It it great to be a beginner. It brings us back to the ground. It reminds us that there are always things we don't know, no matter how good we have become at some other things.
It gives me more headache to plan and shop for food than to write a paper or give a speech. I am more clueless in the supermarket than at a professional conference or a board room. Now I understand why Mao sent the "intellectual youths" to the countryside to be "re-educated." This bike trip, even before the first mile, has been a sobering re-education.
It is embarrassing to admit, but here are a few "first" for me in the past few days:
- cooked pasta
- opened a can with a can-opener (Thank you, Earl!)
- made a first-aid kit (Thank you, Glenna!)
- researched for insurance policy, as my student insurance will run out half way through the trip. (By the way, researching insurance policy has shed new light on my understanding of Foucault's biopolitics and governmentality.)
Slowly but surely, I am learning to overcome the only-child syndrome and the first-world infections, and to rehabilitate some basic life skills, like shopping, cooking, and taking care of my biological existence. Over the past two decades, the care of many others has provided me the luxury of not worrying about the reality of life. The Ivory Tower and over-valuation of the intellect created the illusion of competency and security.
I have benefited from the social pyramid, where my comparative advantages have allowed me to thrive in a liberal arts colleges. Other people cooked my food, cleaned my dishes, planned my trip, hauled my trash, and paid for my insurance. I simply needed to think smart thoughts, read smart books, say smart things, perform smart acts, and be handsomely rewarded for the exercise of my "higher faculty."
Now, preparing for the bike trip make me feel like a member of the homo sapiens again. I need to worry about clean water, proper nutrition, where to sleep, how to stay dry in the rain, etc. How refreshing, how humbling, how necessary!