Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thoughts on mortality...and travel?

Well, it has been a slow week here at EC. I took a little spill a week ago that has limited my cycling a bit. I landed on my shoulder pretty good and for a while I couldn't even raise a pint glass. I finally made it to the doctor, got the thing x-rayed and am waiting to hear the results. My feeling is that it's nothing serious, just some sore and swollen tendons.

Anyway, it was the first crash of any note in a long time and it reminded me that I'm not as tough as my bike. Flesh and bone (and tendons apparently). This sort of sent me on a thought spiral about life in general and the strange case of our mortality. We're all not very long on this earth. Now, while this may cause some to want to stay indoors and jump in bed it has made me want to go out and live life as an adventure.

I think it was all the Emerson that I read in high school.

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist!"

"To be great is to be misunderstood!"

You get the idea.

I've always had a keen sense of my own mortality and it has shaped my life quite a bit. It is why I do what I do. Why I run my own business (and a non-traditional one at that). Hey, it's also why I love touring and the wonderful stuff I review on this site!

When you know your time is finite, you don't want to spend it doing something that is not enjoyable or doesn't captivate you. For me, that is what I love about a bicycle tour compared to my past vacations. Before touring, I would do the typical vacation of hopping on a plane or driving, getting a hotel, gorging myself silly and buying stuff -- but I never felt like I DID anything. As much money and movement there was involved, it was still a largely passive act. Life in HD but not life itself.

But with touring, man, you feel every slight curvature of the earth. You are Sisyphus and like him, every banal act engages your senses and takes on meaning. The very act from moving from A to B is an adventure in of itself.

It's also why I like some nice bike stuff :) If you only have a few good decades of riding, don't spend it on some soul-less piece of crap, that is mass produced by the millions. For me, that really is why I like stuff on Riv, VO and Acorn. Yes, the bits are expensive but you know they will be well made and with proper care, they'll last you a lifetime (and one of those is all you get).

So anyway, I didn't mean to get all morbid. Maybe I hit more than my shoulder on the way down :) My feeling is that I'm not alone in thinking this and that great deal of my readers probably feel the same? Thoughts? How many are self-employed or feel like you're forging your own path?


Andrew E said...

I had some serious heart issues a year and a half ago.. culminating in 3 heart surgeries & a pacemaker/defibrillator. The whole time i was in the hospital i was thinking about how much i wish i was out on my bike instead. As soon as i was able to move around some i sold my car because i realized that if i had a limited time to be around... i wanted to do it on my bike, enjoying the world.

mortality is a funny thing.. just have to find the silver lining in it all :)

Eeberleeber said...

Ditto on the virtues of touring!

However, I disagree a little bit about whether or not to engage in mass produced or boutique bikes. I'm into the fact cottage industries like Rivendell etc exist and endure, but ultimately the experience transcends the vessel. I could have a blast of a tour on a Bianchi *or* an elegant constructeur build. I don't discount that one can enjoy one bike more than another, or that a truly well-built ride that fits is going to augment the enjoyment of a tour. I don't think, however, that a mass-produced bike can't be or do that. That is, certainly some are well-built and most folks can find a size that fits.

Now as to whether or not putting one's dollar into the pocket of a true bicycle-enthusiast/small-business-owner versus an executive (who may or may not be a cyclist) is money better spent... I'd have a hard time saying no.

I hope your shoulder is ok!

Ian said...

I have yet to take an actual tour. I have ridden a few 20-50 mile rides, but that is about it. I do ride my bike everyday and from work and anywhere I need to go. But I would love to tour sometime...

That being said I feel almost the same way. The way I see it is you only have one chance at life and it isn't a very long one so you might as well enjoy it and do all the things you love. I began a lifestyle change 1 year ago and have lost 81 lbs, from 250 down to 169 as of today. A year ago I felt as if I was going to cut my life short by staying overweight and non active, so I began running and eventually cycling. Now I love exercise and feel as if life will be extended, but only for a short time.

John said...

Yow, sorry to hear about your accident. Hope you're well again soon! I have arthritis - like, everywhere - and until I found the right medication the pain was depressing. As soon as I started to feel better, I went out and bought a bike. I haven't done a tour yet, but every minute I can spend out in the fresh air and sunshine is a gift. I really dig your blog!