Spinning hard, mental health, and getting inspired by a great violinist (Joshua Bell)
by Rob Tiller
I’ve been finding it hard to get in a good gear recently at my weekly Friday morning spin class, but yesterday I kicked butt and took names! My final score was a healthy 337, and I came in first by a good margin. My recent scores have been a little over 300, and there have been several strong riders who have made that look quite unimpressive. I appreciated their not showing up this week and letting me look good.
There was a report in the Wall Street Journal recently about the types of exercise that were best for mental health. The best ones were team sports and group exercises, like cycling and yoga. So spinning may be doing my brain some good. I’ve also been getting to yoga class a couple of times a week, which I’m confident is good for my head.
Speaking of mental health, I finished up the introductory mindfulness meditation course provided by Calm, the smart phone app. I found it worthwhile. Mindfulness meditation is really simple, in a way, and it’s easy to find basic directions online. But the Calm coaching gave me some new perspectives, and helped with motivation.
On Thursday, we had dinner at Capital Club 16, and then heard the N.C. Symphony play the Brahms violin concerto with violinist Joshua Bell. Bell has been much hyped as perhaps our greatest living violin virtuoso, which is bound to raise questions. But he completely lived up to the hype: he was truly electrifying. I got big goosebumps and moist eyes, and also a richer understanding of this great concerto. He performed on a Stradivarius instrument that Brahms had heard play this very piece. Bell’s cadenza, which he composed, was a brilliant distillation of Brahmsian thought.
Some great virtuosos are intimidating, and make music students think of quitting. Bell, however, made me want to listen harder and be a better musician. Music in the classical tradition takes time and effort to enjoy, and it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s worth it in the modern world. But Bell made a strong case for its survival. The Brahms is a supreme technical challenge for the violinist, but also dauntingly complex for inexperienced listeners. It was cheering that a concert hall full of North Carolinians seemed to get it and love it. In fact, we gave Bell a good ovation after the first movement. In the U.S., we almost always wait until after the last movement to clap, but apparently we agreed that Bell deserved to have us break the rule.
I loved the little poem in last week’s Sunday Times magazine: On a Line by Proust, by Adam Gianelli. It you’ve never read Proust or Milton, it may not hit you quite as strongly, but it might inspire you to try them. Like Proust, it evokes the painful joy of recovering past experience, and how our literary lives can illuminate our ordinary lives.
I’ve been making my way through the NY Times special titled The Plot to Subvert an Election, by Scott Shane and Mark Mazetti. It’s basically the story of Putin, Trump, and us. It is hard to believe that this happened, and is happening, and easy to feel overwhelmed. Shane and Mazetti have done some great reporting, which is worth reading.
I went to Raulston Arboretum this morning and found these butterflies. There were a lot of beautiful creatures flitting beyond range of my camera. I was grateful for these.