Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Simplicity and Mystery of Cycling

Viewed from the side (as most of the time happens in real life and in bike ads), a bicycle can appear fairly complicated and massive. Some bikes really are both.

Viewed from above, however, most bikes suddenly become very simple. And that is the beauty of it: the technology involved with multi-speed bikes may be complex, but the experience of cycling itself is usually delightfully simple. The contrast between the two views of a bike express this well.

Another paradoxical aspect of cycling that almost always manages to get me thinking is the fact that balance on a bike can only be maintained through constant correction. In other words, one has to always be making minor re-adjustments in order to stay on a bike. This has the odd effect of making the start of a fall the key to having balance.

This is very significant and has practical impact. I hear a lot people out there trying to “find balance” in life as if the condition were a static reality or “state” to be achieved and then tenaciously held onto. The search for an illusive "balanced state" can become a selfish obsession crowding out everything else in life. But, riding a bicycle reveals how foolish such an approach to balance is.

Balance is a way of being, a constant application of correction, equipoise, and reality. By taking in what is really happening and measuring that against one’s present attitude or actions, a response tending toward re-establishing ongoing balance is made. Rather than a fixed condition, balance is a continual journey into the changing reality of our condition: no obsession, no clutching at straws to stay in a illusory state of being. It is really much simpler than that.

In a sense, biking is a practical exercise in how balance—whether physically, spiritually, emotionally, or in other ways—is kept. Occasionally we fall. Most of the time, we detect the problem and respond to maintain balance. The key is knowing what “reality” is and then staying committed to the pursuit of reality all the way down to the core of our being.

In my work as a pastor, this question of knowing and exploring reality is described by the word humility, which means being “earthed” in reality. Cycling is, for me, a form of the work of humility. Yes, it can be “humbling” to be a cyclist out there in any number of ways, but humility in the sense I mean it is really about knowing what is real in the world around us, the lives of others, our own story, and then correcting the many "falls" that begin to happen by testing the impulse against what we know to be reality. This way of understanding and living out balance is a life-long journey toward healing and integration.

Bicycling is, at heart, about maintaining balance on a journey. Metaphorically, it is also about being in easy dialog with reality so that balance may be maintained. This is a quotidian mystery   with cycling and in all of life. It is this sort of mystery that intrigues me often when out on those pedals; they teach me about the real work and commitment it takes to living creatively with risk and the possibility of falling. 

So, when you lose balance, don’t lose heart: get back on your bike—that complex yet simple machine—and keep pedaling. It has much to teach you.

No comments:

Post a Comment