Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Morons, Maniacs, Evangelists and Taoboys

In my part of the cycling world, and perhaps in yours too, these are the dark days. It may be cold or dark or wet or windy or maybe your favorite roads or trails are buried under meters of snow. And even if, by virtue of geography and fortune, these aren't your dark days, you probably at least understand about times of which I speak. These are the times that try men's (and women's) souls.

And in this age of blogs and electronic forums, of high-speed Internet and instant messages, when we cannot ride we talk in bits and bytes. Messages fly back and forth at lightspeed while our Litespeeds lie dormant or spin out kilometer after boring kilometer on stationary trainers in cold garages. Even if you are out and riding on your Pugsley or your SnowStuds, it is the hard time and you have to guard against bundling too warmly in smug satisfaction. These are dark and cranky times for us all.

I think about this and I write this with both hesitation and repetition, for these feelings and thoughts recur every year about this time. On the lists and the forums and the meetings I attend, one message is repeated, loudly and insistently and often not civilly. It is the mantra of the dark days: "You're doing it wrong!"

On the randon list right now you will find that riding with any kind of support is so very wrong. On the iBOB list you will find that your fondness for threadless stems and tig welds is some kind of moral flaw. On any recumbent forum you can stop by any day and find out that most of the world's bicyclists are complete idiots, except for the low down and laid back, and even then most of them have committed the unpardonable sin of choosing the wrong brand or model of recumbent. And if you ever want to find out how really wrong you are about bicycling, try being a cycle activist and try to get something done like draft a bicycle master plan for your city. Then you find out that if you either wear or don't wear a helmet you are an idiot. You will find that bike lanes are either saving people or killing them (it depends on who is yelling at you right now). You will also find that Critical Mass is either enlightening the masses or laying the seeds for the eventual banning of bicycles from the streets. And Effective Cycling could save the world if only people wouldn't think we were lunatics...

In all these heated discussions I try to keep in mind the word of a very wise man, a man named George Carlin. George's great observation came to him when he was driving. George realized that he always drove perfectly, at exactly the proper speed for conditions. Anyone driving slower than he was obviously a moron. And anyone who sped by him, of course, was a maniac. It's so simple. The world is filled with morons and maniacs.

It's very easy to think that way. Easy, and most probably, wrong. Why in the world should I think I've got it right? Everybody is somebody else's moron or maniac, why should I be different? If you're riding your bike in conditions that would keep me at home, well then you must be a maniac. If I'm out there and you're staying put well then you're a moron.

Nope, I don't think so. Maybe I don't have a lock on the truth and maybe my evangelising my position won't sway you. Maybe I'm not a moron or a maniac and maybe neither are you. Maybe we are all what Buckminster Fuller called "experiments of one".

I don't think I'm a moron or a maniac and I'm really not sure of much. But I am sure of this. I'm not normal. But I also know that it's fine not to be normal. The old taoboy Willie Nelson wrote, "There is no normal. There's only you and me."

My heroes have always been taoboys. I don't have to be normal, I can just be. And I don't have to make you be like me and you don't have to make me be like you. We can disagree and this time of year, we'll argue and post and pontificate because that energy that other times might go into riding has to go somewhere.

Sometimes it goes into long-winded, kinda preachy blog posts.

Sorry about that.

Keep 'em rolling,

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