Being a Beginner & Rehabilitation

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!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Zilong! 9 June 2013 at about 11:30 a.m. Zilong began his journey from Amherst, MA into the great unknown.
You are so right about competence, and how it takes so many forms. As you have learned at Hampshire to 'know' is not enough! The academics are very important and even more powerful when combined with life knowledge, problem solving, skill building and thinking positively when facing difficulty. Our thoughts are with you as you ride off into the distance, beginning another wonderful chapter of your life.
PS I wrote this on my phone but it wouldn't post earlier. I had said we'd be thinking of you as we run off the first rapid on the Roaring Brook, a 14 foot waterfall. Never stop trying to be successful or think you are too 'old' to do the things you love.
Love, Glenna and Earl

roving man of all seasons said...

Wishing you safe and insightful travels. See if you can make it to Groveland, CA by July 24 so you can join us on a low water descent of the mighty Tuolumne River. Rumor has it that Earl and Glenna (Honey) will be there too. Let me know and I'll save you a spot.

Anonymous said...

My dear son

when I see how you manage all, your step parents from Germany are proud of you and crossing fingers that luck is allways on your side.

Viel Gl├╝ck ZILONG

Juliette said...

Indeed, to know is not enough!
I am very interested in hearing in hindsight what it feels like to have to be caring about the most basic needs for many weeks. My plan is to travel without money in a few years.