Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reinvention: Charlie the phoenix bicycle?

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages - this is one of those moments I tend to equate with showing your parents you got an A on the spelling test and a gold star sticker, one they put it on the fridge.

Those gold stars were something else, surreal and powerful to my young mind.

Right now Charlie is the gold star.

I started out half a year ago on a project that I thought might take a weekend, but I let creativity run the show and so it's become a growing opportunity mixed in with a creative outlet.

Charlie the blue fixie returns to the streets at long last!

New old bike day!
He's got a snazzy 700c wheelset I build myself - H Plus Son Archetype rims laced to White Industries track hubs. His lovely 15T splined cog came in. He's running a track chain and has some drop bars.

Old road aesthetics meet some period appropriate componentry with a touch of modern and a side of DIY - mix together and you there you have him.

On the stand, hoods uncovered

By last summer we had racked up over 8k miles together. Mercutio has been the fall and winter mount, earning himself a respectable (approximately) thousand miles. (And now needs a bottom bracket overhaul compliments of winter road grunge.) But now it's Charlie's turn to shine!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stuck in Winter

Yesterday spring began! Did you notice? or think to look?

I almost didn't, because what did it do the day before? The sky belched winter upon us.

Winter seems to be arriving late, and staying too long. At least here in Boston land anyway.

So what's a girl to do? Besides work and run and bike and drink coffee (or tea increasingly), and dream of spring?

Build a bike of course!

I'm one 15T White Industries splined track cog away from Charlie being up and running as his new overhauled self.

One track cog away from putting the beater away.

One track cog from riding on a wheel set I built myself.

One track cog away from so many things.

One track cog isn't very large. And that's about the distance between now and spring. Between the present and the amazing possibilities around the corner.

So all you need is one track cog's worth of patience. Keep chipping away at the work that needs to get done, and eventually the little hairline fractures in your great obstacle will result in a great breakthrough.

Remember the Old Man on the Mountain in NH? Well, eventually his nose fell off (then the whole of it), and sad as that may be for him, or scenic mountain profiles, I'm excited about that moment, just around the corner when winter's nose falls off too.

Can you feel it in the breeze?

Next mission, clipless pedals for Princess Buttercup, and for me learning how to ride SPD.....

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cars and The Cave

The Bandit Man has excellent ideas, this began once again from one of our conversations - I went one related direction whilst his thought pattern went another in Leaving the Cave Behind.

Cars and The Cave

The conversation began with the comparison to cars and caves. And while I happily point to the Bandit Man to speak his piece in his own way, my tangent went in the direction of Plato, rather than our species' anthropological history.

In Plato's Republic, to relay in brief (in case it's been awhile since you've read it), our reality is compared to shadows on a wall. That we as humankind, dwell in a cave - chained together, facing the back wall of the Cave. The entirety of our perception is the shadows we see cast upon the wall before our eyes. We cannot turn around to see the source of the shadows. We do not know life outside the Cave.

From Plato's perspective - from the perspective of those who followed Metaphysics - this world of ours was only ever a reflection of a more pure world, where the true root of all concepts, all perceivable things comes from. (On a side note, if you've ever read Neal Stephenson's Anathem - this perspective on metaphysics corresponds to the Hyalean Theoric World from the novel.) We have no access to this pure realm of absolute concepts and definitions, we can only perceive small snippets  blurry forms as insubstantial as the shadows upon the Cave wall.

So where do the cars come in?

Cars are rather useful. They get us places, they get us there fast. Ambulances often make the difference between life and death after an accident - getting there swiftly to save a life. We rely upon the vehicles of our law enforcement and fire fighters. Vehicles are part of our society and are useful tools.

But sometimes they're not.

Sometimes our cars are Plato's Cave.

Traffic, fumes, parking spaces and all of the drama and frequent time sucking that goes along with it. For some of the trips the car is not the tool for the job at all. And that's where it becomes the Cave.

Shadows Upon The Wall

Surrounded by metal, plastic and glass one is shielded from the world, from the noise, from physical exertion. There are blind spots. You could be on the phone, as just about every single cab driver in the greater Boston area is all of the time, and neglect to really check for oncoming traffic because of the phone in your hand. (We don't have hands free driving equipment as mandatory in MA.) Perhaps your car can update you on Facebook statuses, and there's always music.

It's not as though you can really chat with the people around you. You're boxed off, a horn blast or a certain finger gesture often the best communication you'll receive. But is that really communication?

And is it worth it to sit in traffic for an hour if you're going less than 10 miles? Public transit doesn't cover the distance so you have to drive, right?

There's another tool for the job actually, and you might like this one.

But beware, it's not a Cave. It can't be.

There's no cushion between you and the world here. This is getting up, removing the chains on perception, turning away from the shadows upon the Cave wall and walking out to see the sun. Maybe for the very first time.

This is a bicycle.

And it doesn't mean you have to bike every day, come rain, snow, sleet, or asteroids. (Although some of us do.)

It's a way to move you and your perception. My bicycle and I were Metro-West commuters, 12 miles each way, each day - and I got to work faster than sitting in traffic, faster than the bus, and I didn't need a gym membership.

Now that's escaping the Cave.

All I ever really needed was the sun and the sky, and the wind on my face. Unfiltered, no windshield, no metal cave to restrain me.

Life outside the Cave has been learning to love transit. It's not the daily grind, it's a bike ride that happens to be to work, or wherever else my legs take me.

Would you like to step outside of the Cave?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Process of Becoming

There's a quote I love: "To accept is easy, to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith." 

A Moment for Philology

Taking a moment to expand on some of the words here. We can take Buddhahood to mean the enlightened aspect of a thing or person, or perhaps the manifest best side of something or someone. E.g., The person who speaks against injustice without regard to their own safety or reputation could perhaps be said to be manifesting the Buddhahood of that situation. Faith, so often a loaded word in politics and interpersonal relations, comes in many forms. Faith in an idea, a movement, a deity, a sports team, a parent, a loved one. But more so here, we're taking faith to mean faith in one's self; faith in one's ability to grow and manifest one's best self. Faith to undertake the challenge to see life exactly for what is it and deal with it, whether we fail or win the first time.

"Fascinating New Thing"

When we start something new it's really exciting. New job, new school, new project, new love, new house, new things... you get the idea. But eventually things are divested of sparkling their newness and we're left with what is.

Oft times that's where we stop. But that's the kicker...

So often, what is is better than the idea of shiny newness that we ascribed. So often what's there is a shining, beautiful thing. But it takes something to get there.

In the process of becoming, so frequently impatience kicks in. Why can't this be done yet? Why am I not there yet? It feels like nothing has changed, all this time has gone by and I still have all these same problems.

In Bicycles as In Life

I am rebuilding Charlie. After over 8000 miles it was about time. Charlie is in the process of becoming his new self.

He's got a little of this:

And some of this:

And some new wheels, but there's the waiting. The parts order is in but there's only so much we can do in the meantime.

And it keeps snowing.

Where are my parts? Why won't it stop snowing, it's March now.

(See what I mean about impatience?)

What I Want, Right Now

That's the thing about continuing. It's not about what I want right now. It's about the big picture, about remembering that when things don't go your way, when it keeps snowing, when everything seems arrayed against you.

Spring will come.

But how you pass the time between now and then is up to you.

Doing the work that's right in front of you, starting where you are is the next step in the process of becoming.

Me, I'm building another bike, but I'm still riding the beater. I'm doing another Mudder, so I'm running. I'm starting a business, so I'm learning.

I'm somewhere in the process of becoming the next best version of me, but that doesn't mean I'm going to throw current me into the bilge trap. This me is pretty awesome too, because she is continuing, even though the destination is over the horizon.

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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License