Perfect Day

"Muscle does not make the sport … . Muscle, however precious, is never anything more than raw material. It is not muscle that wins. What wins is a certain idea of man and of the world, of man in the world. This idea is that man is fully defined by his action, and man's action is not to dominate other men, it is to dominate things." — Roland Barthes

The 100-metre sprint: crown jewel in the sport and science of human performance. National track and field championships. Eight bodies coil at one end of a corridor to glory. A stillness overcomes the crowd, as if a herd anticipates some furious storm is about to be unleashed.
 

. . .

 

. .

 

.

 

A pistol report shatters the electric anticipation.

Eight bodies explode into motion.

Racing spikes pierce synthetic flesh. (The old familiar sting.) The crowd recedes in an aftward directional blur. Over one hundred metres, the fastest men in the world are on the quicksilver side of ten metres per second; his time, 10.07 seconds, leaves him in seventh position, failing to qualify for Beijing.

The bright green LEDs providing stark relief from the black scoreboard, his finishing time looks so radically different than those of the qualifiers despite the few hundredths of a second that separate them. The extra digit tacked on to his outcome, scourge of a prefix, hovering there like a skinny awkward girl at the periphery of a grade school social clique.

They wouldn't even ask him to piss in a bottle.

In that moment of realization comes a dilation of time and a shower of thought fragments siphoned from past and future. Thousands of kilometres accumulated in the databanks of muscle memory. Years of linearity. Fibres and bundles and striations, all aligned to twitch in concert and exert maximal force. Progress.

10 INPUT "How many reps? ", R$
20 PRINT "Okay "; R$; "reps."
30 INPUT "What distance should I run? ", N$
40 PRINT "Okay "; N$; "metres per rep."
50 R = R$
60 N = N$
70 FOR I = 1 TO R
80 SPRINT N
90 NEXT I
100 END

Endless practice repetitions and loops, distinguishable only by minor perturbations in heart rate, lactic acid formation and related physiologica. The familiar laying of hands over thousands of hours — productive, not libidinal — to keep those muscles in a continuous state of supple potential. He knew as much of veal as he did of commercial grade steer.

And what now? What of other use-values for the body athletic? Would he coach? Could he create shadows of his legacy from the fading twilight of his career? Or could he reinvent his running (and his body)? He was, after all, only thirty!

Rhizome: "Giorgio Agamben claims that the most important political goal is to find new ways to make the human body inoperative, in the sense that poetry makes language inoperative, to find new uses for the human body."

Unshackled from the prison of measured time, where does the newly free man wander? Anywhere but along the straight path, no? Could his muscles propel him forward in curves and skips and bends and leaps and mellifluous rhythms? Could his running body caress the objects around him as it moved through space? Remixing one's Self, could he run in communion with a multitude of bodies, moving with them in unison if not in reason?

He imagined he could, but a thought and a body are often irreconcilable by their very intimacy.

(Gone, gone, the damage done.)

A few words announcing the obvious to the chattering classes. The klieg lights dim. The cameras go dark. The gaze goes cold.

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