Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Zone

Because I have been smitten by all things that have to do with straight blade shaving, I have been roaming the Internet like a dog looking for any trashcan to overturn. The more I immerse myself into this odd niche of civilization, I am impressed with how seriously folks take their leisure activities. And so there is no mistake, many if not most straight blade shavers seem to look upon their shaving experience as a type of leisure. Many speak of the calm and focus it takes to do it right as a kind of stress reliever or even a chance to completely vacate their minds of all else but the task in front of them. I have heard the same thing from cyclists and felt the same thing from my saddle time riding in the woods or on a long road ride.

I call it "The Zone".

I have not read much about Zen or other non traditional trains of thought. But what I think happens to us humans when we find something that truly satisfies us physically and mentally, a kind of peaceful contentment will settle into our brains and whatever it is we are doing becomes effortless involvement. We lose ourselves into the activity and allow the practice of it to bring us joy and contentment. Moments of this type of pleasure may be be fleeting, but once experienced they can hook you like a good drug.

I can probably identify maybe 20 rides in my life when I made it completely into "The Zone". Periods of exertion I could not feel any pain from the effort or loss of the line I was riding. Every obstacle overcome. Time became meaningless and I hoped the ride I was experiencing would never end. My whole body and mind were one with the trail, the race, or the hill I was attempting to master. I have no clue if this type of feeling is similar to what some wet shavers get, but I would guess that it is a possibility. Because I believe it is possible to hit "The Zone" doing any number of things. I have had bike repairs hit The Zone. Construction jobs enter The Zone.

When I was subcontracting siding from a fellow I used to frame with I had contracted to side a huge camp we built on Great East Lake with Cedar shingles. The owner wanted a star detail on the gable end. I had never done one but said I would try it out. I must have entered The Zone, because without any tutoring or help, I laid it out in the morning and finished before I headed home that evening. And it was as close to perfect as I have ever mustered up. I still think about that day.

The Zone exists. I have felt it and experienced it. But not for a long time. My last encounter was probably my last mountain bike race at Sugarloaf Ski Resort upcountry in Maine. I did not win or even come close, but when I started dead last and finished close to the front, my feet did not touch the ground the whole race. Not once. Not a dab, crash, or mis-cue for over an hour. I have finished higher in races, but never better. I was not even tired. It was a beautiful experience.

In the Maine State Softball Championship Tournament back in the 1980s, I hit two home runs in one game and drove in 7 runs. My 7 runs were enough to win the game and we stayed in the winner's bracket. I had never hit a home run before or since. But that day, I could not miss. We won the state championship and moved onto the Nationals. For one day I had entered The Zone and finished with over a .700 batting average for the day. Something like 18 hits and 9 or 10 runs batted in. It's odd but I was also sporting one of the worse hangovers I ever experienced that day.

So I know The Zone is attainable. It is possible to derive almost sexual pleasure from the other things we do in our lives. But for me, I seem to only locate it by accidental confluence. Stars line up or my brain shuts down just enough. Whatever it is, I have felt it. So today's post will be about The Zone and my quest to re-locate it at least a few times in 2009.


Utah Savage said...

Good luck. I sometimes feel in the zone writing. But have never reached that place through physical activity since I played softball as a kid. I was a hell of a pitcher and home run champ until breasts got in the way. My breasts ruined the zone.

MRMacrum said...

Utah - I did not mention my rare moments when the words write themselves. Only because I am never sure if that is the zone while it is happening.

Dawn on MDI said...

the zone happens for me when I am doing something that requires enough physical exertion that my brain must concentrate solely on that and not on what's for dinner, that snappy response I should have made three days ago, all that stuff. When I get moving, in a rhythym, like shoveling snow or mowing a lawn with a push mower, I can get that clamor to quiet down and all I hear is my heart in my ears and all I can feel is the motion (but not pain) of my muscles. Then it's over and I'm surprised. Neat stuff.

Bull said...

I know "the zone" and I haven't been there in a while. It typically came when I was surfing; I need to get back there.

There is a good book that tried to explain that feeling, it's called West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origin of Belief by Steven Kotler. Despite the title, it's not religiously oriented at all. Here's a link to my review on goodreads.com.

Demeur said...

Sometimes I think life is not quite as random as we think. Is it a mind thing or some calculated explainable event? You've see it before. The team that is sure to loose wins in the final seconds even though all the statistics say they should have lost.

Randal Graves said...

Whenever I find the zone, it's usually twilight.

Anonymous said...

Have never "almost" found sexual pleasure in anything except "almost" sex, Crummy.

Not money.
Not cars.
Not food.
Not drink.
Not nuffin.

Though do find "almost" in dancing, now that I think about it.

Chrissake you got me thinking ... being in love is an "almost" I guess. Yup, it is. Now that's a Zone!

BBC said...

I can get into the zone when biking, but not when pushing myself, but when just easing along enjoying the day.

I don't write to get into a zone, I write because I'm driven to, most of the time I would rather be doing something else.

Camping is a good zone for me to be into.

Or when I'm really interested in a project or invention I'm working on.

Good sex is always a good zone to be in. Just kissing boobs is.

But shaving with a knife would not be a good zone for me.