The surrounding foliage is an aureate blur in my periphery as fallen aspens crunch under my bike tires. This is a trail that I ride frequently; I have come to know its undulations and corners perhaps too well. Emblematic of overconfidence, not a single finger rests on my brake levers. Ignoring the peril to my upcoming ski season, I embrace my newfound and hard-earned comfort with speed and mach over the rock garden, not entirely sure whether the shouts of joy are internal or voiced aloud. All of my senses are tuned to the trail as it unfolds in front of me, a myopia of the most magnificent order.
Then, a flash at the edge of my vision and all instantly goes squirrelly. Whether an actual rodent or a bear or a figment of my imagination, it is immaterial. I turn my head to clock the source and lose the focus necessary to keep me tracking straight and true. The front wheel goes first and, as I jack the handlebars, I already know that I am overcorrecting. I feel the rear tire unhook and everything become much more wobbly than strictly preferable. A nanosecond of distraction, at this pace, threatens disaster. I narrowly escape a launch into orbit and put the bike down, the only consequence a rather harsh rock massage and ensuing abrasions.
Extrapolated, my flirtation with grave injury provides insights across the spectrum of my personal and professional lives. With three vocations, fatherhood, recreational obsessions, and a robust familial and social life, there appear to be infinite ways in which I can be distracted from any of the given tasks that I need or want to accomplish each day. An ever-shifting triage of priorities makes it all that much more difficult to determine upon what I am to focus in the moment. Believing innately that anything worth doing must be done to its highest potential, it is only through intense discipline that I can resist the lure of what exists, or might exist, outside of the scope of my immediate attention.
Conversely, there is great beauty and promise at the farthest reaches of our vision. It is no small feat to remain locked in whilst also maintaining mental flexibility to absorb the unexpected. As important as it is to crank through that which is in front of your face, much of the magic happens on the margins of life. Lurking at the fringe could be something as seemingly inconsequential as a pretty view or as momentous as the love of one’s life. Overly ensconced in trying to make a specific legal argument, I may miss an important perspective, overlook a controlling precedent, fail to consider how best to elicit testimony.
At the edge of vision, the images are rendered in phantoms and shadows. From these grainy pixels, one can conjure anything: saviors, enemies, promise, terror, epiphany, destruction. Whereas the center of our vision reassures and perhaps tricks us into believing something that might not be real, the elusiveness at the brink of our sight reminds us that there is no such thing as certainty, that all of existence is malleable.
Corporate drones, psychotically concerned with productivity, do not view the daydreams at the edge of vision as having any value. Inherently, those modalities do not welcome nuance. But success is not one-dimensional, either in measurement or in the paths taken to achieve it. Legendary athletes combine relentless concentration on the goal/basket with supernatural field/court vision; their victories are a pastiche of the center and the edge of vision. As always, there is not one right answer; the trick is view your life in panorama, a collection of different images that give insight into all possible angles.