Archive for the ‘biking’ Category

“Bike #11”

September 22, 2012

So I took my borrowed cycle, “Bike #11,” out for an urban morning commute, down Demonbreun past the new convention center (impressively huge, evidently tailored by Mayor Dean for a robust growth economy and a future major party convention), the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, over the Shelby Street Bridge, past the Titans stadium, then all around the new  Cumberland Park, and finally up and around Fort Negley and the Cumberland Science Museum, which apparently runs all on solar.

Nice ride, new views, good cause for optimism as more and more of us get out of the car and onto the bike. Can’t wait to try Nashville’s new green bikes too. Old Raleigh’s suddenly got competition.


“Like riding a bicycle”

September 21, 2012

I was a kid at Christmas last night.

I finished afternoon office hours at the naked eye observatory (yesterday definitely qualified as one of the “pleasant” days the sign on my office door says will usually find me there, then) and hopped on the bike (I’ve been bringing it to school daily, to shorten the last leg of my commute and to prod my spontaneity) for a quick spin around campus before heading to I-24 for the less exciting ride home.

Our campus has a different feel this year, with the sprawling new Student Center and related renovations. One of those is a new bus/bike lane that now makes it easy to cycle from one end of campus to the other without dodging or nearly creaming pedestrians, and to pop into Starbucks for commuter fuel.

This day, I remembered the Rec Center’s new rent-a-bike program. I thought it was just for students, but to my delight they gave me a bike for the weekend. And a lock and basket and “stylish” helmet too.

As we keep noting in EEA, integrating cycling into our daily routines is one easy form of “activism” for the environment open to us all. “A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.” Just ride!

James Garvey, environmental ethicist and editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine, is on a long bike-ride: 1,000 miles across Britain. He seems to be having second thoughts, or at least concerns, about striking the correct balance between mental and physical exercise.

Plato advises a careful blend of physical exercise and cultural pursuits… Neglect the Muses, and you become a graceless brute, but without the rigours of sport, the individual “melts and liquefies till he completely dissolves away his spirit…”

But then

there’s Mill’s claim about intellectual versus physical pleasures – Bach versus back rubs — that the former are “worth more” than the latter, and those who have experienced intellectual pleasures prefer them to mere physical pleasures.

So he asks us:

Are you with Plato and Mill, or anyway the caricatures above, holding on to the idea that physical and mental pleasures are distinct, or do you think, maybe with the long-distance runner [or biker], that the two are intermingled, something not easily divisible?

This seems like an easy one: of course they’re intermingled, every bit as much as mind and body. The very terms are an abstraction. People who think they must choose between them have failed to integrate fundamental aspects of life. Mens sana in corpore sano. Get back on the bike, James. But I’d advise shorter day trips, if the intermingling ceases to please.

The fertile time

September 15, 2012

Zwischenzeit. That’s another way to say “the nectar’s in the journey,” and more fuel for my growing obsession with the bicycle.

Danish philosopher Steen Nepper Larsen writes, in Cycling-Philosophy for Everyone:

The mobility of the bicycle reminds us much more of the old dream of being as free as a bird in the sky than a trip on the discounted economy expressway that commodifies our experiences. The freedom of the road contains much more than the modern, “creative,” self-managed workplace and is much richer than the freedom to consume… Below the helmet one is happy to enjoy what other people might consider to be empty and dead commuting time to be traveled at the speed of light, while moving from destination A to destination B. The biker knows that the road taken is more important than the goal. It’s no fun getting there if the getting there is deprived of quality and lacks adventures. The Germans have an expression for this fertile time-in-between: Zwischenzeit. [Utne]

Of course it’s easy to enthuse about cycling in this season, at this latitude, when it’s dry and the temperature range is perfectly temperate (60s to 80s Fahrenheit). How fertile and free will 18 wet and windy mph feel in November? That’s probably when I’ll redouble my lifelong commitment to the virtues of pedestrianism. To everything, turn turn turn

But right now, I’m still on a roll.


Grace, courage & wisdom

September 14, 2012

As I was saying: freedom to think what you want to think, when you want to think it – an inner life, in other words – is one of our very most prizable possessions.  Pulling your own strings from the inside, as it were, no matter what else may be going on out there beyond your reach: that’s stoic freedom.

And that’s the Stoics’ fundamental presumption, mirrored in William James’s attentive version of free will. More on that later in CoPhi, when we pick up John Lachs’ Stoic Pragmatism.

Inner freedom so expressed is a variant on a familiar prayer for serenity as something reasonable to pray, work, and strive for.

May we have grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things we can and should, and wisdom to know the difference.

There are different versions of Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, but the core of it is a stoically steely resolve to focus one’s energies on what might actually be responsive to them. Instead, we too frequently squander time and tranquility trying to move immovable objects and then go crazy when they resist our wills.

I don’t pray, myself, except in a quasi-Emersonian way.

Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul… But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness.

Quasi, I say, because unlike Emerson I don’t toss the term “god” around lightly, and wouldn’t presume to channel His or It’s spirit in my own soliloquies. I think (and feel) those to be my own self-reliant affair. The sort of prayer that takes to bended knee and beseeches god(s) for favor, on the other hand, feels servile and phony to me. I’m not very churchable.

But I do endorse The Sage’s refusal to beg for cheap and selfish ends. All worthy actions are prayerful in a nobler sense, for a truly free and natural earthly spirit. “The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar…”

Or how about the prayer of the cyclist arched over his bike? I “prayed” before class yesterday, all the way from Percy Priest Dam to the Shelby Bottoms Bridge. I felt free, and full of grace.

And then at 3 am I felt cramps below the knees. Too late to hope or pray I die before I get old, though that was never my preference anyway.

So today it’s back on the bike, continuing to pedal-pray for courage and wisdom. And luck. And a foot massage would be nice. I’m not begging, just puttin’ it out there.


Postscript, 8:30 a.m., Percy Warner Park, “Inspiration Point”-

From a seed, fields of dreams