The only reason people like to say “Only God can judge me” is because no human being can authoritatively say by what scales and metrics God evaluates. If there were, then society would have upheaved itself in disbelief already.
I’ve gotten into the habit of doing twenty kilometers a day on a stationary bike my mom stopped using some time ago. The beauty of numbers and numerical systems, we are reminded as we hit the eleventh kilometer, is that they are infinitely expandable and compressible: 11/20, while expandable to the near-gobbledygook that is 10864197531/ 19753086420, just as easily becomes 5.5/10, ten being a nice, easy, stable number, even though its limited divisibility means that it’s unfortunately ignored for the practicalities of pizza slices and egg trays. Numbers are more malleable than people give them credit for: there is always a digit at the rightmost, nestled between two demarcations, if you look closely enough; and there is always space to put a mark in between two others, consequently to add a digit where there was once space only thought of to be empty.
To attempt to build cardiovascular endurance as I pedal–a trait that, coupled with the tendency for my body to heat up very quickly, has been my Achilles heel when competing against myself–I copy the breath-patterns suggested for sleep. The rhythm takes on the time signature of a jazz piece: four inhaling, seven holding, eight exhaling, with something in the irregularity of the conscious effort sending the brain into a relaxed state. I stare at the tracker as I count, and find that every one of these breaths translates into a good 0.08 kilometers. Two hundred and fifty of these, and I’m good.
This heady respiration, coupled with the similar breath/breadth of numbers, is a thought that comforts the knees, which start to groan once we start getting to 18/20 (which can go by 17777777778/19753086420, 9/10, even 4.5/5): the knowledge of how you “far” you are from your “destination”, how long you have to keep huffing at kinesis to get at your routine, this bourgeois approximation of that satisfaction that comes with the idea that one’s physical exhaustion has brought something tangible, physically measurable into reality.
Similarly discomforting, though, is the thought of the rest of the day spent off the bike: no less stationary, but this time without any unit of measure, without any end to reference, thus infinitely expandable into a cosmos’ worth of equal parts doubt and existential horror. What more when you throw in whatever metric you have to evaluate yourself, to at least see if what you’ve gone through can even moderately be called a success, with every step short–measurable or not–being no less than failure at this uncertain stretch of time, this life.
The tracker now reads twenty kilometers. I stop and get off, legs and brain aching.