TITLE: Two Motifs for the Day AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 20, 2006 2:28 PM DESC: ----- BODY: ... courtesy of quite different triggers. "The plan is more important than the ego." I finally got back on the track last week for some faster running. Not fast, just faster than I've been able to manage the last couple of months. This Sunday I run a half-marathon, so I didn't want to run a speed workout this week, but I did want to get back into the habit of a weekly trek to the track, so I decided to go this morning for eight miles at my conservative half-marathon goal pace, 8:00 minutes/mile. Everything went great for a couple of miles, when a college student joined me on the track. Then one of my personal weaknesses came forward: I wanted to run pass him. He wasn't running all that fast, and a couple of laps of fast stuff would have put him away. But it may also have cost me, either later in this run or, worse, during my race, when I discovered that I'd burned up my legs too much this week. Fortunately, I summoned up some uncharacteristic patience. Fulfilling my plan for this morning was more important than stroking my ego for a couple of minutes. What else would have passing this guy have done for me? It wouldn't have proven anything to me or to him (or his cute girlfriend). In fact, my ego is better stroked by sticking to the plan and having the extra strength in my legs for Sunday morning. In the end, things went well. I ran 7.5 miles pretty much on pace -- 7:55 or 7:56 per mile -- and then let myself kick home for a fast half mile to end. Can I do 13.1 miles at that pace this weekend? We'll see. "It changes your life, the pursuit of truth." I heard Ben Bradlee, former editor of the Washington Post, say this last night in an interview with Jim Lehrer. Bradlee is a throwback to a different era, and his comments were an interesting mix of principle and pragmatism. But this particular sentence stopped me in my tracks. It expresses a truth much bigger than journalism, and the scientist in me felt suddenly in the presence of a compatriot. The pursuit of truth does change your life. It moves the focus off of oneself and out into the world. It makes hypotheticals and counterfactuals a natural part of one's being. It makes finding out you're wrong not only acceptable but desirable, because then you are closer to something you couldn't see before. It helps you to separate yourself -- your ego -- from your hypothesis about the world, which depersonalizes many interactions with other people and with the world. Note that it doesn't erase you or your ego; it simply helps you think of the world independent from them. I'm sure every scientist knows just what Bradlee meant. -----