On transcendence and cycling.
Is there something transcendental about cycling? Does the act of getting on a bike transform us, take us higher, make us more enlightened, more humble, more ‘other worldly?
What is it about cycling that has inspired wise & thoughtful men and women to observe: “Life is like riding a bicycle — in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving“. Albert Einstein. Or William Golding, the man who wrote Lord of The Flies, who certainly had a few insights about humans: “Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things.”
In his book it’s all about the bike subtitled The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, author Robert Penn writes: “The bicycle saves my life every day. If you’ve ever expressed a moment of awe or freedom on a bicycle; if you’ve ever taken flight from sadness to the rhythm of two spinning wheels, or felt a resurgence of hope pedalling to the top of a hill with the dew of effort on your forehead; if you’ve ever wondered, swooping bird-like down a long hill on a bicycle, if the world was standing still; if you ever, just once, sat on a bicycle with a stinging heart and felt like an ordinary human being touching gods, then we share something fundamental.”
The Webster dictionary defines transcendence as ‘exceeding usual limits or as extending beyond the limits of ordinary experience, beyond comprehension, or even transcending the universe or material existence.” Certainly for many of us, the act of cycling would fit perfectly into this description. The famous educator/philosopher Ivan Illich wrote: “The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.” Perhaps it is this seamless efficiency that allows a cyclist to transcend from mere being to another dimension or reality when riding a bike?
Of course, to explain transcendence is like trying to explain the act of cycling. It took five millennia after the wheel was invented before someone figured out that you can get two wheels, join them together and then the faster you go, the more balance you will have. That, beyond any doubt, is transcendence of the highest order. As for the rest of us mortals, well some of us keep on trying to reflect the act of cycling in words. Here is one I like:
I ride through the time
Elongating the memories with surreal distortion
I ride for the feeling of freedom
I am perpetual, free from the lingering fear of death
I push myself to the edges of mortal capacity
Then I transcend the human pain
And enter that fourth dimension.
The wheels no longer finger the ground
They float on passionate endeavor
A whole hearted and single minded effort
The rhythm of faultless circles going ’round
A pulsating rhythm that ascends above the world’s anguishes.
The constant movement brings freedom….
~Anita Ho, “Balance”
To finish my short musings on Bikes and Transcendence, here are a few final words of wisdom:
“Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.” – Helen Keller,
“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” – Mark Twain
“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm? ” ― Angela Carter
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” -H.G. Wells
“The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” – Susan B. Anthony
“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.” – Desmond Tutu
Transcend your everyday life and cycle around the block or across 6 continents.