Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I am the engine

In the title scenario of his book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, David Eagleman describes a hypothetical afterlife in which "you relive all your experience, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.” In this afterlife you spend 30 years asleep, 15 months looking for lost items and so forth. Eagleman's thought experiments are not really about death, instead they provide a lens in which to examine our lives. As I viewed my own life through this particular lens, I saw vast blocks of time spent riding bicycles, working on bicycles, thinking about bicycles and writing about bicycles. And I smiled.

Now I'm sure there are other people (Tom & Ray come to mind) who have filled their lives with cars the way I have filled mine with bicycles, but the automobile never captured my attention and life the way the bicycle has. While it is never possible for the mind to fully explain what the heart knows to be true, I still find time to wonder and speculate as to why two wheels suit me so much better than four.

The engine is a big part of the answer. On a bicycle, I am the engine. The bicycle amplifies my effort by a factor of about four. Energy that would let me walk about three miles in an hour send me twelve miles down the road on my bike. This seems to be a good pace for me and miles ridden build me up to ride more miles. The bicycle is honest in the way it rewards effort.

The automobile, on the other hand, seems to be intent on selling me things I don't need to buy: horses under the hood, refined dinosaurs out the tailpipe, an urgency in going from here to there. And when you get there we'll have a parking place close by the door because this is America, dammit, and heaven forbid you'd have to walk too far...

No, thanks. I'll walk or ride. When it's raining a jacket still makes more sense to me than a big steel box with big roaring motor.

Perhaps I don't think big enough and don't understand simple things like four is bigger than two and more is better than less. But it seems to me that I go far enough and fast enough to get where I'm going. I like the feeling of my effort being made into motion.

I am the engine. That, plus a bicycle, is enough for me.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

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