Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Fifteen 


 

  

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I woke up late in the warm sun on the farmer’s field with my arms stiff and unbendable. I carefully stretch them in my tent but cannot unknot them fully. I know now that my descent is in play. I can feel the disease in my organs like my heart and my kidneys. The very core of my limbs ache as if I had acid in my marrow.

Gently hopping on my bike, after a breakfast of bread, cheese and water, we pedaled along Highway 2 just off the gravel shoulder on the pavement. It wasn’t nearly as busy as the main highway going to Montreal so the cycling was good and relaxing. There were no trucks.

As we passed Gray’s Bay we heard honks from a muffled horn of a distant train. Its faint sound was all Canadiana. After a couple hours of riding, Doppel saw a trail so he took it. I had no idea where it led other than it goes north so I followed. Through flowers our wheels rolled and through vegetation chest high and white, all was momentarily frozen in a shimmer. Time had become beautiful.

We whipped down the trail through the grass down the green and gray corridor at a comfortable speed going east with a northerly flow. There was so much color that the bumps and sweat didn’t disturb me. We pedaled until we reached the road again. There were no cars around.

“I think the town of Ivy Lea is just around the corner,” he said.

“Good off-road hit.”

“Yes. Did you know that in the theory of relativity there is no unique absolute time, but instead each individual has his own personal measure of time that depends on where he is and how he is moving.”

“But you see, there’s a subjective view of time.”

“Tell me riding off-road like that didn’t change time?”

“It became more intense.”

“More qualia, more color, more butterflies, more bumps, more smells, more memories than the same kilometer we did before it. Just like time within the workplace is different from time you spend on your bike. It’s quantifiably the same – one minute is one minute – but the experience of time is different. They’re qualitatively different.” He put down his bike and walked in the waist-high grass feeling the tops with the palms of his hands.

“Are you having a moment?”

“Well, I’ve come up with a word: zeitqualia. It’s what we just did: experiencing the flow of time in all its color and texture. That’s what we were doing on our motorcycles in Taiwan. The serious green of the mountains and the cool breeze of the wind and the rocks on the road; they were all part of the qualia of the ride. It is the kaleidoscope of tactile images that penetrate the veil of our senses when we are executing an exploit.”

Zeitqualia. How’d you get that?”

“’Zeit’ is German for ‘time,’ and you know qualia: the Latin root of the word ‘quality’ meaning the qualitative, experiential ‘feel’ of a mental state or process. For instance, the redness of a visual experience, the hurt of pain, or the chocolateness of a taste. To maximize the zeitqualia of an exploit is the task for our Viking-Poets.”

“I see you’re getting your words in order. Pretty soon you’ll have a complete and comprehensive philosophy you can call your own.”

“Sure, after I’m dead I guess.” The mention of death on such a beautiful day and in such a glorious place didn’t fit. Everything around us was teeming with life. I began to wonder if he was giving me hints that he knew I was ill. I would keep my eyes open henceforth.

The sun was hanging over my right a bit, just shy of midday. Very few cars passed us as we rode by a series of 19th-century country estates every few moments with the majority enclosed by greenery. The windy air smelled of freshly produced oxygen, from the never-ending trees and bushes bringing with it the farm-like aroma of soil and harvest. The wind picked up and was coming in gusts south from the United States. My steady flow of motion was now periodically slowed by intermittent gusts. I can see the logic in what Doppel is saying though it must be a skill to master it.

A highway sign near Brockville signaling an historic site appeared. A quick calculation produces the answer “yes” in response to whether we’d pull over to read it. We turned at the next sign not knowing what the historical site was. Doppel spotted the arrow pointing to beside the water where there’s a plaque. We cycle over and read it:

THE BATTLE OF CHRYSLER’S FARM

1813

In November, 1813, an American army of some 8,000 men, commanded by Major James Wilkinson, moved down the St. Lawrence en route to Montreal. Wilkinson was followed and harassed by a British “corps of observation” consisting of about 800 regulars, militia and Indians commanded by Lieut.-Col. Joseph Morrison. On November 11, Morrison’s force established in a defensive position on John Chrysler’s Farm, and was attacked by a contingent of the American army numbering about 4000 men commanded by Brigadier-General J.P. Boyd. The hard fought engagement ended with the American’s withdrawal from the battlefield. This reverse, combined with the defeat of another invading army at Chateauguay on October 26, saved Canada from conquest in 1813.

 

The wind seemed to pick up the restless spirits on the battlefield. I felt the presence of death, not knowing if they were spirits in the ethers or the stench of death coming from my own person. A feeling of history here, as if the blood that was spilled was still fresh and the wounds were still healing in the nourishing breeze. The 30-foot monument stood at the top of a small hill by the water and beside the old farm of John Chrysler. There were now government employees serving as early 19th-century farmhands. I stood in the wind by the monument and read another plaque that was below it.

THE BATTLE OF CHRYSLER’S FARM

Here on the farm of John Chrysler, was fought one of the decisive battles of the War of 1812. On 11 November 1813 Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, with 800 British and Canadian regulars, militia and Indians engaged an American force of 4,000 under Brigadier-General John Boyd. The open terrain was suited to the training of the well-drilled British regulars who after two hours of heavy fighting, routed the enemy. This victory ended a major American thrust to Montreal. Many units composed largely of persons residing in the American provinces at the time of the Revolution fought valiantly in support of the Crown, forfeiting their property and suffering great privation. They and their descendants played a leading role in the rapid development of the province. For this cause are known as United Empire Loyalists.

 UN INCEPIT SIC PERMANET FIDELIS
AS LOYAL SHE BEGAN, LOYAL SHE REMAINS

 

            I could feel it all in my heart as I stood there straddling by bike beside Doppel with my head down, heavy with battle imagery from the War of 1812.

            “The lay of the land here is perfect for a pitched battle,” said Doppel, looking across to the field where it met the trees and the water.”

            “So much was decided right here.”

            “And to think so many go by and never know it’s here. Thank God for the Loyalists.”

            “There must have been canon balls splashing at will. The imagery of a lead bullet in the thigh is heavier than a bullet in the head for some reason. All wounded know why.”

            “Are you wounded?”

            “Once wounded always wounded. A pain in the soul for the lost time between you and me. Our separation. Too much time has passed. I always thought we’d have more time to hang out.”

            “We do.”

            “We have our road trip.” Could not hide the sadness in my eyes. “I wish we had had more.”

            “Well we should plan another one. Go somewhere for another exploit.” I looked at him in his khaki shorts and beard.

            “But we are on one here right now. There is no other place I want to be right now than here with you at this battle site beside the river. This is the final chapter in your handbook. This is the culmination of years of study and action for you to distill what it is to be alive. But now it’s coming to a close.”

            “Why is it coming to a close?”

            “A tree withers that on a hill-top stands; protects it neither bark nor leaves: such is the man whom no one favors: why should he live long?”

            “Are you not well?”

            “I am as well as I need to be for this tour along the major artery of Canada, and the early highway of exploration to the West. There are no philosophers here. See I am a descendent of David Hume. ” His laughter was taken by the wind and flung to the towns downwind.

            “How’s that?”

            “Because I believe the Scotsman’s words to be true when he said: ‘It is confessed, that the utmost of human reason is, to reduce the principles, productive of natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many particular effects into a few general causes, by means of reasoning from analogy, experience, and observation.’ That is my work. That is how I see the world. And to do this work one must live in the now. Human lives come and go but the first principles of life’s conundrums remain.’” I took off in an instant, like the blades of cut grass on the field.

            Back on the road dragonflies buzzed in front of me flying the same speed as I had. We cruised momentarily together, me and the dragonflies, passing inconspicuously along the hot August pavement. One dragonfly faded to the left and then darted past me just missing my eye. I was thankful I was wearing my eye tackle to protect from bugs and debris and UV rays.

            At one point I approached a guy walking his dog who was using the entire length of the leash. It all happened in an instant. I passed him crossing the railway tracks where the edges in the road were chipped and deep along the iron rails. As soon as I rode around the guy and his dog, a black Porsche came screaming by just missing me by a hair, all in a moment. The fumes of the squeeze still hung in the thick air as I coasted on one pedal. I let my head fall forward and relax my neck muscles and back. A surge of soothing blood rushes to my shoulders quenching a prolonged pinch.

   

Chapter Sixteen 


 

  

&

We continued to tour in 17th gear, passing rolling green hills with wooden fences, cattle grazing and some corn yet to be harvested. The road veered to the riverside again when we saw another plaque near Prescott. We stopped to read it.

THE REV. JOHANN SAMUEL SCHWERDTFEGER

1734-1803

The first Lutheran minister to settle in this province, Schwerdtfeger was born in Burgbernheim, Bavaria, and studied theology at the university of Erlangen. Emigrating to America in 1753, he served as pastor of congregations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Much persecuted for his allegiance to the crown during the American Revolution, Schwerdtfeger moved to Canada in 1791. He settled here in Williamsburg Township and became pastor of a congregation of German Loyalists, which had been established in 1784, and by 1790 had constructed the first Lutheran church in what is now Ontario. In this site now lies beneath Lake St. Lawrence. Within a few years he had organized Lutheran congregations in neighbouring townships. He died in 1803 and was buried in the old church cemetery.

"He died one year before Kant died," he said.

"Kant."

"Sure. It goes Hume and then Kant."

"That's right, because it was Hume who woke Kant up from his ‘dogmatic slumber.'"

"1803. If Kant's academic vernacular is any indication of his zeitgeist, then the wind of logical formulation was in the air. Manifest in the grammar of the philosopher's language back then was the objective of clarity, manifest in the writings of Kant and Hegel. Hegel even went so far to bend the grammar to fit his idea of the world and to make language conform to his worldview. Their thirst was for a crisp logical knife."

"They were also religious men like us."

"Well, yes. So their language may have reflected that too. Perhaps Hegel's metaphysical religion was manifest in his use and abuse of the prevailing linguistic norms?" He reached into his pocket and handed me his journal. A page was book marked.

"What's this?"

"I wrote it the other night. It sort of illustrates this language thing we're discussing."

I opened it to the page where there was strange-looking poem written in pencil:

Philosophy

Abstract Architecture Arranged As Anthropological Arithmetic

The Philosopher

Aristocratic Animals Attaining Art
And Achieving Accelerated Aesthetics with Accent,
Assuming An Analytical Assessment And Analysis
Of All Action and Axioms.
After All the Axes Are Analyzed And Attuned,
Erudite Ants Attain the Always-Ascending Affinity
To Affirm the Affiliation of Ancestry And Affected Anatomy
In our All-encompassing Astuteness to Anchor
Our Already Anarchic And Apocalyptic Apple-pie Answers
Against Appropriate Appraisal And Aphorisms of Adventure.
All Apprenticeships Are Amphibious Amoebas
In An Aquarium of Aerodynamics,
Apprehending And Attaching Apperceptional Amendments
And Amassing Atoms of Action's Arbitration Around
An All-illusive Apical: the Architecture of the Aphonic Absolute.
All Adjectives of the Anatomy of our Ancient
And Active Abstract Agriculture
Apply Anthropological Arithmetic to Accepted Astronomy
And Archaeology, Accumulating Amalgamated Ambition
And Ascension, All Assembling At the Academy of Arts.

"That's what it's supposed to be? A philosopher?"

"Well, yes as it were. You see, you must allow some room to bend the language, to bend the grammar, to overcome the linear rules of the inherent logic in language. I suggest that the very logical structure of a language is a mirror reflection of man's innate logical apparatus."

"What exactly do you mean?"

"The rules of grammar for example, are lines of logic that show us how we naturally think. The logic in language can be bent, or more importantly, is bendable."

"So?"

"Well, so many of our logical systems in math and science that we use for analysis are simple logical systems that are binary in nature. It's either 0 or 1. That's it. There's no bending of the rules. It's inflexible by nature. Symbolic Logic we were taught in philosophy too. Linear logic is characterized by parallel and perpendicular lines, but the logic we actually use in our daily lives and especially on an exploit like this, has an inherent bending and declension in it. I believe it would be fair to say that we do not ride in perfectly straight lines nor take corners at a geometrically perfect angle. Rather we ride and a kind of flow and continual judgment of the never-ending bumps and imperfections along our path."

"We don't ride in a straight line and at a constant speed."

"We fill in the gaps and corners where linear logic cannot go as we ride. We use our intuition in our logic. So when cycling, one must balance between the geometrically crisp logical model with a wise spatio-temporal inflected logic. Our decision-making process as we ride is not rigid; it takes into consideration the application of a linear system onto a non-linear world."

"So then you're saying there are two types of logic?"

"The two central types of logic I see are the traditional linear logic and what we could call mountain bike logic."

"Yeah, okay. I can see that."

"For the Viking Mountainbiker, an exploit is a time to savour the mobile equilibrium and milk the art of balanced motion and technique. For the Viking Mathematician, his exploit becomes a matrix of numerology and measurable in the language of math. For the Young Viking, it's an exciting opportunity to learn a new skill and develop the know-how and equipment to undertake subsequent adventures. For this the Viking needs his mountain bike logic because it's an intuitive rationale that is logically inflected in nature. It enables us to see and read between the lines of what binary logic leaves out."

For a moment I looked out at the water and thought of the forgotten town that lay flooded by the locks in the St. Lawrence. Pages in the journal in my hand fluttered in the air currents around the top of the hill. I sighed and went to my bike. I stepped on my pedal and picked up speed riding down the hill. Armed with my mountain bike logic, I had the appetite for a challenge. I considered Doppel's idea.

Cycling is sculpting a stream with a subtle lean of the shoulder and creating a new wave with only a slight of hand. Temporal orientation is fundamental to a coordinated brake and turn, and a lane change, not to mention cracks in the roads from the long winters. Mountain bike logic had to be temporal in nature. Just as I mountain biked in a flow of space and time, the coordination of how we ride our mountain bikes is the way we use our logic. Same with motorcycling. Same with sailing and the other vehicles of exploit known to the Viking-Poet.

We had planned on riding farther for the day, but the sight of rapids in the St. Lawrence drew us to a spot where we crashed for the night. That night I fell asleep after I ate. Doppel must have dragged me to my tent.

  
 
 
 
 

  

 
 
Table of Contents
  

 
 

 
 
 
The cycling along the river
 
suits the Tom Petty flow,
 
"Learning to Fly"
 
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