Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ground Control



Since the start of this blog, I have tried not to comment on political events. This is not because I do not care, or do not have opinions. It's because I wanted to establish a separation between Bike and State, so to speak, so that readers of all political leanings could perceive this as a "safe space" to express their shared love of niche bicycle-related minutiae.

I make no exception to this now. And neither do I make assumptions regarding where any given LB reader stands on the British vote to leave the EU, and on the US presidential election.

What I do know is that, in the wake of these two events there has been a major upset. Regardless of what they wanted the outcomes of these events to be, people en masse are upset by the fallout: the divisiveness, the free-flowing abuse, the violence, the general lowering of standards when it comes to civilised, humane discourse, and perhaps more than anything else, by the uncertainty.

Both in the time leading up to these events and in their aftermath, it is clear that a great number of people have been feeling a lack of control over their environments and destinies. I can see it - overtly all over my social media feeds, as well as more subtly, through glimpses and undercurrents in the emails I receive and even in comments left on this blog.

In my close to 8 years of running this space, I don't think I have ever observed such a mood before, so pervasively. And it is this that I feel compelled to comment on.

Feeling a lack of control over one's life is a leading cause of depression and anxiety. It can also be linked to physical ailments. I would urge you therefore, to resist giving into that poisonous sense of helplessness - even if you feel that your situation warrants it.

I am not saying ignore what is happening around you. And this isn't a prequel to "ride your bike and forget everything else."

What I am saying is: It is vital, at times of feeling helpless, to redirect our focus toward things that we do have control over. It is vital for mental survival.

In that sense, we are lucky that we do have the bicycle as a tool. A tool to help ground our focus and regain control. Not in order to forget or ignore the world around us. But in order to attain a clarity and a sense of agency, which might ultimately guide us toward ideas of what next.



40 comments:

  1. I took my first ride since the election this morning. It did help, a little. Thanks.

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  2. My community (those I am around during everyday life) run the full gamut from highly liberal to highly conservative. I have friends, acquaintances, and family that voted for a particular candidate because they truly believed that they were the best candidates. Most of the others were casting their vote so the "other" candidate would not win.

    Here is the thing...I love and respect all these people. I know them well enough to know they truly want the best for their family, community and country. They just have very different opinions as to what constitutes 'the best'.

    I am trying hard to practice humility. I am trying hard to look at the issues from the other perspective. I am also trying hard to lead by example - avoiding divisive comments, listening more than talking, assuming the best motives of others while assuming the worst motives of myself.

    It's not easy.

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    1. My circles both in NI/ Republic of Ireland (our life here is cross-border, so Brexit will have interesting implications), and in the US, are all over the spectrum also. The interesting thing I notice, is that both sides are unhappy, just for different reasons. Basically a lot of dissatisfaction and disappointment.

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    2. Immense dissatisfaction and disappointment. The people I know who voted for The Donald would never allow his behavior in their own home, work, school or church. It would simply not be tolerated. And yet they cast a ballot for him. That is their level of dissatisfaction; that they would vote for a person who they know, deep in their hearts, is not good. The best thing those of us flabbergasted with the election can do is try to understand the "Why?"

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  3. From America..thank you for your sane thoughts:) I so enjoy your blog...Annette

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  4. Nicely put, as always. Thank you.

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  5. "Eight years already? Keep going!"

    Four More Years! Four More Years! Viva Velouria!

    All kidding aside, thanks for this.

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  6. This is tangential, or maybe not. But it occurs to me that I know of several American bike bloggers, or former bike bloggers, now who have left the US in the past few years. Coincidence? Perhaps. But perhaps a story you could cover.

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    1. Hmmmmm!

      Interesting. I can think of 4, myself included, the other 3 being Chic Cyclist (moved to France), pedal strike (moved to Japan), and Portlandize (moved to the Netherlands). Of these, only the latter was a deliberate and politically motivated move. Pedal Strike is from Japan originally, so she simply moved back home. Chic Cyclist moved to France for work. I moved to Ireland because I met someone here, on a work-related trip, and stayed (but I also wouldn't class myself as an American blogger; when I started LB I was living in Austria). All in all, I do think it's a coincidence. It's a globalised world after all; people move around...

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  7. Very well said, and i'm very happy you feel that way. However, I just turned 61 and I'm finding it increasingly easier to ignore politics, etc, in favor of bicycle stuff, etc. Do I feel guilty?,...nah.
    I enjoy your blog and eagerly await every new one. Thank you!

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  8. Rode my repurposed 1968 Raleigh Record to Starbucks Wednesday morning before work. Texted a friend in another city. It helped.

    Walter

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  9. I couldn't sleep that night so I went down to the kitchen. First I washed the dishes. Then I wrote in my journal, listing what I could do to improve my life and the lives of those I love. It helped to combat the negative thoughts I was having with concrete actions. One of the items on my list was spend more time riding my bike. I've also gone on an information fast by avoiding the news and Facebook.

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  10. Steve from WestchesterNovember 10, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    On a more pleasant note....How about Ireland beating the All-Blacks for the first time in 111 years???

    How's that for taking your minds off of politics?

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    1. Normally I would have no idea what that means. But I had to drive a car the other day and therefore listened to the radio. The only station I could get reception for was talking sports. Good stuff.

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    2. I'm going to be unsufferably smug as I was at the game in Chicago. As a rugby fan, the euphoria of the win has easily triumphed over the lows of Brexit + Trump.

      One of the Ireland players, Andrew Trimble, is a Coleraine man so not that far from you Velouria!

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  11. It's interesting but not surprising that one of the virulent pro-Brexit newspapers in the UK, the Daily Heil, sorry, Mail, has been running a campaign against new cycle lane infrastructure in London.

    They are obviously pretty confident that their readership aren't the type of people who ride bikes...

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    1. On the other hand, Boris Johnson loves cycle lanes. Seem to be a brexit-transcendant issue...

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    2. The cycle lanes are the best thing Johnson did as mayor of London and he deserves credit for getting them built, particularly in the face of opposition from his own party who blamed them for slowing down their ministerial cars...

      However Johnson's support of Brexit was pure political opportunism, so not really the same motivation that a typical Daly Mail reader had for supporting Brexit.

      Cycle lanes in London are a "target rich environment" for the Daily Mail... used by the liberal metropolitan elite, scofflaw red light jumpers, slowing down normal people in their cars and any ideas coming from those European Johnny Foreigners in places like Amsterdam or Copenhagen must be viewed with extreme suspicion ;)

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  12. My 2-mile ride to the gym in the dark and the cold this morning really did make me feel better, and the workout helped too. I know a recently deceased World War II veteran who lived through the Bataan Death March and four years in a POW camp. Compared to what he endured, I'm confident that I'll be able to cope.

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  13. The internet creates this alternative universe where some people feel there are no limits. The newspapers are increasingly aping the net to stay relevant but the inevitable decline of their aging readership will defeat them. Meanwhile, on the ground here in New York City, most just shrug, shake their head and get on with life. It's not even a topic of discussion in the office today. Thank you for the civility of your writing.

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    1. I feel social media is creating an interesting situation where of people form large cliques that amplify their beliefs. The news sources use this vocalness to directly and indirectly influence their opinion and output. They are not doing enough to capture the silent majority which creates these 'shock' results. They're not a shock in retrospect, the predictions were wrong.

      I saw this happening for the Scotland indyref, Brexit & US Election in the news & social media. In the first two my desired outcome was the winning choice but my social media feeds would have suggested the exact opposite. As I'm not American and didn't have time to really investigate the candidates I stayed on the fence but the news & social media repeated the behaviours seen in the U.K.

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  14. I'm stuck here in the US trying to make sense of what just happened. Thanks for your words.

    Louis

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  15. Nicely articulated. I've been more annoyed by my twitter feed's self-obsession with histrionic expressions of despair than I have by the election result, and your words are wise.

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  16. You wrote about the effects of the votes on Brexit and the US elections; I'm writing this from France, and I think that many people here now worry that the presidential election next year will bring yet another example of that sort of vote, and aftermath. Are we all getting into some sort of tunnel, or what?

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  17. Thank you for this post. And I think you're wise to keep politics out of it except where it affects cycling or one of your other interests you touch upon in this blog (indeed it's that diversity of topics around cycling, rather than pure cycling, that make this such a fascinating blog to me).

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  18. I agree. This has happened many times before, we do what we must and we must do it well. That's all we've got and what comes, comes….

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  19. Steve from WestchesterNovember 11, 2016 at 12:35 AM

    This time of year, what really bothers me is that politicians created Daylight Savings Time. Today, I left work 1/2 hour early to ride my bike, and had to rely on my headlight for most of my ride.

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  20. You can sit in the back of the bus blaming the driver or learn to drive (or ride a bike, preferbly). Will the NI farm animals be in need of a passport to keep roaming the land.

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    1. A man I recently met on the train showed me an EU passport for his cat, so I can only imagine it's starting.

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  21. I had two very big, very sorrowful events that threw my life into uncertaintly. For the first I was able to continue bike commuting, and those morning and evening rides really helped my mental state. Five years later the second unfortunate turn of events included an injury that kept me off the bike for a year. Much harder to deal with. That's when I discovered improvisational sketch comedy. And now, five years more down the road, the combination of daily cycling and weekly and bi-weekly improv, plus the added wisdom of age has helped me cope with other life-altering challenges with calmness, clarity, and physical health, which definitely help in coping with change, both good and bad.

    And your blog (and photography), by focusing on cycling and exposing the beauty of life around us and within us has also helped to balance out the uglier elements of the world and its people.

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  22. Spindizzy struggled onto the rail, somehow got on his feet and looked out toward the gloomy horizon. After taking one last pull on the handle of cheap Vodka, he hurled the empty at a tugboat passing far below, the bottle bursting in a glittering chrysanthemum on the deck. As the curses from the crew reaches him he's already leaning far, far out in space and as he tips over into the night he mutters one last WTF and falls out of the sky.

    And then...

    His mind clears, he pulls an enormous breath into his lungs and brain and soul and realizes as the wind tears at the astonished expression on his face; "It was probably unwise to invest so much emotional capital in an event with so large a potential for disappointment and such meager promise of actual gain..."

    And then...

    Spindizzy wakes with a start, sweaty and terrified, heart racing, to discover it was only a horrible, horrible dream. He looks around and see's the moonlight shining through the plastic taped over the drivers window of the van and smells the algae bloom on the dappled surface of the river running by the parking lot. Life is good. So good. And tomorrow he'll push his rusty Free Spirit to the 7-11, wait patiently for someone to drive off before the 75cent air machine runs through their 3 quarters, fill the leaky back tire and go for a ride.

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  23. Fear is the easiest emotion to manipulate. When anyone tells you to be afraid, take a step back.

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  24. I certainly don't want to be confronted with political commentary when reading a cycling blog, or gardening blog, or in many other areas of life, I think there is enough of that with 24 hour media. Nothing stays the same, presidents/prime ministers come and go, affiliations, economic and otherwise change, none of this is remarkable when viewed through a wider lens. I think your advice is very sound.

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  25. At first I was incredulous that anyone could vote for him. Then it saddened me to think that so many who could have voted for either candidate chose not to. In the words of Kennedy quoting Edmund Burke "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." When it appears that even past Presidents do not have the integrity to take a position, the world appears to be in a sorry state. Tomorrow, I lift up my eyes to hills and go to climb 908m in the rain and, as I do, I shall continue to wonder from whence cometh our help.

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  26. Well put. We continue to do what we can, within our control to continue to make the world a better place. A shame there are some very peculiar ideas as to how to go about it :-)

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  27. I appreciate your blog for, among other things, the refuge it seems to be from the cold and rainy season we are having. It is a warm and dry place place when I need a break from the bad weather online. I encourage you to keep it that way. If you are feeling cold and wet from the storm, I sympathize, but shake off the rain without wetting your lovely bicycle.

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  28. It is nice to read this event acknowledged, then move on. Please keep the posts coming.

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