Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why Animals Make Us Human

Tom and his wife are back from their tandem tour and are going to pick up Sally and Daisy tonight before we leave for Traverse City. I had to sit Em and Allie down last night and explain this to them...much harder than I thought. Our dogs will be treated like princesses so I know, intellectually, this is the right thing to do.

I heard an interview on NPR with the author of Why Animals Make Us Human, an interesting book on how animals process emotions. The author is mildly autistic and this perspective helped her better understand animals. Animals are prone to what we would diagnose in humans as autism. This explains why sometimes a dog will constantly chase its tail, or a lion paces back and forth, or a hamster digs non-stop. These are just outward signs of internal needs. The hamster doesn't want to dig, it wants to feel safe, and being burrowed deep in the ground fills that need. In captivity it can't burrow deep into the ground so it just digs in the corner of its cage and this act makes it feel safe.

I grab hold of simple things and over-analyse them, maybe this satisfies a need, I don't care, this is a blog about bicycling, not over-analysing and my many other quirks. I was obsessing over animal autism when I took Em to Island Lakes on Tuesday to ride. I recognized an Elite mountain biker on his road bike (a beautiful carbonfiber Look, which isn't relevant to this story but man, it was beautiful). It was the middle of the day and he was riding very hard, which explains why he is an Elite racer. I wondered if he were an animal, and that author studied him, would she conclude he has mild autism? Riding that focused doesn't exactly make sense. He wants to win races, that, I assume, is his need. Training at that level might be like the hamster constantly digging. In other words, training itself satisfies a need.

Assuming he and I both have the same innate ability (and that right there is a stretch), and lets just say I wanted to win as bad as he did (again, a stretch), is it possible that the neurons in his brain just happen to fire in such away that he wants to train at the level necessary to race at the high end of the sport? Since I can't affect his neurons to slow him down, how can I go faster?

Maybe my problem (the problem with respect to my iffy race results) is my attitude towards training. I look at training as a means to an end. What if I focus on training for training's sake and let my results fall where they may? I duno, maybe.

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