Buddhism & Bicycling: An Asshole, a Glasshole, a Good Samaritan, and a Randy Fellow

Sometimes it happens that people do mean things.  At a new temporary work gig, I met the new boss (same as the old boss). He had a hissy fit about something where he assumed one thing but reality was another, and then stormed off. Not my prob, so whatevs.  Merry Fucking Christmas to you, too, Scrooge!

After a quick change of clothes (and attitude) at home, I was about 1/3 of the way into my bike ride when Sophie’s rear wheel punctured from a tiny piece of glass in the road somewhere. Probably from somebody who threw a beer bottle into the bike lane. It had worked it’s way deep into the rubber.  Boo hoo for me!  Just bad luck, or karma?

Some People Do Good Things

While fixing the flat, a guy in a car pulled up and offered to help. I was using my portable pump by then.  The PSI numbers are tiny and hard to read, so I welcomed the moral support. He offered his floor pump which was easier. It turns out he had seen me while on his way to Central Mark-up (Market), and then… HE WENT HOME TO GET HIS PUMP AND CAME BACK! Some days, especially in these times, I question the goodness of humanity, which often leaves me doubting. Thomas was the Good Samaritan’s name.

Then, I got another flat. It was a faulty patch from a previous repair. While fixing it, I texted a fellow rider. He offered spare tubes if needed, but the last one held up, so I didn’t need his help. But it was cool to have the backup.  (His name is Randy.)

Then I went to see the 37th Street holiday lights and displays and got two almond Snickers bars to cheer myself up as I finished another 20+ mile day. And so it goes. Just keep biking.

Attitude is Everything, but Everything Is Alot

The above is what I wrote in my Strava entry.  I suppose the lesson for me, and possibly for you, gentle reader, is that some times, life throws alot of shit at us.  Sometimes, all day every day. When you live in the Global North, developed West, first world or whatever you want to call it, there are plenty of priveleges afforded you.

You can safely assume a bomb (or alot of bombs) won’t fall on your head.  There’s  usually confidence that the drinking water won’t give you cholera.  And that you won’t have to spend hours a day getting it in the first place (although Austinites recently had to boil our water due to floods overwhelming our system).  Or, that there will be food on the table (or food pantries if you need help).  That you can ride your ride, ride, ride your bike, merrily down the street, and most of the time you won’t get turned into road kill.

Having been to other countries, I have the awareness that in other places, much of what I write about may seem be trivial.  Yet I can tell my stories with that awareness and try to use my voice for good.  To inspire other overweight mid-aged people that mabye they too can exercise alot more than they realize.  To call attention to inequities in the local transportation scene and on other topics as the mood strikes me.  To promote the commonness of our humanity.

But when I say I had a shitty day and then some nice things happened too, I think many people can relate, regardless of circumstance.  If you’re living in a hut in (insert country) without the creature comforts (like Snickers bars) but still have internet access, feel free to comment on how ludicrous that may be.

Buddha and the Cycle of Life

I suppose my point is this:

We may not be able to control our bosses, or drivers throwing bottles in the street, or who helps us (or doesn’t), but we can exert some control over our attitude.  Bad things can and do happen to good people:  our boss is mean, we get two flat tires, it rains, bombs fall, water is contaminated.  What is our response?  Do we act anger and defensiveness or seek understanding grace?  Can we maintain some degree of compassion and equanimity?  In the case of attack and injustice, anger is perfectly reasonable and correct response, ideally channelled nonviolently.

Even when good things happen:  a kind stranger helps us, the cute but slightly drunk organizer of holiday lights takes time for a friendly chat, or there is .71 cents change left at the Walgreen’s and that’s how much is needed to not bonk on a bike ride or to have to break one of very few dollar bills — there is an opportunity for joy, for connection, and more, but also to take things in one’s stride.

That’s because Buddha said that any habit pattern of the mind was still a habit.  Attachment to the “good” and aversion to the “bad” are ways to trick ourselves into not seeing the true nature of ourselves and reality.  Every moment is an opportunity to be present with reality, the situation, to be more in tune with our true selves and with our fellow beings.

In my limited understanding of the Buddhist world view, we have our karma to work out and the goal is to overcome and transcend it, so we do not continue the cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation causing our own suffering and the suffering of others.  One way to do this is to simply become more aware of the present moment.  Like the image of the train above, our monkey minds have thoughts that arise, only to fade away.  If we can be a little less attached to always being right, to the stories we tell ourselves and others, we allow space for happiness and peace.  Another way to improve is to do good deeds.

In the end, I am grateful to everyone and everything on my journey today, even the challenging people and circumstances.  Hopefully I learn to be more mindful of my thoughts, words and deeds, so I can do better tomorrow.   The Dude Abides.  A Dude Abikes.  May all beings be happy.

If you enjoyed this post, you might appreciate several others I have written touching on Buddhism:

The Wheel of Life: Biking with the Ghosts of AIDS

Equanimity & 499 More Words in 30 Minutes (Day 3)

Eight Days a Week… Off the Bicycle: Viewing Setbacks Through a Buddhist Lens

When Things Go Awry, Still We Must Try

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