This one’s certain to be bereft of real inspiration (well I did say I’d post every day, not write something interesting every day). I’ve got a cold. Yes, on what might be one of the last hot and sunny weekends of the year, I’m stricken with a nose like Niagra, a tickly throat, and a general malaise.
I just popped back up to the cycle shop to see about the fitting of my D-lock (the bike’s got a funny frame), and to try not to come across like a floppy-armed pansy as I asked the burly proprietor covered in tattoos if he could adjust the seat to be a bit higher. (Really, you can’t get much purchase on those crummy little multi-socket bike spanners. And I’m a bit weak from my cold, alright?)
Well, the glorious weather was such that I couldn’t resist going for a little spin, and I ended up on a pleasant trundle along the shady side of the River Lea. There were swans that looked so unfeasibly big they seemed to be a lost prehistoric species… silly numbers of little fish in the shallows, doing synchronised leaps to break the surface in mini-shoals… and loads of other cyclists, with whom I now feel an inexplicably sudden, well-formed camaraderie with.
One thing that crossed my mind, after writing yesterday about how different forms of transport alter your sense of travel, was how drastically my perception of the local roads is changed by being on a bike. I’d never noticed the cycle lanes on Forest Road before, and I walk up and down it many times a week. I’d also never really digested, absorbed into my sense of the area, the positioning and extents of the various little hills and inclines. Walking you have a general sense of the large-scale undulations, but the subtler ones seem to pass you by. I guess it’s that bit where you have to change down a gear and pedal a little bit harder that sinks this knowledge of the landscape into your body.
So, even though cycling is in one sense a bit more "alienated" than walking, you see things you’d otherwise miss. It’s the same with cars of course—you’re just shifting speed and scale. Different forms of transport are like microscopes or telescopes to the psychogeographer. From the anthropocentric primitivism of "earth mysteries"—where walking is the assumed default mode—to the alienated intensities of the roadscapes documented by J.G. Ballard, and beyond into jet-powered continent- and planet-hopping, you see what your ride lets you see.
We have inherited from the Western philosophical tradition a theory of faculty psychology, in which we have a "faculty" of reason that is separate from and independent of what we do with our bodies. In particular, reason is seen as independent of perception and bodily movement. In the Western tradition, this autonomous capacity of reason is regarded as what make us essentially human, distinguishing us from all other animals. […]
The evidence from cognitive science shows that classical faculty psychology is wrong. There is no such fully autonomous faculty of reason separate from and independent of bodily capacities such as perception and movement.
George Lakoff & Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh