Stop making sense. 30 days of biking, #30

What if everything, everything was in motion?

If you think about it everything is in motion. The Earth rotates at an absurd speed. It does this as it moves around the sun with all the other planets. What’s more, the entire solar system flies through space as though it has somewhere else to be and it’s late.

Everything on this planet: you, me, the screen you’re reading this on, the dog that lives down the street, we’re just along for the ride.

Not that we always knew this. The whole sun-moving-around-the-earth theory fooled us for quite a while.

You say some are still fooled? Maybe, but today’s fooling is an exercise in Unitedstatesian stagecraft and/or willful ignorance, defined as the freedom people enjoy to miss the point on a daily basis.

But I’m not interested in cosmic physics as much as in the physics of imagination: everything in motion, more or less separate from everything else.

What if everything was able, nay compelled, to move in relationship to everything else?

Now, let’s not get silly about this idea. I’m not talking about the wall over there moving in relationship to the ceiling or the floor. Buildings and trees and bicycles and people retain their physical integrity in the always-moving world.

And while the ground and sky move, it’s not like you’d see a mountain moving by itself across the sky. Not a big mountain, anyway. It might happen, but very rarely, maybe as often as a bird from South America in our own, more stationary world finds itself transported within an enormous storm system that finally peters out over Scotland.

Trees also move from place to place, though a tree in the always-moving world has a completely different root system: one that drags along the ground for nutrition, much as an electric streetcar gets its power from overhead lines.

Trees also move from east to west, following the sun, because photosynthesis will find a way.

By the way, everything floats in the always-moving world. Otherwise a lot of things would just sink into the ocean, doomed to circle the edge of the continental shelf until it rises to form a new mountain range.

Because everything floats, trees moving from east to west keep moving: from California to Hawaii to the Philippines to wherever.

Also, fish move across the land, treading ancient evolutionary paths on a daily basis to the consternation of anti-evolutionary folk who often wake to find themselves at sea.

Yes, people too are always in motion, whether voluntary or not.

Babies start drifting as soon as they emerge on the scene. Concerned parents leash their offspring immediately while the more laidback wait for their kids to circle the earth, which they do every 27 minutes (kids move so fast these days).

Meals are eaten on the run.

Bicycles also move by themselves. If people feel like going for a ride, they wait for bicycles to come by and climb aboard. But since everything in the world is moving, you’re not really riding unless you steer the bicycle in a new direction and pedal.

I mean pedal faster; pedals are always turning in the always-moving world.

Buildings and streets and parking lots move but slower than everything else. Beautiful buildings tend to group together, sometimes at the beach, sometimes in the mountains. Ugly buildings tend to follow the people responsible for their creation. Trees move aside as the sorry spectacle passes.

Yes, you in the back. Hmm? How do supply chains work when management and labor, and machines and trained operators are always moving in different directions?

Short answer? About as well as they do in our world during the pandemic.

You’d like a longer answer? Well, supply chains operate differently.

Ownership of the means of production is defined by the Law of Proximity. A factory might be built in Egypt on Tuesday and operated by someone in Nigeria who just happens to wake up next to it on Friday.

If steel tubing arrives that same day, the Nigerian makes bicycle frames and martin-house poles. If bamboo is on hand, the factory turns out flooring, window blinds and bicycle frames. Aluminum? Bicycle rims, brakes, derailleurs and frames. Carbon fiber? Mostly marketing materials.

People in the always-moving world can work with whatever comes to mind. They enjoy the variety.

Let’s move on.

In the always-moving world, cemeteries don’t exist. If they did, the only answer to the question where did we bury grandma would be who cares, she isn’t there now.

Cars and trucks? They never stop. Never. It’s like Los Angeles never existed.

Ironically, people don’t need bicycles or motorized transporation to get to their destinations. If they wait long enough, they just find themselves floating down the Arno in Florence, or picnicking beside the Seine in Paris, waiting for the kids to arrive from New Dehli or Juneau or Cleveland or wherever kids hang out, however temporarily.

And because you don’t need cars and trucks for transportation, most of them are unoccupied, used maybe for the occasional Zoom meeting, which few people enjoy and which, in turn, makes a lot of people question why there are so many cars and trucks in the first place.

Damn Zoom meetings.

What’s that you say? The world I’m describing is stuff and nonsense?

Well, of course it is. If it existed, it would be impossible to sustain a political party based on stopping migration. Borders wouldn’t exist and you couldn’t calculate gross domestic product.

On the other hand, you could get a great cup of espresso wherever you were.

And grandma wouldn’t be missing.

Imagining the always-moving world makes me better appreciate certain stationary aspects of our own world.

  • Buildings with permanent addresses and temporary tax breaks.
  • Tables that stay put, so coffee cups are easy to retrieve.
  • And trees that move with the wind but only so far. With roots that run deep, roots that are strong, roots that are, well, rooted.

What can I say? I like riding home to the same trees that were there when I left.

April 30. 12.5 miles.

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Crossing the bridge. 30 days of biking, #29

There’s only so much time.

That’s what your grandparents and your parents told you, and, after all this time, you still believe them, mostly because they aren’t around to remind you.

On the other hand, there’s all the time in the world: time to get up, go to work, read something, listen to something, listen to someone, count change, drink coffee, fix something, throw away something, find something, lose something, think in generalities, struggle to think of specifics, consider an outstanding example of WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING NOW, and shake your head about all the things we seem to be doing instead.

Why are you doing this? There’s only so much time.

And so you do the math: whether you have enough time to hike from Georgia to Maine, whether you have enough time to pedal from Minnesota to New Orleans, whether you want to use a significant portion of the time you have left to read, really read, all the books you think you want to read.

Whether you have enough time to visit Florence again.

And it occurs to you, even as you do the math, that you’re not especially good at math. And so, once again, you enter the cul-de-sac of cognition that is wondering why you’re not good at math.

You’ve circled these mailboxes before: is it because you aren’t good at it or because you don’t try to get better at it? Is it because math is too overwhelming, or because it’s that time thing again: you’ve gotten this far along without math and so you’d rather not waste any time trying to get better at something that can’t even help you calculate how much time you have left?

By the way, you’re figuring 20 years, give or take. That’s how long your dad had to go when he was your age in 1988, and you’re just enough the product of a paternalistic culture to think that matters.

Your mother, the nurse, the one who drove by herself across northern Missouri in the middle of winter (when winter meant snow, lots of snow, blowing snow in northern Missouri) because she didn’t think her mother had much time left—your mother might disagree, might suggest you hadn’t thought the problem through, that there are things we can’t know, that you might live to be 100 or, because she knew of other examples, that you might not live another day.

There’s only ever been so much time.

And so you exit the cul-de-sac you visit way too often and pedal up the Rock Island Greenway bridge over Knoxville Avenue and look to the south and the cars and trucks and pavement and the busyness of it all and think to yourself, well, at least you’re not wasting your time doing that, not right now at least.

Because there’s only so much time.

April 29, 1 mile.

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Catching up. 30 days of biking, #28

Somehow, someway, Ellen’s Diner in Princeville is still open. And so we park where we have always parked, and in we go, to eat breakfast and hear the latest about Ellen’s dogs and guinea pigs.

To sit down inside; it’s like last year never happened.

Except for the mask requirement.

And social distancing.

And the downturn in business.

The upturn in takeout.

The new freezer.

And the diner’s hours of operation.

Wait a minute. New freezer?

Cool.

At least that’s the idea: something new, something that keeps its cool like it’s supposed to.

Just like Ellen.

April 28. 21 miles.

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Among the lion’s teeth. 30 days of biking, #27

Dear Triumverate (and Zertog and Suzie):

I’m lucky to have landed on a planet dense enough to support a bicycle tire, maybe two. But even here, it’s not always supportive of bicycle life.

That’s why the inhabitants developed boats and bridges, to link bicycle-friendly parts of the planet.

And, to celebrate their accomplishments, beer.

By the way, It’s curious that the boats and bridges were in place millennia before the inhabitants created their version of the bicycle. It’s as though they knew infrastructure was required for something that didn’t yet exist.

The bicycle tire theme recurs in their simple meals: bagels, doughnuts, pizza; so even when they aren’t guiding a bicycle over the surface, they are thinking about it, taking it in, mentally rehearsing the act.

Even the vegetation here seems to mimic the wheel, especially flowers like dens lionis, or lion’s tooth.

This planet’s inhabitants, like we, are fascinated by the leverage a bicycle provides, the deceptively simple technology that allows them to travel so much faster than walking, which is, itself, such a delightful way to get around.

By the way, you should see them walk.

You would think the position of their eyes, so far from their feet, would be an obstacle to accurate locomotion, but most of them do a pretty good job of it.

Especially when there’s no hurry.

April 27. 1 mile.

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Everyone knows it’s windy. 30 days of biking, #26

The problem with wind isn’t that it exists.

Wind was here before we arrived, before they made the black coffee, before we decided on the lemon-raspberry muffin and the black coffee they made before we arrived.

And the problem with wind isn’t that it’s fickle.

Wind overcomes obstacles on its way to us, on its way past us, on its way somewhere else. If wind varies in speed, it’s not because of its attitude, because wind doesn’t know anything but movement, because it is movement, because when it isn’t movement, it isn’t anything.

It’s different with us.

We aren’t defined by movement. When we stop moving for a moment, as opposed to forever, we remain ourselves.

Not so with wind. It must move. That is what it is.

It is not here to knock down our bicycle any more than we are here to keep a chair from blowing away.

(It’s strange how we occupy one chair. Look at us.)

But we keep our chair from blowing away though that’s not our purpose, and the wind knocks down our bicycle though that’s not its purpose.

No, the problem with wind is there is no problem with wind.

We have our problems, that’s our bike on the ground, but wind is not the problem.

Wind is its own thing.

As we are. Over here, where we are.

And as the bicycle is. It’s no longer standing, but it’s still a bicycle.

Wind…

Well, now wind was.

And what wind was is still something because of us.

Because we remember wind.

And we pick up the bicycle.

The bicycle that does not remember wind or us or falling or not or suffering or anything because it is a bicycle and not us.

We pick up the bicycle and stuff it into the bike rack in case wind returns.

And we will not blame wind for returning or be surprised when it does, not this time.

Because this is where wind was.

April 26. 1 mile.

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