Bulls, Bikes and Beliefs
By age 18, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jesus Ilundain discovered two of his greatest passions in life: philosophy and sports. Since then, he has pursued them with relentless enthusiasm, sharing his love of philosophy and cycling with Linfield students every day.
“He gets so excited about philosophy,” junior philosophy major Casey Tharp said. “He does such a good job of tying the philosophy in to its implications in real life.”
After studying philosophy during his last two years of high school in Spain, Ilundain decided to move to the United States to learn English and to study philosophy. In America, he discovered his passion for sports.
Including cycling, swimming, tennis, medieval sword fighting and running with the bulls, Ilundain has explored a variety of sports. He relates it all back to philosophy and tries to incorporate it into his teaching.
“Philosophy gives you license to look into everything,” he said. “I’ve taught philosophy of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ of humor, of death, of sports.”
Many students may imagine philosophy as the study of arcane theories, Ilundain said it is anything but that.
“It’s not simply sitting in an ivory tower thinking,” he said.
Rather, Ilundain said he likes to relate philosophy to all matters of life, such as the Olympics, one of several topics he is researching.
Even though Ilundain chose to pursue philosophy because of the intellectual challenge and the thrill of the classroom, he knew sports would never be far from his life. In Pamplona, Spain, Ilundain grew up watching his relatives and fellow citizens run with the bulls, but said he never felt any pressure to join in.
Though foreigners flock to his hometown each year to prove their courage by running with the bulls in the famous festival of San Fermin, Ilundain said locals do not consider this a sport. The July running is the most publicized, but Ilundain said the bulls run through the streets up to eight times each year.
At 21, Ilundain participated in the running and continued for more than eight years, and he said most tourists do not realize the significance of the event.
“Foreigners come for the macho thing,” he said. “For us [locals], it is something of a personal reason.”
The challenge for each runner is to get as close as possible to the bull, without touching it, in order to try to lead it. If done right, Ilundain said, the bull will perceive you as his ÒbrotherÓ and follow you, like herd animals do.
If you are not close enough to get hurt, Ilundain said, then you have not run with the bulls. However, because of the increase in tourism, Ilundain said he has stopped running.
“There are so many people now,” he said. “There’s too many people to do it the right way.”
Though few activities seem as extreme as the annual running of the bulls, Ilundain said cycling and sword fighting are also intense sports.
During his time teaching at a community college in New Mexico, Ilundain connected with people trained in medieval renaissance sportsmanship, specifically sword fighting. Using both wooden and real swords, they learned a curriculum and studied techniques.
“I never knew people did that,” Ilundain said about discovering the sword fighting group. “I used to spend my allowance on swords when I was a little boy in Spain.”
After taking the job at Linfield, Ilundain turned back to his passion of cycling, racing with other amateur cyclists in competitions all over the world.
His longest race was two years ago in Spain, in which he traveled 13o miles in one day. The course wound through country hills, one of Ilundain’s favorite parts of cycling. In the end, he placed 15th out of the 3oo participants. But long distances do not mean tough, Ilundain said. His toughest races have been those in which he competes with professional cyclists who race for a living.
“You hurt so bad [after the race],” Ilundain said. “In a different life, I would have loved to [be a professional cyclist].”
Though Ilundain said he will probably never give up cycling, he is now interested in learning archery or sharpshooting.
“see cycling as a lifestyle rather than a sport,” Ilundain said. “It’s how I relax.”
Although his ride to work has become fairly short since he moved into the Legacy Apartments, Ilundain said he rides anywhere from one to 1oo miles on any given day. The variety keeps cycling interesting and keeps him injury free, he said.