forced serendipity

This is probably longer than you would like so I’ll just sumarize. I went to a lecture on exercising. I learned about the importance of and uses of data in fiction, and I learned about, what one lecturer called it, exercise abuse.


I went to a lecture at the College of Life Sciences. It was on some revolutions in exercise science. Really what they talked about was benefit of measuring people’s heart activity. I guess the thing that I learned is connected to what Anthony Doerr said when he visited—the pathway to the universal ideas is through the individual. Basically these people were marketing a product. By measuring the heart rate they could better suit the individual with the data. They combined stories with data to change people’s lives. They combined the individual and data and got a story. They realized that data was a story in and of itself. The thing that I learned in relation to all this is the importance of data. Isn’t that what a story is made up of—data. Not the quantitative data, but qualitative data—a smile, a fish, two bronze statues, the time he said “I love you” without looking in her eyes— all these things add up to some sort of conclusion, even if everyone interprets the data differently, and why wouldn’t they? There is a difference between one plus one and a man who never shovels his sidewalks because he hates his community. There’s no numbers in that.

The second major thing that I learned was when one of the women told a story. It was about her when she taught physical education. She had a whole class that she would make run. She read the handbook. Make ‘em run a mile and time them. So she did it and there was one girl who was overweight. She yelled at her when everyone finished and she was still a lap behind. She yelled at her and the poor girl knew everyone was waiting for her. And then she passed out and the teacher prayed that she hadn’t died and she talked about exercise abuse. Not everyone’s heart rate’s the same. And I loved that idea. Not everyone’s heart rate’s the same. And she talked about exercise abuse, and I thought about all the other abuses and how all the other rates aren’t the same—not all of our brain rates, emotional rates etc. are the same and this is in part where the abuse comes from in beareaucratic systems comes from. Anyway, it was an interesting story coupled with an interesting idea, told with passion. But now that I think about it, call it what you will, but abuse is abuse is abuse. The speaker was trying to put it in the context of the product and she did a good job telling the story, but there was something not quite right about the whole thing. She made it sound like if only she had the technology and the data she wouldn’t have put this girl through this misery. But I think it might have been obvious that the girl was struggling. Then again she was a victim, if I dare call her that, of her time. They may not have been aware of the same information and knowledge that we have today. She wasn’t aware that not everyone’s heart rate is the same.

Overall it was a really good experience and I will continue to find opportunities for serendipity to inspire me.