the end."
We rode until we came to the town of Prescott. We were
about halfway to Montreal.