Work, Relationships, And Creativity…

Why are we here, and what do we get in exchange for being human…? That’s the two-part question that consumes me all day, every day. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who worries about it. When I look around though, I sometimes feel like others don’t worry about it quite enough.

When I think of purpose and meaning, I don’t necessarily look for answers in faith or religion. I think faith and religion make a great framework — can offer useful guidelines in the search, but in finding purpose and meaning, I default to the three primary aspects that I think make me human…

– Work
– Relationships
– Creativity

I don’t see a need to look beyond those three. To be fully human, for me, can be found in maximizing these aspects of my life. And like a three-legged stool or three equal branches of a government, I encourage the three to work together, on behalf of a more complete whole.

On Work…

Work is what I am are here for. I may be capable of, and I certainly may find enjoyment in what I do beyond work, but contributing to the whole of the machine is where it all begins. I can’t imagine not working. That’s not to say I enjoy every moment of my workday, though I’m grateful to do what I get to do for a living. I would rather flip burgers though, than to collect disability or unemployment without a legitimate need to. To not work when one is able, puts a greater strain on the system and all its other contributors, however so slight.

In the picture, all those slights add up.

I don’t say this in reference to people who have worked hard and been able to retire. They have earned their downtime. People who find reasons not to work though, that are not legitimate reasons, lose an entire aspect of being human — they lose one leg off their stool. Just my opinion.

 

On Relationships…

From the checker at the grocery store, to the person on the other side of the fence, to the elderly mother I share my home with, all human connections are relationships. Some are brief — the man whose bike has a flat tire that I offer to help on the trail.  Some relationships are occasional — the checker at the grocery store who I make small talk with a few times a week. Others still are ongoing — the clients who trust me with their time and money in exchange for my leadership and advice. Every person I interact with each day is a kind of relationship. I can’t imagine not working to maximize and promote every person I connect with each day, from the ones I connect with and may never see again, to the ones I will engage with over and over again.

How hard is it, I often ask myself, to try and keep my interactions positive and uplifting, even when facing difficult circumstances…? Confrontation begets frustration, which too often leads escalation.  On a given day, my mood is forged as much from my human interactions as from anything I do or any outside circumstance. The more effort I put into keeping those interactions positive, the more likely I am to be in a better mood, though I acknowledge that those outside influences can alter a good mood quickly. That’s all the more reason to keep my human interactions positive.

 

On Creativity…

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of young people through the years, both professionally and peripherally through acts of volunteering. More than a few teenagers have felt my index finger pushing into their sternum as I’ve forcefully uttered the following sentiment…

Above all things, we are here for work and for relationships.

I’ve said it dozens of times through the years, to dozens of teens. There’s always some critical moment in the course a relationship with a teen when I’ve pulled that ace from my sleeve and dropped on them to their surprise. In hindsight, I have failed all of them by failing to mention creativity as an equal branch of self-government.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I received a book in the mail from my friend Judy. A workbook actually — a platform on which to draw, read, write stories, color, and reflect. One third of being human is being creative, I thought to myself. I have no memory of ever saying that to young person as I’ve driven home the importance of work and relationships. That won’t happen again. I’ll be quick to remind them that appreciating creativity — music, literature, art, and even well-made movies and television can be a creative outlet, but being creative is a necessary outlet.

Three equal branches of self-government…?

Three-legged stool of being human…?

Both are pretty cheesy analogies, I know. When it comes to finding purpose and meaning though, focusing my life on work, relationships, and creativity — and viewing them as having an equal influence in my life, has put me in better field position in finding fulfillment.

By the way, I didn’t necessarily write this for you. It could be that I wrote it for your children, your grandchildren, your neighbor’s children, or the kid who mows your lawn, so please feel free to share.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
168 miles
6,600’ climbing
15.3 mph avg speed
10,000 calories
10 hours 58 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne . Enjoy…!

Craving Decorum…

“Beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, the occupant of the White House has become a combination of demigod, father figure and, inevitably, the betrayer of inflated hopes. Pope. Pop star. Scold. Scapegoat. Crisis manager. Commander in Chief. Agenda settler. Moral philosopher. Interpreter of the nation’s charisma. Object of veneration. And the butt of jokes. All rolled into one.”

Andrew Bacevich, from The Limits Of Power

I think we could superimpose that statement on our expectations of any would-be successor to the president, even if it’s too late for the current president.

Let the arguments begin.

How hard is it, I ask myself multiple times each day, to just bow out of an argument for the sake of our nation’s health…? Arguments today, especially those within social media platforms, are incredibly superficial, waste time, waste energy, frequently alter moods to a lesser state, and accomplish absolutely nothing except to fulfill the immature need for self-gratification among the craving participants.

Craving…? Craving attention. Craving stimulation. Craving fulfillment. Craving superiority. Craving to stir the pot. Craving craving craving. Increasingly, many crave arguing in the same way they crave sugar.

Argument, in that frame, is the Type II diabetes of our national health.

Within and between my social media connections, at least when it comes to politics, I’m usually the quiet one and argue little or not at all, in the same way I’m the one who passes on dessert at the end of a meal or goes for the asparagus before I go for the potatoes.

Decorum, I reckon, is the insulin of this increasing national health crisis.

I did a search recently, of how many times I used the word decorum in my writings, going back about 15 years. Since 2003, between my social media outlets and my personal writing, I’ve used the word decorum approximately 120 times. Apparently I’m big on the word, as well as the idea it represents.

Decorum, it seems, has gone the way of sensible portions at meal time, and sensible snacks. Think about that — as meal portions were once more responsible, so too was how spoke to each other in matters of politics and government. Think Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.

If one takes the “s” out of the word politics and changes it to politic, the word takes on a whole new meaning, and becomes an actual synonym for decorum. Conversely, if one puts an “s” politic, it begins to lack luster. Say that fast and you’ll see you where I’m going.

Practicing decorum, I’m learning in the social media era, is a lot like eating better. If everyone did it, our health as individuals would improve, and so too would our collective health as a nation. Like with good eating though, most people know this, yet few choose to practice it.

As it shouldn’t be that hard to mix in a vegetable a couple times a day, it shouldn’t be that hard to say “Okay friend, now it’s your turn to speak and I’m going to listen“.

In that same light, stopping short of calling somebody a “pompous jerk” could be just as beneficial as stopping short of that second helpings ice cream.

If a career in fitness has taught me anything about culture, and the poorly motivated apes that drive culture, is that it’s easier, and on most levels probably feels much better, to get away with things we know are going to hurt us in the long run, as individuals and as a nation. With argument, we will tax our nation to a point of social diabetes.

This is what I think about when I ride…. Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6
180 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
10,100 calories
11 hours 41 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Marty Willson-Piper. Enjoy…!

Work Before Fun…

When a plate of food is set before me and there are multiple courses on it, though they may alll be appetizing, there’s always one that I will desire the least and one that I’ll be drawn to more than the others. Others might fall in-between. My mind quickly performs a kind of triage that rates the dishes from worst tasting to best tasting.

I’ll begin by eating, in it’s entirety, the one I find the least appetizing — lima beans for example. That will be followed by the next one up in my establish order, and so-on. By the time there is one food remaining on the plate, it will be the one that I most wanted. I will have earned my way from worst to best.

It’s not just foods I do this with.

My community of Fallbrook California is roughly 700-feet above sea level. Because the land here has a lot of contour, there are areas of Fallbrook which are higher and some valleys that are lower. On average though, we’re at 700-feet. For at least a portion of every bike ride, I leave Fallbrook for the neighboring communities of Bonsall and Oceanside, both of which are lower in elevation than Fallbrook.

 

South Mission Road is the downhill vein that leads me out of Fallbrook and into the lowlands. From my driveway, which sits well above the median point of Fallbrook of 700-feet, it’s roughly 7-miles of descent until I’m on highway 76 in Bonsall. That means the first significant portion of my daily ride is downhill — the best part of my meal first, when I would rather have it for dessert. Conversely, the lima beans of my ride, the 7-mile climb back into town, comes at the end. This is the precise opposite of how my mind works. I would rather start my rides with a hard 7-mile climb and finish with the downhill glide.

If I could change this about my ride I would.

One option I do have is to head north into Riverside County instead of further south into San Diego County. The problem there is one of mixed topography. Though cumulatively, heading north I begin by climbing, because of the mixed hills, I also end with a good deal of climbing, spelled only by short and steep descents. Although this is great for conditioning, it forces me to ride at a slower speed and I can’t gather the mileage that I prefer to.

I can’t help it, I’m just wired this way. When I was a kid, my dad assigned me weekly yard work — pulling weeds and mowing the lawn. I hated pulling the weeds, so I did that first. Mowing the lawn was the fun part, so I do that last.

Homework as a kid…? I got the math done first, so I could enjoy the history. I just like getting the hard stuff out of the way first. Even when I brush my teeth, I spend the first couple of minutes working on the hard to get to places, and finish by brushing the storefront — my pearly whites.

When I clean my studio each week, I dust first — getting into all the nooks and crannies, and only then do I get to clean the floor, which is my favorite part.

No matter what though, so long as I live in this house, my rides will always start easy and end with difficulty, despite that I prefer it the other way around. I’m not willing to go through the expense though, and hassle of relocating so I can better enjoy my rides. Well, not yet anyway.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
158 miles
6,100’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
9,100 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Orville Peck. Enjoy…!

Of Good Intentions And Born Destroyers…

I took a seaside walk with my cousin a few weeks back. As we discussed the heavier side of man’s social challenges, nature suddenly called upon me. Far from any buildings, businesses, or public restrooms, I tactfully asked my cousin if she’d mind me disappearing for a minute. She was fine with it. My good intention was that I didn’t want my cousin to see me pee into the Pacific Ocean.

Walking back in her direction, I pondered how many micro organisms in the reef I just peed on were killed by my good intentions. I contemplated the impact that I might have had on the sub-local environment. My cousin, a wildlife biologist, chuckled at my suggestion. In truth though, I probably killed something, even if small and insignificant.

We can’t help it, even with the best of intentions, we’re just born destroyers. We begin destroying the world around us as immediately as we are born.

Two people, with the best of intentions, decide they want to have a child. The the first diaper to be soiled by the new baby has an environmental impact — both when it is manufactured and when it gets discarded. At the young age of 7-minutes old, we don’t think about that negative impacts of our parent’s good intentions, but that’s how soon it begins.

The pain medication that gets shot in a mother’s back prior to her giving birth has consequences. The consequences of the medication being manufactured, the consequences when it hits the mother’s blood stream, and the consequences of the needle when it’s discarded.

The doctor who delivers the baby wakes up from a dead sleep, possibly a pharmaceutical induced sleep, at 2am. He drives to the hospital to deliver the baby, groggy and perhaps not fully alert. He is a cornucopia of potential destructive consequences despite that his good intentions are to deliver a healthy baby. If he’s in an accident and gets injured along the way, or worse, if he kills somebody else, who’s fault is it…? Fundamentally, it’s the new parent’s fault, for choosing to have a baby.

That’s a stretch, I know, but all of life, the good and bad of it, can be distilled this way.

A couple of days ago, while riding along the Rio Salado river project in Tempe Arizona , I was thinking about all of this on another level. That horrible axiom goes through my mind all the time when I ride…

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions…’

That aphorism is most often an ignorant battering ram people use when arguing against moral stances in favor of altruism, empathy, charity, and civility. An inarguable fact is that good intentions may not always lead to good results. Very often they don’t. Good intentions can lead to terrible things, I was reminded of that yesterday by a friend in the Midwest.

However, since mathematics and statistics can only predict the future so well, most anything one does born of good intentions is probably as much guesswork as it might be predictable, based on any calculations performed ahead of time. That is, good intentions are very often a throw the dice.

In his book, Enlightenment Now, Professor Steven Pinker was quick to add in a current ‘unintended consequences’ scenario just before his publishing deadline. It had to do with a driverless car accident in Phoenix in 2018. An Uber driver in a self-driving car, struck and killed a pedestrian — while she watched a streaming video on her cell phone. Hey, the car was supposed to do the driving, right…?

Following the incident, and with the best of intentions, Uber suspended its self-driving car testing in the state of Arizona. Clearly that seemed like the right thing to do from both a publicity point of view and from one of safety. Though it is nearly impossible to calculate, the self-driving car testing, which continues today in other cities and with other companies, probably still saves many more lives than it takes — overwhelmingly. Using simple calculations, Pinker argues that by stopping the driverless car testing in Arizona, and again this is impossible to calculate accurately but reasonable to suggest, it likely opened the door to more fatalities, not less.

By stopping the testing, drivers who are not in self-driving cars and also not paying attention, are a greater risk than those in self-driving cars who are not paying attention. Let us not forget that a large portion of the motivation behind self-driving cars was to substantially cut down on road fatalities. It would have been possible for Uber to continue the driverless car program in Arizona while simultaneously conducting investigations on how to improve the program and minimize, even more, the potential for unnecessary fatalities.

Regardless of which side one is on — shutting down the wireless driver program while conducting the investigations, or continuing the program while conducting investigations, both camps have good intentions.

Most of the good in the world, possibly all good in the world, starts with good intentions. At best though, good intentions are a throw of the dice. Good intentions need to be driven by good effort, consistency, and need to be followed up on regularly to ensure integrity. Even so, actions born of good intentions are always a gamble.

Bad intentions though, to be successful, don’t require as much. Bad intentions simply need to be shared — they spread so easily. Let’s face it, it just feels good to do bad things. The dice of bad intentions…? Well, they are much more accurate then the dice of good intentions.
As far as the road to hell goes, well, I’ll argue until my dying breath that its paved by one thing and one thing alone — people who go through life expecting and regularly taking from the world more than they are willing to give.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
169 miles
6,100’ climbing
15.7 mph avg
9,700 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Emmylou Harris. Enjoy…

The Power Of Nonsense…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

I call it my morning nonsense — that single hour each morning, before my workday begins, when I sit on my sofa and exchange ideas, information, and entertainment via the internet. It’s a transitional time for me — a bridge between my peaceful slumber and the efforts of my impending day. I sit with with my dog on my lap, a kitty at my feet, the space heater humming in the distance, and I connect with people near and far via an invisible and instantaneous web.

Central to that nonsense, is this blog you are reading and its corresponding Spoke And Word page on Facebook. The Facebook page is a platform similar to this one, where each morning I post one picture from my bike ride of the day prior, and expand over several paragraphs on what I might have been thinking about on the previous day’s ride.

It seems riding, writing, and sharing are central to my life — I am compelled to do all three every day.

If there’s any purpose to this riding, writing, and sharing, and I like to think there is, it’s that I’ve always hoped my photographs and musings would inspire others to dust off their own bicycles and take a little time each week to see the world from this rolling point of view.

Silly as it sounds, this morning nonsense is something I’m very proud of. Proud, in part, because I do it consistently — seven days per week. Since I have a life’s history of inconsistency, I feel this has a legacy aspect to it worthy of pride.

Since I began this blog and its corresponding Facebook page nearly a year ago, i’ve been contacted by over a dozen people, some who I’ve met, and others who I’ve never met, who’ve let me know they are riding their bikes again, in some cases for the first time in years. Others have asked for my help in purchasing bikes. And a couple of people, who have never ridden a bike in their lives, have asked for my assistance in learning.

I’ll always drop whatever I might be involved in to answer questions about cycling or to help somebody pick out a bike that fits the type of riding they do — or help them explore what type of riding suits them best.

Bicycles can be both transformative and pragmatic. Bikes are the most direct path to freedom I’ve ever known. They are also the most efficient form of transportation ever conceived. I use mine for both — recreation and transportation. Again, I’m proud that I’ve inspired a handful of people to use their bicycles for recreation and/or transportation also.

When people talk of the vast wasteland that is social media, I’m often inclined to agree. However, when I look at the miraculous nature of the internet, and what it can do when its power is used with good intentions, I can’t help but think we live in the most amazing age in human history.

A technology is only as good as its use. Each day, as I conduct my morning nonsense, I intend to use this technology exclusively with good intentions. If I reach a couple of people, fantastic. If they reach a couple more people, that’s even better.

I’m not sure if Margaret Mead ever rode a bicycle. As I ride mine though, each day through the hills, vineyards, orchards, and the coast lines of San Diego county, she sits quietly on my handlebars and asked me to share my view with others, that they might do the same.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
187 miles
8,400’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
10,500 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from U2 and Patti Smith. Enjoy…

 

Complaint Filters…

It’s hard for me to complain about too much of anything, not that I don’t want to. I could, I suppose. Certainly the desire to complain is there, on and off throughout the day. My life isn’t exactly perfect. I know sorrow, frustration, depression, and anxiety — nearly every day of my life. I don’t talk too much about any of it though, with too many people. What’s the point…?

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I don’t want to blow my toxic impurities into somebody else’s mind. I’ve always seen complaining to others as equivalent aiming an exhaust pipe of a car directly into somebody else’s state of being.

I’m always surprised how many people don’t see it that way — that they don’t realize or don’t care that they’re spewing gases into the psyches of others. Complaining must feel pretty good to them — I mean, if they are willing to do it so frequently and so nonchalantly. Few people, it seems, take time to consider that the person they are complaining to might be having a good day. Or on the flipside, that they might be having a horrible day. And that’s the thing about complaining, it can make someone else’s good day bad, or a bad day worse.

I’d rather hold my gripes in and release them elsewhere, without ever saying a word to, and negatively impacting another. Framed that way, complaints are the greenhouse gasses of culture.

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I get to spend time each day walking in nature and observing small things. I get sit quietly each evening, on my porch with my dog and watch the coastal breezes push my palm trees slightly to the right. I get to ride my bikes and experience the thrill of rolling downhill at speeds up to 40 mph. I get to lift weights to let of steam.

In truth, I don’t get to do any of these. I choose to do them. These are my complaint filters — they minimize my cultural carbon footprint.

Anyone of those, by the way, might be considered an addiction — just for the fact that I move heaven and earth to make sure they each happen every day. However, those addictive behaviors have a value beyond helping me, they help society because participating in any of them helps keep me from dumping my would-be complaints onto others.

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Anything I might have complained about before riding my bikes, before walking in the woods, before sitting still on my porch, or before lifting my aggressions away, disappears as quickly as I’m engaged in any of them. By the time I’m through with them, I have nothing left to complain about. My gases have been filtered out.

I think this is a good way to be.

Sure, we all need somebody to talk to, but do we really need to poison them…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
193 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
11,000 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from The Spinanes. Enjoy…

Not One Minute More….

I’ll start by confessing I didn’t ride my bike yesterday. That would make the 3rd day this summer that I failed to ride at least 25 miles, and the 7th day without riding in 2019.

I had every intention of riding yesterday. I knew ahead of time though, that I would spend the entire day yesterday at a leadership symposium in downtown San Diego. Between my time at the conference and the commuting time from my home, I knew my only chance to ride would be late, we’ll after dark, and even conflict with my normal bedtime.

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If you read this regularly or if you know me at all, you know I actually enjoy riding in the dark. You might also know my favorite cure for a long day is a long ride. So the idea of riding after dark at the end of a long day shouldn’t have been daunting to me at all. Hell, that’s a recipe for me to have a great ride — especially in these cool autumn evenings.

So why then, did I get out of my car after a 50-mile drive from San Diego, walk into my house, kick off my shoes, and sit on my recliner — knowing full-well I wasn’t going to ride…?

Shoes.

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Anyone who knows me, also knows well that I spend my days in bare feet. Workdays, off days, indoors, outdoors — the only time I wear shoes is walking my dog in our local nature preserves, in restaurants and in shops, and on my bikes. Otherwise, I’m grounded.

Shoes are stupid. They are confining, painful, and clumsy.  Shoes are awkward  little prisons for my feet.

So at the end of my long day — a day when I truly needed to ride, and on a cool evening with conditions that were just right for an epic ride, I walked into my house and couldn’t get my shoes off fast enough. There was no way they were going back on again. My desire to provide freedom to my piggies was far greater than my desire to suit up a bike and head back out again.

Shoes are stupid.

Honestly, the people I respect the most in this world aren’t first responders, school teachers, social workers, scientists, philanthropists, or even volunteers doing hard work on behalf of the less fortunate. The people I respect the most are people who can tolerate wearing shoes all day long — day after day, year after year. I just can’t do it. Yesterday I wore shoes for nearly 10 consecutive hours. I’m not sure I’ve done that in the last 5 years, perhaps not in the last 10.

There are many reasons why I choose to go barefoot as often as possible. Primary to those are 20 years of trail hiking and 30+ years of dropping weights on my feet each week. I have experienced many broken metatarsal bones. My first few steps out of bed each day look as though I’m walking across a field of broken glass and carpet tacks. By the time I step into the shower though, the pain eases and the warm water is my first form of healing — a daily rebirth of Jhciacb’s piggies.

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My feet just feel and do better out of shoes. Perhaps in retirement, I’ll develop a bicycle pedal for bare feet. Maybe. Last night I chose not to ride because my feet hurt from being in shoes all day long. I guess I should’ve been a Flintstone.

This is what I think about one ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
167 miles
16.1 mph avg
5,400’ climbing
9,600 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from the Screaming Blue Messiahs. Enjoy…