UPDATED August 3, 2020

BY Henry Gold

IN Founder's Thoughts

no comments

UPDATED August 3, 2020

BY Henry Gold

IN Founder's Thoughts

no comments

Resilience, Samson and My Long Unkempt Beard


What’s with the hair and the beard?” begins the interview with Shanny for his latest TDA Talks series. I have not shaved or had a haircut since mid February. I mumbled something incoherent that goes well now with the beard. I am hard to understand at the best of times, but with beard covering my mouth even the lip readers now can’t understand me.

So what’s with the hair? I am not sure myself. Maybe it is connected to a secret belief I have that like Samson’s hair, the long beard and hair will give me the extra strength to deal with the present situation. After all in these stressful times one needs any help one can get.

On one of my long ago trips I met someone who wherever he went, and whatever local temple of faith was in the vicinity, he would go and pray. In some cities he went to all the possible denominations in the area. It made no difference to him whether it was a church, a mosque, synagogues, a Hindu temple or some traditional indigenous spiritual house. Wherever people prayed, he would join. When I talked to him, it became clear he was hedging his bets. He wanted to make sure that he was in the good books of all possible deities. It also made him feel strong.

My mother came from an Orthodox Jewish family, lost all of her siblings, parents, grandparents and much of her extended family in WW2. She spent also three years of incarceration in Auschwitz. She lost her faith in a ‘just’ God or perhaps any God but she had faith. A lot of it! Because faith is something that made you strong! When discussing all sorts of folk remedies that she would use to help her through her pains and aches, she would say ‘If you believe in them it will help’. My mother knew better than modern scientists that placebo works – as scientists discovered when they told people that they are taking placebo pills for their problems. To their surprise people felt better even when told they are taking sugar pills.

In a recent article called Mental Resilience Can Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic; Here’s How To Build It, the author Andrea Petersen interviews Dr. Rick Hanson a clinical psychologist and author of a book called ‘Resilient’. In the interview Dr. Hansen defines “Resilience is what helps us keep on a relatively even keel when the waves come. And if we get knocked over, it helps us recover. Resilience consists of psychological strengths like grit, compassion, gratitude, emotional intelligence and agility. We’re in for a very rocky year with a lot of catastrophes along the way. People who are resilient can cope better and maintain a fundamental sense of well-being.

We are without any doubt in challenging times and it is easy to feel down, lack energy, feel stressed and so on. Resilience is much in demand. Unfortunately Amazon has not been able yet to sell and deliver it (though I hear they are working on it however they have not found a way to package it). Fortunately Dr. Hansen does have some simple homemade remedies to built resilience. They include such modest suggestions as meditation, yoga, exercise, walks even just sitting down for ten minutes with a cup of tea and staring into space.

I am a believer and like the man who went to all of the spiritual places wherever he found them I do them all. I go for a walk, I cycle, I work in the garden, I meditate, I stare into space with not one cup of tea a day but three of them. In fact I have become an expert in staring into space and am even considering starting a YouTube channel, which will specialize in staring into space with any drink of your choice.

My mom (age 88) hanging out with the Tour d’Afrique crew in 2013

In my old age, I have come to believe what my mother said – that is if you believe – it will help you. All of this is simply to tell you that the Samson story may just be a beautiful legend, but if you are blessed like I am at the tender age of 68 to have plenty of hair (white that is) on your head and your face, it is just possible that the longer it gets the more resilient you will become. And in these days that is very important.

One last thing. Our company specializes in true epic tours. Some of them lasting as long as five and half months – long enough to grow good solid beards and quite a few of the male riders including myself at times choose to do that. It could be simply laziness, or the fact that on long trips you just feel that a different set of expectations apply, or simply just to try a new look. But perhaps another subconscious reason for myself is to simply imagine that the corona virus time is another adventurous life journey and the beard is part of that.


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