August 17, 2016
We live on a road planet. If you set off walking, driving or pedaling in any direction and keep going long enough and far enough, you’ll eventually end up back where you started.
I believe the same can be true of time. It’s circular, not linear. Past, present, and future are not distinct geographies we pass through chronologically. They’re interdependent elements of one organic whole. We carry all three of them with us all the time.
This was impressed on me repeatedly over the last 12 days riding my bicycle from Seattle to Redwood National Park in Northern California. As we rode south on Highway 101, I was frequently transported to countless rides I took along the Coast Highway in Southern California when I was in high school. When, as a 64-year-old man, I ride into a small town in search of the perfect buttermilk pancake or chocolate milkshake from the saddle of a custom-made road bike, I am also the 8-year-old boy on the same quest from the backseat of a 1959 Chevy station wagon on family road trips.
These 12 days have been tonic and teacher. To be free of routines save waking, eating, riding, eating, sleeping, and waking again recalibrates perception, thought, and presence to a simpler and more sustainable rhythm and cadence. Ironically, in the apparent smallness of its structure, this simple routine opens me to a much wider view of the circle that is my life.
As I sit with my fellow Bike The US For MS cyclists one last time before Elizabeth picks me up in the morning, it is a bittersweet moment. I yearn to see my wife again; I grieve to say good-bye to my friends and the open road.
And then I realize that the conflict is of my own making, and an illusion. All these wonderful people, and all this spectacular country are part of the circle of my life. We live on a round planet. Time is circular. If I open to my place in the circle, I see that everywhere, every when, and everyone I have been privileged to experience is part of that living circle. I just need to bend the curve of my perception so I consistently see the circle of our unbroken connection.
The Taoist sage, Lao Tsu, said in the Tao Te Ching, “Without leaving his doorway, the Superior Man knows the whole world.”
I don’t pretend to be superior, but as I return home, I can practice keeping my awareness open, expanded, inclusive, and circular.
I just hope there’s room for my bicycle in that round landscape.