Things I’ve learned

You know something is coming to an end when you start ruminating on “lessons learned.” In fact I probably didn’t learn much, rather, I experienced much, and those experiences contained a few new lessons and a shit-ton of old ones.

Nothing has struck me more powerfully than the fact that people are essentially good and that they are willing to help. More than that: They want to help. But as one person put it, “I don’t want to get murdered, either.”

I’ve been out of the news loop since before I left on July 10, and each time I’m tempted to “just take a quick look” I remind myself that nothing has changed because there is no mechanism for change. The U.S. is a corporatist society dedicated to the aggregation of personal wealth. We can vote in different folks, and we should, but the meatgrinder has been running smoothly since 1776 and will continue to do so long after we’re dead.

Yet so many times I’ve been the beneficiary of ordinary human kindness and decency because this is essentially human, to treat other humans well. I thought about that as I watched the trees. The trees know their own kind, the oaks the oaks, the firs the firs, and the pines the pines. They only prosper and become forests when the other trees of their own kind prosper. A sequoia can’t become a sequoia forest (for us to cut down and make into Ikea goodies) unless the baby sequoias thrive.

This is the thing that the profit-driven meatgrinder wants us to forget, and that it wants us to distort into “me vs. you.” It wants us to overlook that really we mean the best for others and that we’re willing to help, even to give and sometimes to give deeply, in order to share our humanity.

The universe itself is random, without mercy, lacking any particular regard for you or for me. Yet you and I, when left to our bicycles, somehow are embued with mercy and regard. How is that? How can something come from nothing?

Chaucer would say, it cannot. “For nature hath not taken his biginning/ Of no partie or cantel of a thing.”

Like Chaucer, I am no “divinistre, of soules fynde I nat in this registre.” I got no answers, only realizations, and one of them is that kindness and goodness are everywhere. Sure, the other stuff is there, too, but we have an entire Internet devoted to the other stuff.

For the last three months I’ve devoted my time to looking away from the evil and towards the good. It’s been salutary in the extreme and it’s not hard to do. Turn the pedals. Open your eyes. And mostly, open your heart.

END


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12 thoughts on “Things I’ve learned”

  1. Amen. In 1988 I rode from SF to NY, and after that trip when asked by others how it went, most often my first reply was that the trip had restored my faith in human nature, for many of the same reasons you experienced and have noted here.

  2. Seems so odd to me that those who believe money is more important than people tend to also believe that accumulation is more fulfilling than experience. And they also tend to believe that “most” people are “bad”, with the few exceptions being them and their ilk and/or denomination.
    Then there are the real humans…

  3. if you can find the time, listen to Radiolab podcast “from tree to shining tree” that shows interspecies cooperation between trees rather than naked competition.

  4. “We travel not to escape from Life. But for Life not to escape from us”.
    – Anonymous

    “Grind Gears, not Meat”
    – Warrior of the Road

  5. There is something about arriving by bike. No artifice, everything strapped on, visible, and nonthreatening. People are disarmed by our vulnerability. And they’re a little awed by the naked fact that we’ve gotten to where we’re meeting them under our own human power.
    I suspect you’re more changed than you realize, Seth. It’ll dawn on you slowly as you reflect on that 3,000 mile journey. Surfers have a name for someone who not only rides one but many boards down every kind of wave, body surfs, dives, fishes, and teaches others. He’s a Waterman.
    I don’t know an equivalent moniker for a cyclist. Maybe just that– you’re a Cyclist, Seth.

  6. On point for sure. Not to imply you are off point at times, but the words of today are those that can only come from an experience like the one you just completed. There is a LOT of time on the road for self-reflection, and the tidbits of enlightenment are there to absorb.

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