Tuesday, February 1, 2011

dead reckoning

quickly, what does that title make you think of?
for me, it's pirates and ocean going vessels.
for some it's animal or air navigation.
for you, I certainly don't know, but it's likely that it has a connection to an earlier time, a simpler life.

for thoreau, in Walden he suggests
"In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds."

a simple definition of dead reckoning is this, to know where you are only by knowing where you came from.
a more complex definition is this from wikipedia: to estimate one's current position based on a previously determined position, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time, and course.
then comes the warning: a disadvantage of dead reckoning is that since new positions are calculated solely from previous positions, the errors of the process are cumulative, so the error in the position fix grows with time.

can you guess where I'm going with this?

I'm not heading down a bike path, not today. today I'm heading to a more internal destination, that of one's own sense of self.
dead reckoning clicks with me.
you can't really chart your path until you know where you are. once you understand where you are, your chances of reaching your next destination are much greater. and if you're off, to begin with, in your understanding of where you presently are, you are less likely to actually attain the ports you seek.

back to biking, take power camp as an example. before class ever begins, we each suffer through an assessment, checking our performance at that given moment. this tells our instructor, and us, exactly where we were when we began. based on the results, we are guided through the program and asked to perform certain tasks.
without this initial assessment, we would be floundering, not truly knowing our strengths, opportunities, or possibilities.
when we're able to fix our position at the beginning, we are able to chart our progress forward and adjust as needed.

returning to walden pond, I am captured by the visual thoreau paints. life is full of choppy waters and storms, and a thousand and one items, quicksand and all that we must contend with. a steady keel is paramount, but so is a grounded assessment of where you presently are. and, ideally, some sort of map that contains those potential destinations that make your heart soar.

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