Learning from Cooper.

“Diane, 7:30 am, February twenty-fourth. Entering town of Twin Peaks. Five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. Never seen so many trees in my life.”

– Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan), Twin Peaks

This is the first line from Detective Dale Cooper in the 1990 pilot episode of Twin Peaks – a show which remains a televisual high water mark, distinct from the high budget event shows of the present day (WandaVision) and the very recent past (Game of Thrones). 

Dale Cooper is a zen FBI agent, and an open minded man of simple pleasures. He is never confounded by the paranatural occurrences which shake the fabric of reality in the sleepy town of Twin Peaks, but is otherwise astounded and dazzled by such banalites as cherry pie, black coffee, and urinating in the open air. 

He is also a man full of, or adjacent to, dozens of quotables throughout the three seasons of the show.

Such as: 

“Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup [claps his hands together loudly] collides with ham.”

Or: 

“Who’s the lady with the log?”

“We call her the log lady.”

Or, perhaps, from season 2:

“All things considered, being shot is not as bad as I always thought it might be. As long as you can keep the fear from your mind. But I guess you can say that about almost anything in life. It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.”

After passing February 24th earlier this week, the day on which Cooper first entered Twin Peaks in the 1990 pilot episode, this quote has been on my mind. Cooper’s blissful, zen attitude to all that is wonderful, and terrible, is aspirational, and this little slice of wisdom seems more applicable to our lives than most.

In particular, it had me thinking about training.

No matter how fit you are, there’s always something which can give you the Fear. It might be a desire to go quicker, faster, or higher. It might be the pre-race jitters, the nerves which keep you up the night before, or the adrenaline which sends you off too quick from the start. It might be the space between intervals, when we find our thoughts occupied with how hard the next will feel. 

Keep the fear from our minds, says Cooper, and it won’t seem so bad. But how exactly do we do that?

I am currently training to do a sub 17 minute 5k (probably as a time trial, although parkrun and racing are now in waiting) in the next 6 weeks. I know that in the time between now and then there is going to be some fear. 5k is a brutal distance, you have to start fast because there isn’t a lot of room for adjustment, and yet start too fast and you’ll find out how long a mile can be. In training there will be some fast, hard intervals. There will be space for the fear to enter my mind. It will make me question my decisions, make me wonder why I do it, but the answer, I think, is in the action. I don’t need to answer the fear, I just need to act. In the moment of action, of running, there isn’t time to think, as mind and body become occupied wholly with breathing and moving. 

Running and thinking go hand in hand when we’re just bobbing along, but when the heat rises, when the fear arrives, we need to shut off that facility and draw power to the engines. Pump your arms and move your feet, one foot in front of the other, just like you’ve practiced time and time again.

Then, if all else fails: drink black coffee, eat cherry pie, and urinate in the open air. If it works for Cooper, it can work for us.

Just maybe keep that last one private. 

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