Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Intimacy Versus Isolation

When I was in college, back in the early Pleistocene Period, I studied psychology. For a while, I considered a career in it, helping people to better suffer the slings and arrows of today's hectic life, and make them act just a little less nutsy-fagan. When I realized how many more years of school would be required to make the big bucks in psychology, however, I quickly downgraded my ambitions to just using psychology the way most laymen do: Con Artistry.

In "Dead Poet's Society," Robin Williams pointed out that men study poetry "to woo women." Along those lines, most college males study psychology because they think it's an easy "A," but also so they can better fool women into going out with them.

By this reckoning, the most homely college sophomore, having successfully passed English 101 and Psychology 101, has a fair to middling shot of getting a date with a pretty girl. I was a college sophomore when the RandoWife first went out with me.

Case closed.

But, I Digress

For some reason, odd bits and pieces of my seven (yes, seven) college Psychology courses stick with me to this day. Some of it I use to help the RandoDaughter with her homework ... or to manipulate the RandoDaughter to do her homework. Other things I use when watching Jeopardy, or will deploy to make boring conversation. For example, did you know that "Death Wish" is actually not just a Charles Bronson movie? Carl Jung wrote about the "Todeswunsch" as a desire to return to the peace of the womb ... or to your secret bunker of AK-47s and Desert Eagles.

Another thing that stuck with me is the phases of psychosocial development: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, and Bambi vs. Godzilla.

These are the phases that we pass thru as we grow from infants -- dependent upon the world for everything -- to adults who are capable of fending for ourselves, and of appreciating the humor of a cute fawn in a bucolic setting being smashed flat by a giant lizard foot.

It is the societal aspect of this that struck me this past Saturday, when I was riding my bicycle to the Nashville Motorplex so that I could win the Nashville Super 80. Not the Bambi thing, of course, but the one before it: Intimacy vs. Isolation (the title of this post ... remember?).

Be One With the Road

A bicycle is an intimate form of travel. You sense the environment thru which you pass much more fully than you do when driving a car.

Usually, this is a good thing. As I crossed Thompson Lane near Nolensville Road, I smelled Krispy Kreme. This is not just a good smell -- it is one of the greatest smells ever. And, as is the wont of such an odour (you must use the British spelling for smells like this), that siren's call of smells lured me, and I answered. Two HOT Krispy Kremes right off the assembly line, all melty and gooey and making my fingers sticky, rinsed down with a piping hot cup of really strong coffee, and I was powered up and ready for the race.

Would we have won if not for those HOT Krispy Kremes and coffee? Perhaps. But I'm glad that I do not know.

Just past the Krispy Kreme on Grandview, a road that parallels Nolensville Road but has none of the traffic or stop lights, is a taqueria owned by La Hacienda -- a popular chain of mexican restaurants here in Nashville. This place also has a wonderful smell, thanks to the tortillas that they cook there. Drive by it in a car -- even with the windows down -- and you will not get to enjoy it. Ride past it on a bike, and you will want mexican food for dinner.

Not all odors are gustatory, of course. This time of year there are pear tree blossoms, and in the summer the smell of honeysuckle can overwhelm you. And not all odors are good, either. Chicken farms and old road kill on hot summer days can make you re-route your ride.

And there are other things that you may miss from a car that ... well, you won't mind missing. The shake-and-bake surface of an Alabama road. Mind-numbing miles of flatness thru south Georgia cornfields. Feral Kentucky dogs.

We take the good with the bad. Maybe because it makes it easier to appreciate just how good the good is, or maybe it's just because by missing one you can miss it all. You have to open yourself up to the opportunity and take the chance ... so, your choice is clear:

Intimacy vs. Isolation

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