I will be on vacation in Colorado and the wilds of Northern Nebraska until the end of the month, so this is my last column until mid-August.
“Humans are just a stage in the emergence of amazing complexity in the universe.” Martin Rees
Destiny, And The Big Picture
I’ve become obsessed with contemplating the increasing complexity and interdependency, in Darwinian terms, of societies and biology, and of how well intermingled they are – yet not necessarily parallel. That’s a big-picture obsession. To a lesser degree, I obsess on my own increasing complexity – because it’s a story which could have ended long ago.
And as I see myself grow more complex and increasingly interdependent with others, I still don’t know what I am destined to be within the expanse of my life, but I can say with great clarity at this moment, I am destined to be, and that’s a very little-picture statement.
A Letter To A Friend
I don’t wear a helmet when I ride my bike. I love the wind through my hair when I ride at high speeds – it’s the rush of pure physical freedom. Last month a concerned friend saw me riding in Fallbrook without a helmet and sent me an email to call me out on it. She explained that her husband fell off his bike recently and his helmet probably saved his life. I told my friend, based on that story, that I would begin wearing a helmet immediately – though I truly did not want to. A couple of days later I bought a helmet, but never put it on. Who was she, to tell me how to live my life…?
Below is a letter I sent to my friend this morning:
Hi Danielle –
A while back I pledged to you I would begin wearing a bike helmet ASAP, and that I would prove it to you by sending you a picture of the helmet. And then, my life went very dark for a while. “Fuck-it” was my attitude. Things weren’t going well for me at all, and seemed to get worse every day. One thing I could depend on each day though, was the wind through my hair as I rode to and from work – as exhilarating to me as any sensation I have known, and yes, I said ANY. And deep down Danielle, there is a part of me that would be perfectly ok with being taken out by a truck.
Two nights ago I was riding down Green Canyon Road after work, and riding as fast I have ever been on that road. On a straight section of the road, a truck passed me then suddenly crossed in front of me, and went off the road and into a tree. It took less than 3 seconds for me to pass those tire tracks –3 seconds.
Before I left my studio that night, I bobbled my key in my hand for about 3 seconds. Now I know that if I had not bobbled that key, and had left 3 seconds earlier and been between that truck and that tree, I would have been killed, helmet or not. But if the truck had hit my tire, front or back, and knocked me off my bike, who knows – vegetable soup..?
I’m sorry I did not keep my promise to you, but if you ever see me ride without a helmet again, call me out on it, please.
Destiny, And The Little Picture
The driver of that truck was ok, called a tow truck, and did not want me to stick around. I was trembling so much I could barely keep my feet on the pedals of my bike as I rode the final miles to my house. All that evening I kept thinking about bobbling that key. What, I thought, would have happened if I had left my studio 2, or 3, or 4 seconds earlier…? I would have been right were that truck was.
One could play a futile head game of destiny that, if I had been in that spot 3 seconds ahead, perhaps the driver would have seen me there, steered away from me, and I would have actually saved him from swerving and hitting the tree. But a more likely scenario exists where I could have been tenderized, pureed, or both. There’s just no tellin’…
I don’t know what destiny is anymore. I have survived a parachute malfunction, a lightning strike, the foolish act of jumping into a class IV rapid after a beer-based breakfast, driving a truck with an unknown rattlesnake under the driver’s seat, being thrown into a jetty by a wave that refused to close out, and a few other self-induced brushes… Still, I carry on.
Biology expands. Societies expand. Time and the universe expand. And at the end of the day, for some reason, the story of me continues to expand. It’s not just me who’s lucky to be alive though, it’s you too. I’m curious, please use the comments section and share your “lucky to still be here” stories. They may be used in a future essay or series of essays. Be well. rc
Oh, and there is this, from Dog Trumpet, the modern day decedants of Mental As Anything. Enjoy…