The retired cyclist, part 3: The struggle

August 26, 2022 Comments Off on The retired cyclist, part 3: The struggle

There’s no better way to describe the things than Jurassic. Giant, prehistoric, straight from the bloodline of the velociraptor, that’s what wild turkey tracks look like.

It’s the end of summer already and we have an early fall in the works, which, although I’m getting ahead of myself, looks forward to Thankstaking Day, that national guise of genocide, theft, and rapine wrapped up in praise to Dog for his beneficence. I doubt the turkeys are any more enamored of what they have to give up at gunpoint than the original Americans were.

This small flock of turkeys prowls the small wash behind the house and the neighboring hillsides, foraging at dawn and otherwise silent, invisible unless you cross their tracks. Magnificent, multi-hued, stunning birds surviving in a harsh landscape made harsher by dirt bikes, ATVs, chainsaws, bulldozers, and man-made wildfires that singe every living thing into smoldering ashes, this flock somehow survives, but how? They struggle mightily until death. That’s how. And it’s from the struggle that their magnificence is born.

Among the lies of retirement is the lie of rest, the lie that you can wrap things up relaxed, painlessly, doing what you want when you want, free and therefore happy. This Bud’s for you!

The wild turkeys and Don Quixote suggest otherwise. Generally regarded as the greatest novel ever written, especially if you are a white male, Cervantes’s madman and I have much in common. First, we’re both mad. Second, we’re both locked in perpetual struggle, seeing visions, fighting imaginary foes, risking what we have for nonexistent glory, recompensed for our efforts by the ridicule and ostracism of the sane, joined at the hip to a sane partner who, having given up on a cure, has made it her business to mitigate the beatings administered by windmills, cattle, and fuller’s hammers. They say you never know your friends until you’re down and out, and it’s true, with perhaps one qualifier, which is that you never really know your friends, which could be even more perfectly modified by putting the period after the word “know.”

So how did Don Quixote become the greatest white man’s novel ever written? How did Lord of the Rings become the greatest gay white man’s fantasy ever written? What do they encapsulate, separated by the misogyny of so many centuries?

Of course it’s the search. From Odysseus to Aeneas to Beowulf to Chaucer’s pilgrims to Don Quixote to Huck Finn to Oscar Wao, the motif has been the struggle of the search, the necessity of the quest. In fact, the struggle has four parts that I like to call the Four P’s: A path, a purpose, a partner, and a passion. Every great struggle, and every small one, shares these fundamental pieces of the human mosaic.

Most people have never set forth on a quest of any kind, let alone a mad one, though we evolved as nothing more than searchers, upright walkers with toughened feet and marvelously dexterous hands, a brain honed for cooperation, language, and tool-making as we perambulated the continents, ever seeking food, fire, clothing, shelter, love, progeny, and community. Instead, we have learned to shun the search, to relegate madness to a clinical manual that subdivides it into comprehensible, drug-and-therapy treatable misbehaviors, and above all to stay home. Outside is the Jurassic, the struggle, death.

What is the crux of the brainwashing? Stake your claim even though you’re no miner. Sink deep roots though you’re no tree. Gather moss though you’re no stone. Abandon the only thing you were made to do, which is to seek madly, I mean, to struggle.

But the sadness of retirement is the same sadness of its predecessor. The person who does not seek will never find. And the person who thinks they have found has never sought. Let the velour or leather arms of your recliner enfold you. Drink in the nectar of the TV, crane your stooped neck into the microverse of your phone where dopamine without struggle awaits in infinite supply. All it costs is your time, the one thing that their money can buy, but that yours cannot.

And when the literati who anointed Cervantes go to book heaven, do you know what tale they’ll find, what story of love, adventure, longing and loss they will find reigning supreme above them all?

“The Missing Piece.”


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