The Mystery of Couscousness: To Err is Hummus; to Falafel, Divine

What is consciousness? Merriam-Webster defines it thusly:

con·scious·ness noun \-nəs\


1 : the liquid left after butter has been churned from milk or cream

2 : a moderate reddish brown

More than this, though, consciousness is the key ingredient in our humanity. It's what separates us from the animals. Can a squirrel go food shopping at Trader Joe's? Does a mongoose know how to use a mortgage calculator? Have you ever seen a seagull order a $17 entrée and then publish a scathing restaurant review on Yelp? Certainly you have if you've ever been on LSD, but otherwise you haven't, since doing all of these things requires that proprietary human technology called consciousness.

But being human isn't just about having consciousness. It's also about of what we choose to be conscious. For example, consciousness often involves being overly aware of stuff that really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, like whether your bicycle frame is laterally stiff yet vertically compliant, or whether your new derailleur is lighter than your old derailleur, or whether or not your fly is open. (Honestly, as long as you're wearing underpants, does it really matter?) When it comes to being conscious of meaningless stuff like this, are we actually better than the rest of the animals, or are we in fact worse, since we're in a crippling state of constant distraction and preoccupation?

So of what things should we strive to be conscious? What are the things that actually matter? Is it helping your neighbors? Is it nurturing your family? Is it maintaining a deep and abiding awareness of and respect for the ineffable forces that govern nature and life on this planet?


For me, there's something far more important than all of that. Something we should all have in mind at all times, and of which she should remind ourselves every waking moment of every day. That something is this:

I'm a complete idiot.

Socrates once said that "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." This is as true now as it was back in 1896 when he said it. Pretty much every disaster in human history--from wars to the sinking of the Titanic to the insipid prose of Sasha Frere-Jones--is a result of people being possessed of the absolute certainty that they're right. However, it's the late 1990s now, and as such I think we need stronger language than whatever it was Socrates spoke. (What language do they speak in Greece again?) Instead, we need resonates with the youth of today--and I don't mean this Youth of Today either, since those guys must be like 50 by now:

I don't know exactly when hardcore music officially went downhill, but I suspect it's when the performers started wearing sweatpants.

Now, I'm not a religious person (apart from the fact that I fervently worship a Lobster God and believe strongly that anybody who doesn't will boil in a lobster pot for all eternity). However, I do engage in certain rituals that I believe help keep me on the path of righteousness by reminding me of certain universal truths. And since I believe one of the most truthful universal truths is that I'm an idiot, I practice rituals that constantly remind me of this fact. For example, "curating" this very blog is one of these rituals, since the constant mistakes and overall poor quality are a constant reminder of my ineptitude. Another key ritual in my life is the performing of bicycle maintenance.

I perform all of my own bicycle maintenance, and I do so only because it reminds me constantly that I'm an idiot. Moreover, it also teaches me exactly why I'm an idiot, and in what way my idiocy manifests itself. See, we're all idiots for different reasons, and in my case it's because once I think something should work a certain way there's absolutely no convincing me otherwise. Consider this bicycle wheel:

I got this bicycle wheel when I got my Ritte Van Frankenstein bicycle. After a few rides, the wheel began emitting a creaking sound, and so I set it aside and switched to a different wheel until the day I could unleash my idiocy upon it. Finally, a few weeks ago, that day came, and I set about opening the hub. It all came apart easily enough, until I got to the point at which any reasonable person would have tapped out the axle with a hammer or his own thick skull. I, however, decided for no good reason at all that I needed to stick an allen key in either end of the axle and twist, and I did so with such wrongheaded and moronic force that I broke it.

Anyway, I prevailed upon the people at Ritchey to send me a new axle, which I managed to install without incident, and everything is free from creaks and working perfectly now. Do I regret not having turned the wheel over to a professional? I do not, for to me there is no more rewarding experience than the one that illuminates my idiocy, and hopefully as I go through life and encounter resistance I will occasionally remember to back off a touch instead of simply forcing the issue.

Yeah, right.

But that's just my own brand of stupidity, and as I mentioned, we're all stupid in our own ways. Consider this article entitled "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education," which was forwarded to me by a reader, and which begins thusly:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness.

As important as it is to remember how stupid we are, it's equally if not more important to laugh at how stupid other people are, and this guy is really stupid. Sure, I know plumbers tend to use "mysterious" language like "leak," "pipes," and "water," but when your plumber shows up with his funny hat and says something in his indecipherable plumber's jargon like, "Your toilet's clogged because you tried to flush a monogrammed hand towel down it, numbnuts," don't just nod politely and thrust money in his face. Instead, invite him to sit down in your well-appointed living room and ask him all about those alien experiences that made him the person that he is today. Make sure to be really condescending too--that way you can repeat the learning experience with the second plumber you have to call to extract the plunger from your posterior.

The Free University of Brussels today an honorary degree awarded to an athlete. Eddy Merckx, for many the biggest Belgian sportsman of all time, gets that honor. "This is normally only reserved for people who have cancer or do so," said a proud Merckx.

I don't know what that means. However, I do know he's only an honorary doctor, which means he can only perform an honorary heart transplant.

In any case, while consciousness may be what makes us human, we can only speculate as to what it actually is. Similarly, we can only speculate as to what lies behind this mysterious door at the headquarters of the Great Trek Bicycle Making Company:

Though through the miracle of digital photo enhancement I was able to zoom in on the glass and get a tantalizing glimpse of the following:

(Trek's product development lab may be working on top-secret wrist mirror technology.)

Indeed, mirror technology is poised to become the hottest segment in bicycle retail, and rumor has it that Specialized is currently at work with an integrated pant cuff retainer/ankle mirror.
automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine