Thesis Part 7
What then, was the solution that Spartan Pete had cooked up for his teammates’ crippling romantic depression?
Like any man who’d been through as many marriages as Pete had (at the time of this story, Pete had recently separated from his third wife), he found that he had become prone to a philosophic outlook on the ups, downs, and general nonsensical whimsy of everyday existence. Most importantly, Pete had come to understand that we as a species are at our best when engaged in fantasy.
A few weeks before the start of the TGICT, Spartan Pete introduced his new strategy to Team Gustav with a speech remembered as much for its high-toned capitalist jingoism as for its unrelenting inspirational quality:
“Old Ben Franklin once said you should behave like Jesus, or pretend to behave like Jesus until the acting becomes believable to you and your community. At that point, what’s the difference between pretending and truth? Truth is written by those who pretend to know it. That’s what I have to say to you, lads. Play. Broadly-speaking, it’s how we learned to come down from the trees and run across the savanna, with the damned baboons and lions in bloody pursuit. It’s why we thought to follow the north star and why we picked up a sharp rock with which to cut up the antelope. Play breeds action. Whether you’re building a suspension bridge or a hummingbird feeder, or planning a murder or getting over a girl, it takes a monumental output of make-believe and sharp-headed concentration. And now is the time for the entire lot of you to get off of your collective sad-sack laurels, put the needle back on the record and start using your god-given brains towards a purpose you’ll find useful and gratifying.”
And so began the storied Team Gustav tradition of the mid-race chess match. It was simple enough: One cyclist playing against another, using standard algebraic chess notation to indicate their moves. For Team Gustav, keeping the ever-changing chess board in their minds required–as Pete had promised–a tremendous level of imagination and concentration. Speeding across the European continent, lost in the aerobic rhythms of their bodies and in the wonders of the chess board, they soon found their minds happily far removed from their self-induced misery and loneliness.
In the early stages of the race, as Team Gustav tackled the vagaries of their new chess-related tasks (the visualization of the game board with all its countless potential moves and counter-moves, the intuiting of the wide range of projected outcomes for their respective games) it seemed that they were almost instantly cured of the most topical symptoms of their collective malaise. They were more cheerful, more intellectually engaged, and riding with an energy they didn’t know they possessed. But the playing of the game (and specifically the way in which they played–on bikes, in their heads) soon became more than just a remedy for depression. Team Gustav began to develop a genuine worldview–an overarching ethos that surprised even Pete with the variety of its practical applications. The thematic contents of this philosophy, as well as its somewhat prosaic name, will be revealed to the patient reader in the coming episodes.