Although this is predominantly a blog about biking, it’s also about anything excellent (raves) as well as things I think suck (rants). Sometimes it’s chocolate, movies, or soccer. Sometimes it’s racism, jerks in cars, and politicians. Definitely in the rave column, a while ago, I went to see Paul Simon on his farewell tour, naturally called Homeward Bound, which I blogged about here. In thinking about what to write for this blog while on tonight’s 25-mile bike ride, I used title of a song from “Rhymin’ Simon’s” highly influential world music-infused album Graceland. If you guessed that this post is a rant, you win! (Your prize is continuing to read this post.) Let’s dig into the mind of A Dude, shall we?
Humanity Is Great, but Sometimes, Some People Suck
There have been recent notable deaths of Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, just to mention a few. Great but flawed people. There’s furor over and also support for Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad. A report damning the Roman Catholic church leadership, possibly implicating even Pope Francis, for covering up the abuse committed by priests. There are the contentious hearings about a new possible Supreme Court justice, ultra-conservative Brett Kavanaugh, who if sworn in may allow a very dangerous agenda to be enacted into law for decades.
Never mind the never-ending scandals about the person who appointed him, so-called leader of the free world, Tinyhands Orangehead. Alot of the horrors about the head of the current US regime have been detailed in the new book Fear by Pulitzer Prize-winner Bob Woodward. And that’s just a sliver of the situation. I’m quite sure that this parade of humanity not exactly at its best is not just an American problem, either. (Sorry to my Republican readers, but I just think you’re on the wrong side of history supporting this awful president.)
So I have to ask: Who is inspiring me right now? Who inspires you? Who is lifting us up as a nation, and the world as a whole? These are the sort of deep thoughts I have riding my bike for hours at a time.
The short answer is: not really anyone. The people we are told look up to as leaders — politicians, religious officials, celebrity icons, sports stars, teachers, parents, bankers, doctors, corporate heads, bosses, government officials — are no better than the rest of us, it seems to me. The Emperor has no clothes. Open any newspaper or turn on any news source, and you’ll find evidence of Girls (and Boys) Gone Wild. Crazy, mean, violent, cruel, ignorant, greedy, negligent or downright evil behavior. It’s really rather depressing. Yes, there are good people doing good things too, but they seem far too few in comparison to the bad.
Just tonight, a car in front of me made a huge screaching sound with its brakes and turned sideways before stopping, making a circle, and speeding off. Apparently, the driver had tried to avoid hitting a dog that the shitty dog owner had let run into the road. A woman was chasing after it and yelling. I didn’t see the dog, and since it was running away, I guess it may not have been hurt as badly as it could have been. I tried chasing the speeding driver on my bike, to no avail. So the driver did what he or she could to do a good thing, but then didn’t stop to help or take responsibility when it went bad, even though it wasn’t his or her fault. Leaving the scene of an accident is pretty low, if not illegal. Good and bad. Many situations and people are shades of grey. Ethics are like, crazy hard, y’all!
Bike Riding Is Nice but Doesn’t Really Solve Anything
Well, if enough people biked, it would help the environment. But then car makers would lose jobs. Nevermind. I guess the point is there are limits to any activity, sport, hobby, or pursuit. And in the grand scheme of things, one dude’s hobby and blog about the same is pretty damn insignificant. One of the pro bike riders in the Tour de France said as much after some world event — maybe it was the 2016 terrorist attack in Nice that happened during the Tour that year. “It’s just a bike race.”
I’m well aware that this blog, with less than 300 followers and far fewer actual readers, has no far-reaching impact. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people are against things like, I don’t know, crazy men driving trucks into crowds of tourists and killing 84 of them. Then again, most people in the US were intially for the bombing of Iraq and invasion of same and Afghanistan, and look how well that turned out. (It didn’t turn out well.) Can’t we all just get along? Clearly, not. This is a post about inspiration, not solving every problem in the world. I guess we’re all looking for it. But where is inspiration to be found in a world where so many of our authority figures have failed us?
You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
“Become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
One clue to finding inspiration and role models is in the poster I photographed on my ride that has the quote above. I don’t know the context or what Camus was really saying, but it sounds good. How does one become free? That probably takes a whole book to explain. If we are free from blindly worshiping our so-called leaders, and think for ourselves, then we can rebel against the immorality of the world. But we need to also look next to us for examples of ethical behavior. The people you know and see on a regular basis are much more likely to be sources of inspiration than some far away person on television. Your co-workers, neighbors, landlord, postal carrier, grocer are doing small actions all the time, just like you are, that help themselves, and help others. Everyday heroes abound, if you just look around.
Some examples through bicycling. Riding a bike allows you to encounter the world much more directly than hiding behind the safety of a two-ton killing machine. Sometimes that reality is pleasant, sometimes it’s ugly. In the course of one bike ride tonight, I encountered several positive things: a person in a car who waited for me to pass instead of rushing to turn and cut me off, risking a wreck. The bus driver who gave me at least the required five feet of distance when passing me on my bike. Even the car driver tried to avoid hitting the dog tried (at least until running away.) The bicyclist who yielded to the frat kids crossing the bike lane, even though the checked-out student on the motorized scooter with headphones in did not. (That was A Dude. I have my good moments.)
We also need to search within. Are we being the best versions of ourselves at all possible times, in all our interactions in business, with friends, family, neighbors, people in cars, people in bikes? I have my moments, but I’m guessing no, probably none of us do that. We’re human. But can we try harder to act ethically, with compassion, to seek to Lunderstand and to be understood? Yes.
Is one way to do that to simply listen to others without judging and really consider different points of view before we pile on our own biases? Definitely. That’s why Mohandas K. Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This was the motto for my school program. He was certainly a role model, but even he had his faults. But he kept trying to challenge himself to do better. And yes, he did ride a bicycle, especially as a younger man in South Africa.
Loving the Bicycle Haters
Recently in the Next Door app in my neighborhood, there have been renewed attacks on bicyclists because the City of Austin is installing protected bike lanes with curbs, and also some pedestrians improvements. This isn’t the first time; I wrote about that before here. The viciousness of the insults was really over the top. People didn’t exactly threaten to run us over, but it sure felt that way. I offered some sane and logical arguments, like, “If more people feel safe to bike, they will, and then there will be less car traffic, which will benefit those still driving.” But that didn’t stop the haters. I even offered to let one car driver buy me a car so I would not be on my bike anymore. (They didn’t.) So there’s alot of education and listening needed in that situation. Not very likely on the internet. There’s that word again, LISTEN. How many disagreements, arguments, fights and wars could be avoided with just hearing the other side? Many.
So, “Who will be our role models now that our role models are gone?” There are no easy answers. It is a question we all have to explore for ourselves. Maybe we do find some people who inspire us who are in the public eye. But we don’t need superheroes, or someone impossible to model ourselves after like Gandhi. We should strive to embody the BEST QUALITIES of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, Jr. of Mother Teresa, of Michelle Obama. Or Tom Cruise. I recently saw Mission Impossible: Fallout. Say what you will about him, his ex-wife and his religion, but that man is FEARLESS, doing all his own stunts. Breaking his ankle jumping off a roof. Diving and stalling a helicopter he was piloting while also operating the camera.
If we can see the humanity in ourselves, and in one another, there is hope we can be inspired and do great things, big or small, as a race. The human race. Whether that’s riding a bike five miles without falling off or 2,000 miles in a pro tour. Taking care of some friends’ dogs. Helping out a homeless person at the stoplight with some money, fruit or water. Telling a blogger they inspired them to write more. (Thanks, Mick McCrary of https://MyLifeBehindBars.net.) The possibilities are endless. Inspiration is everywhere! Go inside and you will find some, and then go out in the world and share it!
“I am in the world feeling my way to light amid the encircling gloom.”
-Mohandas K. Gandhi, CWMG, vol. XXV, p. 390, Gandhi Heritage Portal on Twitter
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