Monday, October 01, 2012

No mountain too high?



Practice makes the world go round was the essence of my last blog. But is it really so? I wanted to test it, and since for me philosophizing and cycling go together, it would do it by bike. But which mountain would be high enough for examining the truth of the statement? For practical reasons I decided to go to the Vosges in Eastern France. This region is less than a day’s drive from my home and you find there real mountains. Even more, some of them had got some fame in the Tour de France cycle race, and one of these mountains, the Grand Ballon, had always been my secret aim. Therefore my experiment would consist in a climb of the Col du Grand Ballon. And if I succeeded to cycle to this mountain pass of 1325 metres, it would tell me not only something about philosophy but also about myself. So there I went, again with my wife. However, we didn’t go directly to the Vosges but first to the much lower mountains of the Eifel in Germany in order to give me some extra training.
The rides in the Eifel went smooth and the low mountains where no problem for me. Full of optimism I left for the Vosges after a few days, but once I was there, I got nervous. For there is a big difference between a low mountain of 500 m and a mountain pass of 1325 m. I felt like having to run a marathon on the base of thorough interval training and having run some much shorter races. It’s quite well possible, but psychologically it is not the best preparation. But okay, I wanted to do it and I wanted to do it on the first opportunity that the weather was good, for you never know how it changes in the mountains.
The day after my arrival was warm and sunny. When I explored the climb by car that morning and saw the profile of the route, I became reassured a bit. It should be quite well possible for me. Back home, I took a light meal, changed clothes, checked my bike, and left. The first ten minutes were only a warming up on a more or less flat road. Then it went uphill. I’ll save the readers all my feelings, but I can say that it was often very hard and often I had no gears left in order to make it easier for myself. Several times I got the idea: that’s the end; now I have to stop. But I didn’t and when I left the trees behind me and open fields stretched out before my eyes, I knew that the worst was behind me. At the top of the pass I had even the power to accelerate.
The Col du Ballon d’Alsace (1178 m), which I did two days later, was a piece of cake compared with the Grand Ballon. A bit like the climb to the top of the Netherlands but x times longer. Actually I should have done it first by way of training. It appeared to be a real mountain for philosophers, for here I could think over what climbing the Grand Ballon meant for me and my theory. It became clear to me that it’s really true: after having gone up go down again and then up and down and up and down... So you can learn to climb the highest mountains. The highest mountains? For me, the Grand Ballon was the limit. But lots of cyclists and potential philosophers have conquered higher and steeper climbs, like the famous Mont Ventoux (the mountain of Petrarch, but also the mountain where Tommy Simpson died in 1967 during the Tour de France). Or the Tourmalet, the Galibier, the Alpe d’Huez and many more. Maybe it showed that each person has his or her limits. But what are they? Must I simply do the Grand Ballon a few times again and then I can do these other climbs as well?
But now it was the limit for me. Since I had reached the top of a renowned Tour de France col, I appeared to be a good philosopher. But since it certainly wasn’t the top of the tops, I understood also that I am not more than that. In order to check it, I browsed a bit on the Internet and found a website called Blogrank, which ranks all kinds of blogs, including philosophical ones. I added my blog, too, and I came out as #73 in philosophy (see the button right). Not too bad but not the top of the world. What remains then is to try to reach the best 25. How? By cycling on more mountains and writing more blogs, of course. When you’re on the top of the mountain, you can only become better by yo-yoing down and up. It’s true for cycling and it’s true for philosophy as well, not to speak of life.

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