Driving his old Ford truck on Rural Route 61; AJ was rolling along at about sixty, his usual 5 mph over the speed limit. Some distance three cars were ahead of him. As they approached a bend in the road, he saw the brake lights come on.
As he caught up and took his place behind the other three, he noticed a lone cyclist up ahead. "Damn cyclist," he mumbled, "Why do they have to ride in the middle of the road?"
Actually, the cyclist wasn't in the middle of the road, he was about two feet out from the edge of the lane, but with traffic approaching from the opposite direction, the lead car driver was being cautious.
The opposing traffic passed and the first three cars went around the cyclist. AJ realized he would have to wait as another vehicle was coming towards them. "Damn it," he cussed again.
The car passed and AJ when around the cyclist. He thought about honking his horn just to show his displeasure at the delay, but instead he just hit the gas pedal hard and roared by in a demonstration of raw power.
A few miles further on he saw brake lights again, and as he caught up to the same three cars, he saw them stop, then one by one swing clear over to the opposing lane. As the last car completed this maneuver, he saw the reason.
A large brown dog was trotting along the edge of the road. Strangely, AJ showed no anger or frustration this time. Just fear that the animal would suddenly dart across the road in front of an approaching van.
He stayed back some distance so as not to startle it, and when the van had passed, he took a wide sweep around the dog as the other drivers had done. He even considered stopping to pick it up, he had thought about getting a dog, but it probably belonged to someone living close by.
Some nine months earlier AJ had taken early retirement when the company he worked for had been making cutbacks. He and his wife had bought an old farmhouse on about eight acres in a rural area. He had bought the old truck to haul lumber and other materials. This particular day he was on his way to pick up some fence posts from a farming supply depot, some fifteen miles along Route 61.
AJ picked up the fence posts and as he pulled out from the supply depot. The road was clear except for a cyclist, the same one he had seen earlier. He waited for him to pass; now there was traffic coming in the opposite direction. "Damn it, that's the second time you've held me up today," he complained to himself, wishing the cyclist could hear him.
AJ turned towards home. Some four or five miles into the return trip, the old truck spluttered, and then stalled. He was on a downgrade so he was able to coast then pull onto a patch of dirt at the side of the road. After several unsuccessful attempts to start the engine, he got out of the truck, lifted the hood, and stared at the engine.
He was not even sure why he was doing this, he had no tools with him, and even if he had, he would not know where to start. He had been an accountant all his life, and had absolutely no mechanical knowledge. He reached in his back pocket for his cell phone, it was not there.
Then he remembered he had left the phone charging overnight in the kitchen. It was not in its usual place on the dresser with his wallet and change. "Now what?" he mumbled as he looked up and down the road. Nothing but farmland and open fields in either direction.
There was no alternative but to walk, and he had to walk on the road, tall grass and weeds at the side made it impossible to walk there. There was a white fog line painted on the edge of the road and no more than a few inches of paved road beyond that; AJ started to walk along this white line. He could have crossed over and walked facing the oncoming traffic, but he was hoping someone would stop and offer him a ride.
He had not walked far when he heard a car coming; he turned and waved a thumb. The car roared on by without even slowing. He walked on and the same thing happened again. He quickly realized his chances of getting a ride were slim. He was not particularly well dressed, and he never stopped to pick up hitchhikers.
He stopped pausing and turning every time a car approached from behind, it was pointless. For a while, he walked with his left thumb out, but then discontinued that as he resigned himself to a long walk home.
He noticed when there were no cars coming towards him, cars would swing over to the other side to pass. However, when there was traffic in both directions, they passed by a 60 mph with no thought of slowing down, often missing him by inches.
At one time, a large eighteen-wheeler went by, and although it missed him by at least two feet, its shear size, and those huge wheels, gave AJ the scare of his life. And the back draft almost blew him off his feet.
He must have walked at least five or six miles and was by now in a trance like state when he heard a cheery “Good morning.” The same cyclist he had seen twice before that day sped silently by him.
Somewhat startled AJ didn’t respond immediately, then called out, “Do you have a cell phone?” The cyclist had gone on by and did not understand what AJ had said. Then sensing it was a call for help, the cyclist slowed.
He looked back over his shoulder for traffic. It was clear and he did a U-turn and rode back to AJ. “Do you need help?” he asked. “Yes, do you have a cell phone?”
“I do,” answered the cyclist as he came to a stop and reached into his rear pocket for the phone.
“Thank God,” AJ said as he took the phone. “I broke down miles back and I must have walked for over an hour.” Just then, a car approached, “Here, let’s get off the road,” AJ said, “These damn cars won’t give you an inch.”
“Tell me about it,” said the cyclist. “That’s why I always ride about two or three feet from the edge of the road. It forces drivers to slow and make a conscious effort to pass me. Otherwise they just blow by as if I wasn’t there, missing me by inches.”
“What motorists don’t realize is, if I ride on this white line,” the cyclist stomped on the line with his heel to emphasize. “There are large pot-holes or places where the road simply disappears; not to mention tree braches and other debris lying at the edge. If I come up on one of these obstacles, either I hit it, with the risk falling into the road, or I swerve out into the road. With cars passing within inches at a high rate of speed, both could be deadly.”
AJ was inclined to agree with the cyclist but didn’t answer as he felt rather hypocritical in view of his previous attitude. The cyclist continued, “That’s why I ride out there, the inside wheels of the cars having worn it smooth. It is safer, and people can see me.”
AJ called his wife and told her what had happened. “Help is on the way,” he said as he handed the phone back to the cyclist. “Thank you so much,” he added. He looked at the cyclist for the first time and was surprised that he was an older man, maybe about his own age. Earlier when he saw him, he imagined him to be much younger.
“Do you need a drink?” The cyclist offered AJ his water bottle. “Thanks, I will.” As AJ took a drink, the large brown dog appeared, wagging his tail and slinking down at AJ’s feet. ”Do you think he needs a drink too?” the cyclist asked.
“Probably,” AJ answered, “I saw him earlier on my way out here.” AJ cupped his hands together as the cyclist poured some water for the dog to drink.” The dog lapped up the water.” Looks like you found yourself a dog.”
"It would seem like it.” AJ answered as the cyclist mounted his bike again and pushed off. “Thank you again,” AJ called out as he pulled away. “Glad to be of help,” the cyclist called back.
AJ slipped his belt from his pants and looped it around the dog’s collarless neck. “Here boy, let’s sit under this tree and wait for Momma.”
Footnote: The above is a short work of fiction, one that could take place anywhere in the US. (Or the world.)
Just a different way to get the safety message across. Also, to explain to motorists that we ride a certain way in the interest of our own safety.
Driving his old Ford truck on Rural Route 61; AJ was rolling along at about sixty, his usual 5 mph over the speed limit. Some distance three cars were ahead of him. As they approached a bend in the road, he saw the brake lights come on.
An article on MSN Money Central began as follows:
...."In four years, U.S. gas prices have doubled to more than $3.70 a gallon, and crude oil has tripled to around $125 a barrel.
Allowing for inflation, that's higher than prices were during the 1978–83 oil shock that triggered a recession and sky-high interest rates.
But . . . What if gas cost $10 a gallon?
Thousands of truckers would go bankrupt. Airplanes would sit idle in hangars. Restaurants and stores would shut down. Car-pooling, hybrid vehicles, scooters and inline skates would swing into vogue."
I find it strange that the writer would mention inline skates and miss the obvious choice in human power vehicles, namely the bicycle. As for truckers going bankrupt, some will, but goods will still need to be shipped whatever the cost.
There will be rising prices and inflation, which will affect everyone; however, those who can run a tight budget and spend less on gas, will fair better. Some low-income families will not be able to run a car.
...."According to Todd Hale, a senior vice president for consumer researcher Nielsen, at $10 a gallon, the average family's gas bill would leap from 16% of its retail spending to about 40%.
People would drive less, yes. But many have to drive to work or the supermarket, and they'd cough up the cash -- screaming all the way -- and cut back elsewhere."
Yes, many will still drive and even some will still drive SUVs; they will become even more of a status symbol. There will be more compact cars or the road, and a lot more motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds.
Not everyone will ride a bicycle, but for those of us who do, share the road will be a lot easier.
Public Transport will make a comeback, which will ease congestion further. Even long before gas reaches $10, we will see less joy riding in cars on the weekends, leaving roads less congested and more pleasant for bike riding.
...."Taxis and FedEx would be strictly for the well-heeled. And home pizza deliveries would cease. Pizza delivery drivers also pay for their own gas. "It'd be brutal," says Joseph Miller, an assistant manager at a Domino's Pizza in Seattle. "I would think we wouldn't have any drivers."
Pizza can be delivered by bicycle. All kinds of restaurant food is already delivered by bicycle in New York City, and in other large cities; it is the most efficient way in many cases. In fact, as less people drive to eat out, restaurants will be forced to consider other alternatives.
In many parts of the world, Europe and Japan for example, gas is already close to $10 a gallon. People still survive, and adjust to their economies. By the time gas reaches $10 in the US, $10 will be worth a lot less in terms of what it will buy.
American consumers have been spoiled for so many years by cheap gas, welcome to the real world.
Read the complete article
A letter in which Albert Einstein dismissed the idea of God as the product of human weakness and the Bible as collection of honorable but "pretty childish" stories, has sold at auction in London for more than US $400,000.
Einstein wrote the hand written letter in German on January 3 1954 (A year before his death.) to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.
The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.
Einstein, who was Jewish and who declined an offer to be the state of Israel's second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God's “Chosen” people.
He wrote, "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups.”
Einstein’s parents were not religious but he attended a Catholic primary school and at the same time received private tuition in Judaism. This prompted what he later called, his "religious paradise of youth", during which he observed religious rules such as not eating pork. This did not last long though and by 12 he was questioning the truth of many biblical stories.
He later wrote, “The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression”
In his later years he referred to a "cosmic religious feeling" that permeated and sustained his scientific work. In 1954, a year before his death, he spoke of wishing to "experience the universe as a single cosmic whole". He was also fond of using religious flourishes, in 1926 declaring that "He [God] does not throw dice" when referring to randomness thrown up by quantum theory.
John Brooke of Oxford University, regarded as a leading expert on the scientist, said. “His position on God has been widely misrepresented by people on both sides of the atheism/religion divide but he always resisted easy stereotyping on the subject.
Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him," said Brooke. "It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions ... but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.”
Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."
I post this piece because it is current, and because Einstein is one of my heroes. He was not only brilliant but he was “cool.” I also draw comfort from the fact that people disagreed with his views, and still do.
It serves to make me realize that if people argued with Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of all time, what chance do I have. A humble artisan who made a few bicycle frames.
People talk of “Reality.” What is that? You can point to the “Empire State Building” or “The Whitehouse,” and say, “That is reality.” However, when it comes to abstract things, like the mind, thinking, God, (whoever He, She, It might be.) I feel one should keep an open mind.
I think it is highly probable that people experience different realities. I do not mind that others disagree with me, but when people tell me outright I am wrong, I shake my head in amusement and say to myself, “Do you walk in my shoes, are you inside my mind, can you see what I see?”
Story USA Today
Partial translation of the letter
This piece is a follow-up to my last post about negative thinking. The reason I know a little about the subject is not from anything I read in a book, but from experience.
Believe it or not but I was once a very negative person. I believed in Murphy's Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Along with that other little philosophical gem, “Shit Happens.”
I will give you an example; sometime in 1986 I was painting a custom frame. I was spraying a candy-apple red over a white base. The nature of this paint is that it is semi transparent, and you see the base color through the top color. Like looking at the apple through the candy coating; hence the name.
It is absolutely essential to spray the paint on evenly or the result will be light and dark patches because of the varying thicknesses of paint. I had just started spraying the red coat when I became aware of a large black fly buzzing around inside the totally enclosed paint booth.
I couldn't stop painting and catch the fly or open the door to let him out, because to do so the paint would dry on the half finished frame and there would be streaks where I started painting again because the dry paint would not flow in with the wet paint. I had no choice but to keep going. I kept telling myself, "That damn fly is going to land on the frame, I just know it."
The fly did not just land on the wet paint so maybe I could have carefully lifted him off leaving only six tiny footprints. No, he flew right in front of the paint gun, into the stream of paint, and ended up "splat" in the middle of the top tube.
With any other type of paint the fly could have been picked off, and after the paint had been oven cured it could have been sanded smooth and touched up. With candy-apple paint the whole frame had to be stripped of paint, down to the bare metal, re-sandblasted, and repainted from scratch. This involved many hours of work.
At that time my ex-wife and I were going to marriage counseling, and that same evening I was talking to the female councilor, telling the same story I have just outlined here. She listened, and when I was though venting, she said, “Can't you see you created that to happen by your negative thinking?"
She pointed out a framed quotation she had hanging on the wall of her office. It was from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, it read, "Nothing is good or bad, that thinking made it so."
It was an epiphany, a light bulb went on in my head, I thought about the huge space the fly had in the paint booth and what were the chances of it flying between the paint gun and the frame within seconds of my negative thought. In addition, a top tube is only one inch wide, the fly could have easily gone over or under and not landed smack in the middle.
In the days that followed I went back to work a changed man. I recognized my negative thoughts and replaced them with good positive thoughts. About a week later the power of positive thinking was demonstrated to me in a very dramatic fashion.
I had to go to the bank to deposit some checks and get back to my shop as quickly as possible as I was expecting a visitor. It was 4 pm. in the afternoon in a town in Southern California, the traffic was horrendous.
I came out of the bank and as I walked to my car I was thinking, "I'll never make it out of here." I had to cross four lanes of traffic to make a left turn, with no traffic light. Then I told myself, "Don't think that way, there will be a gap in traffic."
I pulled out of the parking lot and on to a four lane highway there was not a car in sight in either direction. I made a joke about it, I leaned forward in my seat and looked up at the sky and said, "Thank you God, I just needed a space to get out, you didn't have to clear the whole fucking town."
As I drove towards my shop, cars came towards me and from behind and I was back in normal rush hour traffic. Those who have read my novel, Prodigal Child, will recognize this story. The story is true, although in the book, a work of fiction, the location is changed.
That single event had a profound affect on me. I have never had the power of positive thinking demonstrated to me in such a dramatic fashion since. However, I can assure you positive thinking continues to provide parking spaces and gaps in traffic when I need them.
I still ride my bike defensively and always stay alert on the roads; there are also certain roads that I will only use at weekends when traffic is lighter. I think positive but I don't act stupid.
I can tell by some of the comments that some do not fully understand this concept. It is not “Blame the Victim.” A person holding a fear of being robbed, is clearly not to blame if they are then robbed. However, a positive thought may have prevented this outcome.
It is not religion, it is the way the Universe works; it is Metaphysics. Having said this, even the medical profession accepts that prayer can help a sick person heal. What is a prayer? It is a positive thought; a statement of an outcome made with the quiet knowing that it will be so.
This is where the faith comes in. It is not the blind faith of religion, but confidence in the outcome of the positive thought. Without that, the positive thought will not work, but then again, without the faith in the outcome, it is no longer a positive thought.
Not only must we be aware of our own positive and negative thoughts, but those of others around us. Show me a person experiencing a string of misfortune, like illness, accident, car trouble, a victim of crime, etc., and I can practically guarantee that person has some other crap going on in their life.
For example, a divorce or break up of a relationship, trouble at work with a co-worker, conflict with a family member; anywhere there is conflict and a lot of negativity flying around. The good news is if you are aware of this, your own positive thoughts will cancel out the negative ones of others.
I care about cyclists, and it bothers me when I read about people taking abuse on the roads. Especially when I know that a change in attitude will make a huge difference in rectifying the problem. It will not happen overnight, like any learning process, it takes time and effort.
For close to fifty years, my philosophy in life was this: "Life is a bitch, and then you die." I lived a life of pain, suffering, misfortune, failed relationships, etc. etc. I got what I expected from life, and as Shakespeare said, "Thinking made it so."
The course of my life was changed for the better by a chance comment by a female marriage councilor, whose name I don't even remember. I pass on my experiences that it may cause others to think on their thought process. That is all; I am not trying to convert anyone to anything.
Doug commented on my last post with a story about a dog who chased a group of cyclists, the dog bit the one woman who held negative thoughts about dogs. This story is similar to my story about the fly in the paint booth, the fly and the dog both did exactly what we thought they would.
If a cyclist has negative thoughts about other road users, there a plenty of drivers out there who hate cyclists; the two are going to be drawn to each other. Call it Karma, call it Bike-ma if you wish, but it is the way this Universe works.
Reverse the polarity; change your thinking from negative to positive and you will no longer draw the bad stuff towards you. You will not eliminate the assholes; you will just not attract them to you. Not only will you be helping yourself, but helping the cause of all cyclists.
Cyclists are constantly calling for change. Mahatma Gandhi said, "Before you can change the world, change your own thinking."
Before I posted my last piece about the Australian road rage incident, I faced a dilemma; should I post the story or not. Most times, I shy away from posting negative articles.
However, I decided to go ahead, because I knew others would run with the story anyway. I felt that bringing a story like this, involving high profile riders, to public attention might cause others to think twice about the seriousness of doing something similar.
It was never my intention to strike fear into cyclists. Fear is one of the basic instincts we share with all creatures of this earth. Fear of death or injury ensures survival of the various species.
Politicians and the media play on this primal instinct to benefit their own ends, with negative advertising and negative reporting. However, I see a difference between reporting something that actually happened, as opposed to discussing what could happen. The media does this all too often.
Do you remember Y2K and how all kinds of terrible things would happen at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. 2000. That time and date came and went and nothing happened, and the media moved on to find other items to scare us.
Whatever happened to the Bird Flu? Did it suddenly disappear, or did they find a miracle cure? Because a few short years ago we were all going to catch this terrible disease, old people and children would die from it. It was spread by birds and mosquitoes, those little critters are everywhere.
I quit watching the news on TV because it is so negative and depressing, and the terrible thing is it is not news. At worst, it is fiction; at its best, it is irrelevant issues grossly exaggerated and blown out of all proportion.
I get the news I need from the Internet; and I often see the same negativity there; however, I can be selective in what I read.
The problem is, being constantly fed a diet of fear and negativity; it creeps into people's lives and their everyday thinking. We speculate on the worst that could happen.
I see it on the various bike forums and blogs, where cyclists recall the near misses, and their run-ins with aggressive drivers. The problem is, the person posting is re-living the event, and causing others to re-live their bad experiences. We cannot erase bad events that have happened in the past, but we can learn from them and move on.
Is it any wonder that some, who would ride a bike, are afraid to ride on the road? A person might wonder why anyone rides there at all, if it is that bad. The truth is it is not that bad, if you look at the situation from a more positive viewpoint.
A few years ago, lived a wise and holy man from India named Sri Nisargadatta. During the 1970s he gave interviews with anyone who cared to sit with him and ask questions. These interviews were recorded, then translated into English, and published in a book called “I am that.”
Many times throughout the book he is asked, “How do you feel about all the wars, death and destruction around the world, and what about all the disease and suffering?" He would always answer, “This is in your world, not mine.”
On the surface this seems a somewhat uncaring attitude, however, I can understand this answer, having just read an online post by a cyclist. The writer asks why the hatred from other road users, why do they scream abuse at him, throw trash at him, and try to run him off the road?
The cyclist is from another state in the south, not far from South Carolina where I live. How different can drivers be, between the two states? Yet none of these terrible experiences he relates, ever happen to me. Like Sri Nisargadatta I could answer, “This is in your world, not mine."
The difference is, when I set out for a bike ride I do so with a positive attitude and I am not expecting the worst will happen. I go riding with the attitude that most people on the road a simply a cross section of the population and for the most part are inherently, good, decent people. Only a tiny minority are criminally inclined, and malicious.
We all know that many drivers are inattentive, however, they are not inattentive 100% of the time, so the chances of them being distracted at the precise moment they pass me is remote. In other words, the odds of my not being hit are far greater than being hit, so why should I dwell on the thought that that a slight possibility might occur.
Most successful people believe in the power of positive thinking; the problem is negative thoughts are just as powerful. We attract to ourselves whatever we hold in our thoughts. A person riding a bike with the attitude that all drivers are morons will attract the behavior they expect.
It is natural to have negative thoughts and to fear the worst, not only are we bombarded with negativity from the media, we get it constantly from work colleagues and those around us; plus as previously mentioned, fear is a basic instinct.
However, as humans we are capable of rationalizing, and do not need to live our lives in constant fear. We are all freethinking spirits and we do not have to dwell on the negative.
Something else I have learned; the things that annoy me as I go through life have a tendency to keep repeating. I try to recognize these re-occurring annoyances, observe them as such, but try not to get angry. After doing this a few times, the annoyance stops re-occurring.
If bad experiences are happening to you every time you ride, realize these bad incidents involve different people. The only common denominator in these totally random incidents is you.
There is a tendency to find whatever we look for. If we look for the worst in people, this is most likely what we will find. Turn that around and realize that there are more good people in this world than bad.
I try to fill my mind with good positive thoughts before I even set out on a ride; I have no control over the thoughts and actions of others, only those of my own.
I don't worry if negative thoughts slip back in, because I know they will. I am conscious of these thoughts and replace them with a positive one. A positive thought will always cancel out a negative one, as surely as light will overcome darkness, and good will overcome bad.
If you are skeptical, try it anyway; what have you got to lose? Just your bad experiences.