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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bishop George Berkeley Says That When Your GPS Watch Dies, Your Mile Splits Don't Exist

Time spent writing: 5 hours
What I did: More intro for Gods, Games, and Globalization
Grade for the day: B

The GPS died 4 miles in. That means that the remaining 3 miles don't exist. 

Have you ever had a "What Would George Berkeley Do" moment?

If you are a runner--or more precisely, a runner who cannot imagine a life without a GPS watch--you probably have.

Bishop Berkeley was a philosopher known for his infamous dictum, esse est percipi, "to be is to be perceived." Thanks to him, then, we get that tedious "tree falling in the forest" thought experiment in our philosophy classes. For Berkeley, if the sound is not perceived, then there is no sound. Only, in the good bishop's formulation, God is always present to do the work of perception.

So TIMBER! God has it covered.

With this in mind, I guess that God perceived my run this morning--because in addition to touchdowns and homeruns, God cares about my mile splits. But the GPS gods were out to lunch (or breakfast).

Indeed, my watch died at about 4 miles in to a 7 mile run.

At that point, I wasn't setting any records or anything. But I felt like my pace was quicker than usual. That was the case entirely because of my watch. Without a watch, though, what's the point? As soon as I saw the blank display, the intensity that had been animating the run to that point just wafted away into the misty morning air.

My run turned into a methodical plod.

The GPS is a relatively new addition to my running wardrobe. For the majority of my running life, I have worn a Timex and been perfectly happy. All this time, I gauged distance with approximate figures--that loop is about 6 miles; that stretch is about 3 miles; and so on. Precision was left for the track and races. Everything else was a guess.

But over the past three years, all of that has changed. I now know exactly how long all of my loops are. Weekly, monthly, and yearly mileage are all tracked on my online calendar. Put simply, this technology has given me an entirely new experience of running.

This morning, all of that technology went away. And for a few miles, it was just me and the trail.

I won't lie. It was liberating. But it also revealed something about myself--the GPS keeps me accountable. Yes, it sometimes causes me to over-do it, to strain myself when I need to relax. But it also kicks me in the pants when I lose focus. I lose focus a lot. Think: Dug from the movie Up. SQUIRREL!

All of this is to say that perception is important--the perception that someone or something is looking and holding me accountable.

Bishop Berkeley nods in approval.

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