TITLE: Two Motifs for the Day
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: June 20, 2006 2:28 PM
... 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,
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.