Jumping through hoops to a sense of wonder

IMG_2896Yesterday a longtime friend showed up at a walk that I host in my hometown. Every Wednesday people from the community hike a three-mile loop on bike trails for health and fitness. His mom wanted to join the walk, so he decided it might be nice to accompany her and at the same time, catch up with me.

Crossing boundaries

Our association crosses several boundaries in life. We both worked at the same newspaper at different times. Both of us love the arts. We also both played lots of basketball a few decades back.

Like many longtime athletes, my friend had a few injuries over the years. But it’s now age (we agreed) that keeps us from the courts. “I can’t play at the level I want to play,” he lamented. “So I don’t do it any more.”

Open gym

He and I were both fond of open gym basketball. That’s where people show up, pick teams and play all day long if you can. When you lucked upon a good team, or were having a particularly good day on your own, the whole afternoon might be spent on the court until you lost.

Open gym was something of a lifestyle for my friend. We talked about how the different gyms ran their operations, but that wasn’t the depth of the conversation.

“I used to stay up thinking about how I played before I could get to sleep,” he told me. On that topic I could totally relate. Basketball is a game of feel as well as execution. There is an art to penetrating the lane and knowing how to dish off or take it all the way to the hoop. The rush of a good play could stick with you for hours.

My friend was a slashing type of player with great jumping ability. He was agile and lean, and quick enough to leave many a defender standing still. I can still see his aquiline face out there on the floor, sheened with sweat as the reddish hair on his head bore dark rims along the hairline. And his eyes focused like lasers as he interpreted the action on the floor.

Living the game

He was a good player, and he knew how to “live the game.” That means he appreciated the qualities in a good player and really reveled in a particularly good game of basketball. That often depended on the other players. I told him, “I could just about predict who was good and who wasn’t just by watching them walk out on the floor.”

“Oh yeah,” he grinned. “Absolutely.”

Perhaps we both loved the game too much?  Or let it absorb a little too much of our time. “But it helped me figure out who I am,” he observed. “When you come out the other end, you kind of figure out what’s important and what’s not. We all go through that stuff at different rates. That figuring yourself out stuff.”

Walking 

I shared a story about playing ball in a church gym one night. The quality of players was not that great, but there were a few decent shooters on the floor. At one point late in the game I dribbled toward the baseline and then cut toward the basket. There was no one under the hoop so I jumped from the line marking the foul lane and coasted under the basket. While in mid-air, I flicked the ball up toward the hoop and it kissed the glass and fell into the basket. Then I came down on the line at the other side of the lane.

“Walking!” someone called out after the play.

I stopped, and said, “What?”

“You walked,” the guy insisted. So I walked to the base of the lane and pointed to the line. “I jumped here,” I told him. Then I walked over to the other side of the lane. “And I landed about here. In between, I made the shot. That’s not walking.”

And then I ran down the floor and waited for play to begin again. Some of them stood there for a minute thinking that through. Then someone called out the score and we started playing again. The point was made. And the point counted.

Driving the lane

As my friend shared more insights about all those years of playing ball, we recalled another player who, like me, was both a basketball player and a runner. “He did too much of both for a while,” my friend said. “I told him you can’t train 100% in both sports. It’s okay to back off on one because you’re doing so much running already on the court.”

But I recall the look on that guy’s face when he showed up at a road race one time. He was supremely fit. It seemed as if running had consumed the other half of his brain from basketball. He was alive with the thrill of being an athlete in full throttle.

There’s only one phase of life when you can run and compete like that. The question we all have to ask ourselves is whether giving ourselves over to that obsession is healthy for us across the board. Should we instead have devoted more time to making money or getting into business? Not all of us are built that way. Not in the body. Not in the brain.

For some it truly is better, like a kid at recess, to burn off that energy because some part of your mind, both creative and athletic, needs the challenge of exercise to calm it at the core. Taking a basketball down the court and driving the lane to finish with an aggressive and artful flourish is the prescription.

So is bumping into other guys for an hour without apology. Sure, tempers eventually flare, a point my friend made with a bit of relish in his voice. “It’s gonna happen. Everyone has their limits in what they are willing to take.”

Sweeping the floor

Cud with Maravich skillsI’ve met a few people in life who held a could-woulda-shoulda attitude about their sports careers. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called Glory Days that focuses on a guy recalling his youth playing sports.

I had a friend was a big baseball player
Back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
But all he kept talking about was
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

 

I always hated the third line because there’s no such thing as a “speedball” in pitching, but one must allow Bruce the creative license to construct the flow of lyrics. The overall point of the song was a lament about days gone by, not baseball terminology.

But “glory days” was not what my friend and I were talking about. Instead we were interpreting the intensity of having actually lived in the moment. To that end, he shared an interesting point about how so many people seem to miss the meaning of those moments in life.

Boss questions

“Think about the company CEO who says, ‘I may be the boss, but I still sweep the floor.’ But does he? Actually, he does it like a boss, not someone who has to do it or knows what it means to do it every day. That’s what’s wrong with this world,” my friend told me, and he gave me a shove with his hand on my shoulder for emphasis. It sent me stumbling into the grass, just like what happens in a basketball game when people are blocking each other out in the lane. I looked over at him and laughed. He was trying to share an insight on reality with me.

“There are so many people who think that because they know one thing well, they know all things well,” he told me. “And it’s just not true.”

God, I appreciated that honesty. I loved the fact that here was a guy who actually wanted to go below the surface of so much conversation in this world.

The depth of thought in our conversation was built around an appreciation for the sport of basketball, that when played properly, requires all sorts of skill and attention and yet, at the same time, can leave you dreaming and thinking about the world beyond at any moment, even in the moment.

Heights and peak experiences

Rose Breasted Grosbeak 1.pngWe finished our walk together. On the way we’d stopped with his mom and her friend because I’d pointed out birds that were close to the path. This week was the height of spring migration. There were rose-breasted grosbeaks singing within feet of the trail. I stopped and played back their songs through my Sibley’s birding app. My friend has taken an interest in birds over the years. He lives in the original “nice” subdivision outside the town where we both attended high school. It is a wooded area and sits across the road from one of the largest wooded tracts in the park district.

So we thrilled to the sight of Eastern bluebirds, house wrens, palm warblers, Baltimore orioles, Blue-gray gnatcatchers and many other species. His mom and her friend paused on many occasions to take it all in.

When all was complete, one of the gals said something on the order of, “This has been one the best days I’ve had in a long time.

And I could not agree more. It is possible to appreciate the past and still be present in the moment. In fact, prior experiences can enrich the mind and keep alive some of the instincts and peak moments in life that make you appreciate some of the people in your life who shared those things.

With that attention, a sense of wonder can indeed return.

 

 

 

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When worlds collide on the roads, it’s best to roll with it

RiderLast night while discussing bike policies with some associates, the topic of cyclists rolling through stop signs came up. Our city sits on the edge of a transitional zone between the density of the Chicago suburbs and the agricultural fields and open roads to the west. Quite a few cyclists and entire cycling clubs many times make a practice of cutting through our town to reach those deliciously open roads.

Thus groups of 10 -30 cyclists will cut through Fermilab, the giant campus that was once home to the worlds largest particle accelerator. Now that honor, and all the science that goes with it are centered in Cern, near Geneva, Switzerland.

Supercolliding Superconductor

Back in 1988 or so, Fermi sought to build a much bigger accelerator beneath the surface of the ground. It was called the Superconducting Supercollider, a ring that would have been 50 miles around. The goal was to shoot tiny particles around the ring and smash apart the atoms to look for quarks and other traces of energy, the materials it affects and vice versa.

But local opposition and funding problems forced the SS project to grind to a halt. At that time, George H.W. Bush was President and the project was shipped off to Texas where it was run into the ground. Now it serves mostly as a tunnel for fire ants.

Fermi resurrection

Fermi physics.jpgThese days Fermilab is enjoying a resurrection of sorts. The new experiment driving science on the campus 30 miles west of Chicago involves shooting neutrinos through the earth to another facility built in South Dakota. Neutrinos are sort of like the Deadpool movie character in that they in the universe of dark matter:

“A neutrino (denoted by the Greek letter ν) is a lepton, an elementary particle with half-integer spin, that interacts only via the weak subatomic force and gravity. The mass of the neutrino is tiny compared to other subatomic particles. Neutrinos are the only identified candidate for dark matter, specifically hot dark matter.”

One can almost hear Ryan Reynolds reading that description in Deadpool character. But seriously, the website http://www.ps.uci.edu/~superk/neutrino.html gives a bit more detail about neutrinos, which we need to know in order to complete the giant metaphor we’re about to construct about some tiny matters in this world:

Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles which make up the universe. They are also one of the least understood. Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons. Neutrinos are affected only by a “weak” sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it. If neutrinos have mass, they also interact gravitationally with other massive particles, but gravity is by far the weakest of the four known forces.

The substance of denial

B Oil and Water BrightSo Fermilab is sending neutrinos through to earth to see how many they can see when they come out the other end. Of course, I greatly simplify the nature of this science. These experiments are being run by people much smarter than I.

But rather than be insulted by the fact of their intelligence and commitment to deep science, it is thrilling to know there are human beings capable of deciphering the fabric of the universe. Science is a miracle of human curiosity.

Granted, some people find it hard to accept that this type of science (or any science for that matter) has value. Some folks are prone to deny science because it is too complex to comprehend or because it conflicts with the constructs of their political or religious worldview.

But it seems that lately, there are an increasing number of people who deny science on grounds that they simply refuse to change a single thing about the way they think. It’s either too much work or they don’t have the attention span to manage it. To compensate, they replace otherwise functional brain matter with a substance commonly known as denial.

Denial explained

There is a scientific explanation for this brand of patent denial. People who refuse to entertain a single competing thought due to the dogmatic composition of their brains suffer from a medical condition called Denial Syndrome. That’s when the human brain is entirely clogged with matter constituted entirely of pure, undiluted dogma, which are the building blocks of denial.

A brain in this state is capable of blocking all other forms of energy. The unfortunate side effect is that the mind in this reduced state is forced to operate in a single dimension.

The ramifications of Denial Syndrome are profound. Anyone that has ridden a cycling road bike on a public road has likely experienced the angry denial in the voices of in drivers who yell out the window. “Get off the road! There are bike paths you know!”

One dimensional thinking

Personal brandThis is Exhibit A in terms of one-dimensional thinking. The idea that bikes can only be ridden on bike paths is the single thought that can be squeezed out of the mind of a person whose brained is clogged by denial and dogma.

Never mind the fact that “road bikes” are designed specifically to ride on the roads. Every country in the world has laws allowing the use of bicycles on public roads with the exception perhaps of interstate highways.

None of that matters to the person exhibiting Denial Syndrome. In their one-dimensional thought mode, you are “in the way” because they are driving a car, on the road, and you (in keeping with  their denial of your humanity) are not a car. 

The material presence of a cyclist in their sphere of vision produces a ruminative cycle of electron panic better known as disgust. In brains of those with block neutrino passages, the phenomenon of disgust multiplies like the Richter Scale used to measure the severity and impact of earthquakes. Anger ensues. Then rage.

Energy + time multiplied by action = change 

But true science is patient, because it cares only about outcomes. Thus this giant scientific experiment we call society takes time to change. Thus the anger shown by motorists in Denial Mode toward cyclists who roll through stop signs will take time to change.

Sooner or later, when enough people are cycling, society will comprehend that it takes far longer for a typical cyclist to stop, unclip, restart, clip in again and proceed than it does for a cyclist approaching a stop sign to slow to a rolling stop, look around at all the cars and then pass through the intersection much quicker. That means everyone has to wait a lot less for the cyclist to engage in the process of stopping, unclipping, starting and clipping in again.

But be forewarned: A single cyclist is the just the CONTROL in this social experiment. The real test of cycling vs. societal norms comes when an entire group of cyclists approaches a stop sign. Then the process is multiplied ten or twentyfold. The stopping/unclipping/starting/clipping-in process must now be replicated many times over, and in close succession. When that doesn’t work, or cyclists get left behind. The entire process has to start all over again after the next car goes through. And that doesn’t save anyone time.

Recognizing advantages and realities

red-orange-green-traffic-lightsYou can see how the efficiency factor is enhanced when motorists actually recognize the advantage of allowing cyclists in a group to proceed through a stop sign outside the range of normal traffic etiquette. Cars will have to wait a lot less if the cyclists are allowed to roll through than if they are required to wait.

The laws of change do not, of course, apply at an actual stop light. That is where cyclists must recognize that the energy = time multipled by action = change formula does not apply. As any Fermilab physicist or CERN researcher can tell you, there are certain kinds of matter that cannot be forced through other forms of matter no matter how you intend to try. Sending a group of 20 cyclists across a busy street when other traffic has the green light is a recipe for a whole bunch of bloody quarks and greasy-stained corpses spread all over the road.

Perfect and imperfect timing

So that’s not what the Laws of Two-or-Three Dimensional thinking require. Cyclists are not out to break every law in the books, or breach the rules of science. They merely want to proceed in the most efficient, energy-and-time saving ways possible. This is sometimes misconstrued as arrogance by cyclists who roll up to a stop sign, do not stop completely and roll on through.

Granted, there are cyclists who stretch the bounds of energy = time multiplied by action = change efficiency factor. These are the groups of cyclists who don’t slow or stop at all.

That is unfortunately arrogant, impolite and a bit stupid. It does prove certain types of cyclists are prone to Denial Syndrome just like the regular population. Cyclists in Denial deny the risks they are creating by assuming they are a form of human neutrino or Dark Matter that gets a free pass to the universe as they apply their energy on the roads. Those single-minded cyclists have brains blocked by dogma as well.

The science of accommodation

IMG_2542.jpgYet it still makes sense for motorists, even those with brains clogged by one-dimensional thinking, to take cyclists into account. It truly can save time for everyone to give cyclists the right-of-way. All it takes is a slight reduction in dogmatic thinking about who “owns the roads” to accept the fact that people in cars have a lot easier time starting and stopping than do cyclists.

It doesn’t take a physicist to figure this stuff out, folks. But it may require some people to unclog their brains and take into account the fact that we’re all just chunks of carbon and oxygen passing through this world.

 

 

 

 

*Neutrinos are affected only by a “weak” sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it.

 

Posted in bike accidents, bike crash, blood on the highway, cycling, cycling the midwest, cycling threats | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sock drawer confessions

IMG_2786.JPGIt dawned on me this morning that I have no idea how most other people in the world arrange their socks. That seems like a fair topic in the age of “life hacks” that are supposed to make our existence more efficient and less frantic.

There is a part of me that has always appreciated the value of organizing a sock drawer. Way back in the early 1980s, when I was trying to impress a girlfriend with the idea that I had my life together, I organized my sock drawer before she came over to visit. While taking a tour of my apartment, I proudly showed opened the top drawer of my dresser to show here the rows of running socks I’d placed in position as if they were a work of art. Something about that display must have worked. We dated for almost a year.

But here’s the thing about sock drawers. It’s all well and good to organize them. But then it takes work to keep them organized. That’s where I often fall down on the job.

The Laundry Cycle

For one thing, socks are hard to track through the laundry cycle. And socks get lost. Jerry Seinfeld did a great comedic bit about how you can lose a sock while doing laundry and then check the washer or dryer. Often you’ll find the missing sock pressed against the back wall of the washer or dryer like a torture victim. It has this stressed look on its socky face as if to say, “I’m sorry! I didn’t try to get stuck here! The spin cycle made me do it!”

Sock on shirt.jpgSo it happens that some socks get lost. They are sneaky little buggers and fond of all sorts of tricks. Foremost, they are quite often found behind the washer or dryer. When grabbing laundry out of the dryer, the bulk of those clothes often forms a mass that is difficult to handle. That’s when socks fall off the back.

Somehow, certain socks always seem to disappear into the void. Either they conspire to join other socks in that linty zone behind the dryer or they cling to other clothes and wind up lost in the tee shirt drawer for weeks until you pull one out and go, “Oh, there you are.”

Behind the dryer

Socks behind dryer.jpgThat is still better than finding socks behind the dryer. Those connections and plugs seem to collect every form of household detritus and dust known to earthly existence. When you recover a sock from there, it usually requires another washing. Or else you have to shake and brush off dryer lint and maybe spider webs before putting the sock back into the wear cycle. In any case, it is gross.

Sock collection

I own perhaps twenty pairs of athletic socks in one form or another. Cycling socks are generally thinner and colorful. Running socks are either white, like my favorite Thor-Los, or some form of grey with patterns built in. I put all these socks on one side of the drawer where I keep them. Currently they’re in the bottom drawer. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because they’re down by my feet, but I don’t know for sure.  I actually haven’t thought about the reason until now. I used to keep them in the top drawer, and can’t remember when that changed.

But let’s get to some other important stuff, like how to properly fold a pair of socks.

Sock Folding.jpeg

Art stolen from SockDreams.com

Because it seems there are other issues that I should attend before considering what height drawer my socks should occupy. Take a look at this blog called Sockdreams.com, which focuses on techniques for folding and storing socks.

I have to admit that cutting up that cardboard to make little sock drawers within the bigger sock drawers is rather tempting. I’m no neat freak by nature, as you might have surmised. But why miss out on the pleasures of coming to your sock drawer and finding them all snuggled up like puppies in a dog bed?

Martha Stewart style

Even Martha Stewart (of course) offers a video on best techniques or sock folding and storage. But I bet Martha Stewart even tells you to fold a used condom before throwing it out. And I’m just not that into being neat. You have to draw the line somewhere.

The reason for all this concern about sock organization is simple. It’s a lot easier to get ready for work (or a workout) if you don’t have to hunt down your socks. There are enough other gear choices you have to make without having to shuffle through a sock drawer trying to match a pair of running or cycling socks. That can be so frustrating I have been known to say “screw it” and not work out at all. But usually I persevere.

Still, the choices are sometimes not easy. I have a penchant for wearing socks of the same general age as well as color. If there are six pairs of Thor-Los in my sock drawer, it matters to me if one is bright white (and new) while the other is thinned out and gray from years of washing. I feel unbalanced if two socks are the same, but not the same.

OCD for my ABCs

Is that OCD? Well, tough tooties. We’re all allowed to have our quirks. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about the period a few years back when I actually put letters such as A, B and C on my sock pairs. That earned me some criticism and laughter from others in the household. But the method never worked anyway. I’d wind up wearing an A with a C and go out feeling unbalanced anyway.

This is all complicated by the fact that my athletic wife also has many pairs of socks to sort. Thus when our laundry is dumped out on our bed for sorting, it means tossing her socks into one pile and my socks into another. Sometimes they’re so similar I have to stop and think, “Are these mine or hers?”

Sock it to me

Panties in a pileFortunately we do not wear similar underwear. But that is my favorite part of doing our joint laundry. Sorting her panties into small piles is quite enjoyable to me. It’s a nice little break from the boredom of sock sorting to pick up some little set of drawers with a pretty pattern and lace trim and drop!! them into the panty pile with that little thrill that goes through my head of her wearing them. I make no apologies for that. Not. At. All.

I don’t have a panty fetish because I have enough hobbies to keep me busy. But some people do have a foot fetish. It’s quite likely that socks play some sort of foreplay role in that desire. If you are one of those people, you might want to check out the website for TheSockDrawer.com. There are plenty of colorful games waiting to be played on that site.

Bob Ross socks.jpg

These Bob Ross artist dandies are enough to make anyone come in their socks

Intimate matters

All this thinking about socks and underwear makes me wonder which is the more intimate garment after all? Do socks or underwear claim the title of Most Intimate apparel?

I suppose the covering of genitals wins most of the privacy issues. But you know, toes are a pretty important body part to runners, cyclists and swimmers Thus we place a lot of trust in our socks to protect our feet, or otherwise, they’re fucked. So it sort of balances out.

Everything else is show

So in some odd respect the whole sock drawer organization thing is about prioritizing our needs and taking care of some things that really do matter.

And whether you take the Martha Stewart route or simply toss all your socks in a drawer the best way you can, it’s all about finding them when you need them. Everything else is just a show.

 

 

 

 

Posted in cycling, running, triathlete, triathlon, triathlons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is CPR alone essentially useless?

AED.jpgThis morning on the way to work there was a discussion on radio about how doctors view the art of dying in comparison to the general population. The most shocking part of the interview focused on the nearly useless practice of CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). The program revealed that actual survival rate from CPR is just 8%. And that’s the odds of surviving just for one month. Another 5% don’t get past that.

So the doctors were sharing a sobering fact that many of us likely do not realize:  just 3% of people treated with CPR live to see a relatively healthy life. The rest die.

All this despite hours of training and preparation engaged by thousands of people around the world. It needs to be stated clearly: CPR alone may not work.

AED packs

These days CPR training places more focus on the AED packs that contain shock paddles used to revive a heart that stops beating. Heart.org reports that: “Communities with comprehensive AED programs that include CPR and AED training for rescuers have achieved survival rates of nearly 40% for cardiac arrest victims. Making AEDs more available to lay responders who are trained in their use could save even more lives.”

A man that I met recently lost his father to a sudden heart attack while they were out birding on a remote island in the Aleutian chain of islands off Alaska. Losing his dad moved the man to learn what really works. He started a company that makes AEDs. Recently he sold that company after a decade of building it up. But it had competed in a market with the likes of Phillips and other companies charging $4000 per AED unit. His AEDs sold for $1500. Now there are 400,000 of them out there in airports and other key locations where heart attacks often happen in public. That’s a pretty admirable use of business acumen, if you ask me.

In training

A few months back my wife and I went through CPR training. We learned how to use an AED pack in the process. The trainer did not mention the fact that the CPR portion of the training has such a low success rate. Perhaps even she doesn’t know that.

The New York Times reports (please click through to read the article): “Research generally suggests that about 40 percent of patients who receive CPR after experiencing cardiac arrest in a hospital survive immediately after being resuscitated, and only 10 to 20 percent survive long enough to be discharged.

The same story shares that television programs showed a 75% survival rate from CPR alone. Those programs are lying to us. 

The American Heart Association takes a somewhat more optimistic view of CPR, but it still comes with some provisos: “Cardiac arrest – an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs – is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”

Lucky guy

Last year I interviewed a young man that had saved his own father’s life using CPR. So there is real-time evidence that CPR can save lives. But as the AHA story suggests, much depends on the timing and circumstance of the attack.

So while there is conflicting information about the effectiveness of CPR, that means you should ask questions if you sign up to learn or re-certify for CPR. If the training does not include training with an AED pack, you are quite possibly wasting your time.

It’s all important to know because many of us participate in activities that can and do produce heart problems. There might not always be a doctor around when that happens. But pouncing on a person and administering CPR to the point where their ribs break during CPR may not be doing them a favor either.

It’s a tough subject, but the medical world is trying to send us honest messages that the illusion of successful CPR is exaggerated, if not an urban legend.

We all want to be responsible, but it sure makes sense to figure out what that really means.

 

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Amanda Leibowitz is a survivor and a thriver

Amanda NIke.jpgIn the age of the Internet and social media, we sometimes meet people more by osmosis and familiarity and through shared stories than by true acquaintance. Yet even with a digital distance between us, there are connections that build.

Such is the case with a young woman named Amanda Leibowitz. We got connected through a chain of associations including one of my longtime friends and high school acquaintances who knows her mother. Plus Amanda has been involved in triathlon and our paths crossed that way as well.

Amanda’s story bears some difficulties few people can imagine. Yet she has forged a strong and determined life from these experiences. By way of introduction, it works best to share some of her own words to describe where’s she’s been and to see where she is going. I’d known her for a year or two through social media when this post popped up in the feed.

Amanda back.jpg

Now, I stand before you, ripping off the Band Aid to bare my skin and my soul.
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Almost 12 years ago, my world was shattered. Whoever I thought I was, that person had – in an instant – ceased to exist. For a long time, I tried to find all the pieces so I could put the delicate puzzle back together with glue. But some of the pieces were lost, others were too small, and even more just didn’t fit like I remembered.
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Over a decade was spent searching for ways to occupy those spaces and complete my reconstruction:

– Alcohol dulled the sharp edges 
– Cigarette smoke blurred imperfections
– Food filled the gaps and cracks
– Male attention glossed the exterior
– Achievement prevented close inspection
– Isolation cushioned the environment
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Here’s the thing, I think we can all agree that these were not the BEST tools to use, but they worked. Or, at least, they worked well enough for me at the time. I was not happy, but at least I knew what to expect and I could handle it. Or so I thought.
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I looked “put together” but it was all a facade. It wasn’t real. I was delicate. So much so, that a light breeze would send my carefully balanced pieces scattering across the floor and the rebuilding would start again.
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The problem with putting a vase back together is that when you try to fill it, water seeps through the cracks. Happiness was momentary. Fulfillment was temporary. Confidence was fleeting. 
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Out of necessity, I changed my methods. I turned to swimming, cycling, and running to try to keep my pieces together. Speed and endurance replaced smoking and drinking. I chased PRs and podiums instead of empty relationships. I may have been able to fortify some of my walls, but, still, I was fragile.
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When I was presented with the opportunity to try something new — to enter a safe space that welcomed vulnerability and encouraged personal development — to join a community that expected me to be fully engaged — to take responsibility for my health and holistic wellness — I realized that the tools I was looking for were not as elusive as they seemed. They were just in a different box.
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Finally, instead of putting them back together, I tossed all the broken, cracked, and crumbled pieces in a cauldron, melted them down, and am now creating a whole new me. My body, my soul, and my life are a work of art. I am the sculptor, and I’m proud of my work.
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When I saw first saw this picture, I was hit with an immediate, visceral response. My face flushed, my chest tightened, and my eyes welled with tears. For so long, I have seen myself as incomplete – damaged – empty – weak – that I almost couldn’t recognize what I saw. Strength. Power. Serenity. When I looked at this photo, I realized I am whole.
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I am not a victim of sexual assault. I am a survivor.

Amanda L3.jpg

This visceral nature of a post like that cannot help but change one’s perception of another human being. And that’s a good thing. Behind the smile of this bright young woman is a brand of grit and hope that has emerged in a life focused on helping others achieve their better selves. So I asked Amanda to answer a few questions about where’s she’s been and where she’s going.

Did you grow up doing organized sports? If so, what sports?

Yes, I played a variety of sports throughout my life, but split most of my time between competitive horseback riding, volleyball, and softball. I ended up playing volleyball in college at the University of Nottingham, as well

What are your personal interests beyond fitness? 

I have always loved reading and find great joy in a good book, whether it be for personal development or for fun! I also enjoy cooking. I have many food sensitivities and allergies, so it’s always been fun to come up with creative ways to make delicious meals that are also gluten free, dairy free, and (sometimes) vegan. Traveling and being in nature (hiking, camping, etc.) has always been a passion of mine, and the majority of my travels have been to developing countries to participate in grassroots projects with local communities in Africa and South America. I even worked in the Ural Mountains in Russia for a few months one summer

Have there been work experiences that inform what you do now? 

Amanda sport psychologist.jpgHonestly, I think that just about everything I’ve had the opportunity to experience in life up to this point informs what I do now. My work as an endurance coach and sports psychology consultant inform my current role as an online health and wellness coach in that I have a foundation of knowledge regarding nutrition and fitness, which I find to be fascinating and am always searching to learn more! But my world travels and nonprofit work also taught me a great deal! Specifically, I learned to approach new things with curiosity, compassion, humility, and a willingness to learn. I think it’s that mindset that has contributed most to my success with coaching, both in the endurance world and with the clients I serve in my online business.

How would you describe your current occupation? 

Amanda doggoI am an online health and wellness coach and provide one-on-one mentoring and private accountability groups for women and men who want to live happy and healthy, and more fulfilled. I incorporate fitness, nutrition, and support so that my clients are set up for success from the very start, and I work with them individually to teach them use various tools and resources to create habits that help them meet THEIR goals. The end-game is for each and every client to feel empowered and in control of their health so they can lead healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives – in whatever way that means to them! Because we all have different goals, right?!

You have experienced some trauma in life…How does fitness help you cope with the emotional side of your personality

Yes, I have experienced quite a bit of trauma in my life in many forms. More than anything, fitness gives me something in my life I can control. So when I start to feel anxious or depressed or helpless in my current situation or I get triggered by something and my emotions are running high, I can easily go push play on a workout or lace up my shoes and go for a run and by the time I’m done, I’ve ACCOMPLISHED something. And it was MY CHOICE. The cool thing is that we all have this power. We all have the power to choose – so choosing to exercise or cook myself a healthy meal or practice self-care are all things that actually benefit my health, and they are active responses to feeling a certain way. And I actually feel better when I’m done! Rather than drinking and smoking which I’ve done in the past – those were all more “reactive” behaviors. Like, “I’m in pain so I’m going to distract myself by doing this other thing that actually causes more pain long term and I’ll feel like garbage about it in the morning and further compound this shame spiral I’m already on.”

What is the biggest challenge you see for people getting started in training? 

The most common challenges that I’ve seen when people are trying to start a new fitness or nutrition routine is that they don’t know where to start! Even though it’s really exciting to try something new, it can be really overwhelming at the same time. There is SO MUCH information on the internet that it can be really hard to sift through and know what to trust. As a result, often times, people try to do “too much too soon” and don’t set themselves up to have those mini-successes along the way that build confidence as you go. Motivation is a tricky thing – if we set the goal so high that our first experience is failure (or feels like failure), we are way more likely to quit! Another big challenge is a lack of support from family and friends – it can take some time for others to “come around” and a lot of the time, the people we know don’t actually like it when we start to change ourselves for the better. What I’ve seen is that those people who have the support of a community of like-minded folks tend to be more consistent and also have long-lasting success because that need for community and support are being met.

Is triathlon training still a big part of your routine? 

Amanda on bike.jpgNo, I have actually “retired” from triathlon due to a neck injury that makes riding a bike for more than 15 minutes incredibly painful – I decided that the risk of further nerve damage was not worth it and have shifted my focus to running, which is something I truly love and enjoy. As you know, I also had ankle surgery last year and am on the long, slow road to recovery there, but I am enjoying the process and appreciating every step!! My long-term goal is to complete a 100-mile trail ultramarathon, so I’m willing to be patient now to take care of my ankle if it means that goal is a possibility in the future.

What types of injuries or illnesses have you experienced along the way. 

As I mentioned before, I have a herniated disc in my neck at C5-6 that causes nerve pain and numbness down my left arm/hand as well as muscle spasms in my back. I had to have surgery in May 2017 to repair tendons in my ankle and anchor a ligament – the ligament was so loose from old volleyball injuries that my ankle bone was sinking on to my peroneal tendons and fraying them from the middle. On top of that, my body completely freaked out during the 2016 race season and I experienced symptoms of adrenal fatigue for several months.

Who in your life has influenced you toward the fitness and dietary programs you now advocate? 

Amanda thumbs uI really learned to appreciate the power of nutrition as fuel AND medicine when my dad was undergoing treatment for cancer. For many years, he followed a macrobiotic diet that had a huge impact on his overall health and also worked to support his body fight his cancer. I truly believe that the changes he made in his nutrition habits allowed him to live so fully while also battling cancer for more than a decade. So I guess a seed had already been planted when my friend’s wife, Jamie Sheppard, approached me about joining her team of wellness coaches. At first, I was a total snob and completely blew her off. I was SO embedded in the triathlon world and though that swim, bike, run was life – I wasn’t yet ready to look at more balanced, sustainable options for ALL people to be able to get the most out of exercise and nutrition. To Jamie’s credit, she invited me to join her several times, and last summer I finally decided to jump in. I had been stuck on the couch for several weeks recovering from surgery and eating all the candy I could get my hands on – I felt gross and was ready to start moving again but my usual activities were not an option. She presented me with a simple plan that included short strength-training workouts I could do from home, the amazing superfood shake I am no obsessed with, and an easy-to-follow meal plan that was REALLY good! And after only one week I was hooked and knew that this was really something special that SO MANY people could benefit from including in their lives. It was like a switch flipped and everything fell into place because it is basically a combination of the best parts of what I wanted to do – something realted to nutrition, physical activity, mental and emotional well-being, and getting to help people and make a real difference in their lives.

What are some of the central principles, but also surprising ones, that people don’t seem to know about diet and fitness? 

Amanda drinkThat’s a really interesting question and I don’t know that there are central principles that people don’t know about, but I do think there are a lot of myths that prevent people from starting or sticking with their new habits.

For example, the idea that “fit” people are always motivated, the assumption that “healthy eating” is restrictive and boring, and the idea that change is linear are all things that can be hugely damaging to someone’s progress. I suppose the one thing I’d really love for people to learn and appreciate is that healthy living is a LIFESTYLE and the little choices matter most. It doesn’t take this huge show of effort to reclaim your health or get more fit – it takes showing up DAILY to do the little things. Get your workout done. Eat well. Be mindful of portion sizes. Make healthier snack choices. These little things DO compound in HUGE results. I think many people want results FAST rather than results that LAST, so if we could all practice a little more patience, persistence, and consistency when it came to our health I think we’d achieve our goals a lot more often!

What advice would you give to some after experiencing a setback? 

Amanda shadesGet back on the horse! Really though, the only time we ever truly “fail” at something is when we quit. Going back to what I said earlier about progress not being linear… We need to learn to accept and embrace those road-bumps as part of the journey. When we can approach these things with a growth mindset, we can become empowered by our struggles rather than defined by them. The other advice I’d have is to lean on the people you have around you for support! Whatever you’re experiencing, you don’t have to do it alone!!

How do you set goals and help others to do the same? 

Goal setting to me is a dynamic process. I think that we should all have those “big picture” goals in mind, but I know that we are more successful when we break those DREAM goals into smaller, achievable stepping stones. It’s really important that we’re able to celebrate successes along the way and also be open to changing the timeline or the plan itself if needed. Long-term goals are just that – LONG-TERM!!

And guess what happens over time? PEOPLE CHANGE!! So why should our goals stay static, too, if they are no longer aligned with our values. It’s not a bad thing when this happens, it’s actually really motivating to release an anchor and hoist up a new sail. The more mindful we can be of what we want to achieve and what we are willing to do to achieve it, the more successful we will be with our goals. But I am constantly evaluating my goals and my progress, and I make a point to do this with my clients as well!

Going strong

Amanda Suit.jpgAmanda Leibowitz is obviously committed to her goals, but also builds some flex into her routine. Recently she posted a progress report on her own fitness with an eye on inspiring others Here’s what it read:

DAY 80 HAS ARRIVED. But it’s not the end of anything, it’s only the beginning. ✌🏻❤️🔥
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I started this journey back in January with the intention of getting strong. And by STRONG I mean that in the most literal sense — after nearly 15-months of injury, surgery, and physical therapy for my ankle and my neck, I WANTED and NEEDED to build the muscles that would keep my body healthy and pain-free.
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So — in my head — THIS program was going to be what would launch me back into the endurance world so I could make my #epiccomeback on the road and on the trails. A different functional strength workout every day. Timed nutrition to maximize how I fuel my body. Was it perfect? OH HELL NO. Do I feel healthier and stronger than ever? 100% YES, YES, ALL THE YES.
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But what are you seeing here? JOY. CONFIDENCE. SELF-LOVE. I’ve found strength and power and magic in self-discovery.
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Ya see, I’ve defined myself as a SURVIVOR for so long.
🖤 I survived living paycheck to paycheck and working multiple jobs while juggling full-time school and two internships during my masters.
🖤 I survived sexual assault and the weight of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness that filled the space left empty when my identity was stripped away.
🖤 I’ve survived a lifetime of depression and anxiety and the rock bottom feeling of shame and despair when it feels like it’s impossible to go on.
🖤 I survived the stress and pain and heartbreak of watching illness steal the life of someone you love, and the overwhelming sense of grief that colors the world once they’re gone.
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But what I’ve come to learn is that SURVIVORSHIP is a REACTION. And as I’ve learned more about WHO I AM and taking responsibility for the CHOICES I MAKE about how I live, I’m learning that I am a person of ACTION.
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I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become. (( Carl Jung ))
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In the last 80 days, I’ve realized that I don’t have to merely survive, I can thrive. I can SEEK challenges that help me grow and BECOME the woman I am meant to be — inside, outside, and everything between. Today, tomorrow, and every day. 🦋
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P.S. You’ve got this magic, too. 

You can find Amanda on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/amandaleibovitz

You won’t be disappointed in the inspiration you’ll find there.

 

Posted in training for a marathon, triathlete, triathlon, triathlons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Red light, green light

red-orange-green-traffic-lights.jpgWhen my children were little and there was nothing to do in the house, we’d sometimes play a game called Red Light, Green Light. It was a simple game but one that also required concentration and reaction. One person would stand facing the wall, and call out Green Light! That meant it was time to move. But when Red Light was called, everyone had to stop and hold still. Any sign of movement was grounds to be sent back to the far wall.

Like all games for children, there was a certain amount of gamesmanship always going on, and sibling rivalry for sure. But generally we played fair and everyone got a chance to be the Red Light.

Statues

The funniest part came when someone would be caught standing on one foot and would have to hold themselves in balance. That built some creative tension into the game. It was like a plot booster in a children’s story. It was hard not to laugh either at yourself or the other person when that “statue” problem came about.

This weekend while we were downtown there was a street performer whose entire costume and face were painted silver. His setup bore a sign that said “Make a Contribution and I Move.” There was music playing and he was a pretty darn good dancer.

Silver Guy.jpg

The concept was so simple, and actually functioned opposite the game of Red Light, Green Light. His jar was full of money.

Creative souls

One can only imagine the creativity of that man as a child. Could he ever know that he’d take his childhood fantasies of dancing for other people and turn it into a profession of sorts? And sure, health insurance benefits are not included in his gig, but that’s all the more reason for a public option in this country. Entrepreneurs in America should not be limited in their creativity or productivity by something such as health insurance. Starting a small company is daunting enough without having to play the horrific game of figuring out how to take care of your family’s health without paying more than you earn when working for yourself. We need a public option. And let’s remove the burden of administering health care from all our corporations. It’s the American thing to do.

The United States somehow arrived at the conclusion that the practice of pushing health insurance through a corporate filter is a good idea. The burden that places on American companies is far worse than high tax rates.

Free and fearless

IMG_5354During those years when I trained full time and ran for a running shop, I didn’t even carry health insurance. That was stupid in some respects, but that’s how 20-somethings get by in this world. While young, we make a bet on good health and go with it.

The Affordable Care Act tried to bring 20somethings to the table by penalizing them for not participating in health insurance. Some considered that an impingement on freedom and an unconstitutional demand to participate in a government program. Yet we’re required to have car insurance to drive a vehicle, and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone. So the argument that the ACA was unconstitutional was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Red Light, Green Light

But those of us that have run our own business on and off play a game of Red Light, Green Light with health insurance. When you leave a company it is possible to continue health insurance through the COBRA act. But it is extremely expensive. When I was let go from a company the day after they learned my wife had cancer, they took legal action to cut me off from unemployment insurance as well. It was all about money for them. That was an ugly scene for sure. And talk about facing a Red Light in life.

Insurance premiums alone cost us $2000 a month. But we had to pay them because to let the insurance go would have ruined us completely. Some of the chemotherapy treatments billed out at $44,000. Of course, the insurance companies never paid out that much. That’s all part of the game. Charge everything ten times what it really costs and get what you can along the way. That’s the American healthcare system in a nutshell.

Pre-existing conditions

The Affordable Care Act had not come along to guarantee people could get insured even with pre-existing conditions. But the real pre-existing condition in the American health insurance industry is the grand mistake we’ve made in pumping health insurance through the corporate portal. It has skewed our entire economy on many fronts. The idea that health insurance is some kind of “benefit” emanates from the transactional structure of our healthcare system. Mostly this is a perversion of the notion that medical treatments and preventative care are a “perk” that only people who work for big companies deserve. Yet that’s the entire philosophy of our current health care system. It’s a sickness of mind.

“Private” health insurance

So I’ve lived the Red Light, Green Light realities of the so-called “privatized” health insurance game. The only thing privatized about our health care system is the fact that everyone privatizes the profits while dumping the costs back on the public across many fronts.

So it’s no wonder some people refuse to play the game. Back when I was young and single and had no responsibilities other than racing every other weekend I could get away with not carrying insurance. But when responsibilities and the literal life of another person is at stake, the game of Red Light, Green Light gets a lot more serious.

That’s why some of us get so angry when we see politicians on television talking dismissively about issues such as health insurance, gun violence or the simple freedom of the press. When you’re a child and playing Red Light, Green Light as if your life depends upon it, you just go back to the wall and start over. When you’re playing games iwth guns and get shot, you fall down dead and get back up again.

But when you’re an adult and have your back against the financial wall with the red glare of reality staring you right in the face, life gets a lot more serious. I know. I’ve been there. It isn’t a fun game to play.

Fortunately, there are some people in this world with compassion for others. We got help many times and in many ways. I am forever grateful for that fact. When the Green Light of compassion shines there is no more wonderful color in this world.

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Chicago: City of Big Shoulders and sometimes small minds

IMG_2573.JPGYesterday was the first anniversary of my marriage to Suzanne Astra. We celebrated by heading to Chicago to see Hamilton, take in a romantic dinner at the Chicago Athletic Club with a gift certificate we’d been given as a wedding gift, and stayed at the Hyatt overlooking the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower.

Only Tribune Tower won’t be the home for the Chicago Tribune for very much longer. The newspaper has struggled with revenues the last ten years and a series of ownership changes has led to the divestment of properties associated with the company. That means Tribune Tower is being purchased by a developer. There are plans to plunk the second tallest building in Chicago right next to the still-classic profile of the building that has stood as the pinnacle of journalism in Chicago for decades.

Friends and associates

IMG_2576.JPGI have friends and former newspaper associates who currently work for the Chicago Tribune and its digital companies. Their careers have been jostled and shaken the last two decades as various kneejerk owners took over the reigns of the Trib. A couple of those Big Shoulders zealots nearly drove it into the ground.

These include the super-rich Sam Zell, who hired a bunch of radio expatriates to take over management of the Chicago Tribune and “shake things up.”  They turned the offices of the Chicago Tribune into an adolescent party palace, offending everyone inside and outside the operation in the process. The Tribune survived, but only because the coarse brand of ego-driven management ultimately proved unsustainable.

Tronc-logo.pngThe company stabilized after that debacle. But then along came a bunch of new zipheads that named the company Tronc after “Tribune Online Content.” The childishly lower-case logo with its cheesy late-90s color scheme is reflective of a mindset that says calculated informality combined with a cloying exhale of stale early-2000s air constitute a forward-thinking makeover to carry the company into the future. Good luck with that.

Longtime reader

Those of us who grew up with admiration for the Chicago Tribune found all this idiocy shocking at best. As a kid I delivered the Chicago Tribune. All through high school and beyond I’ve remained a reader and loyal subscriber. I’ve had a couple dozen Letters to the Editor published on topics ranging from environment to religion to politics.

And to that end: Many times I have disagreed with the Tribune’s originally conservative philosophy. But I kept reading the paper out of a sense of cultural responsibility and in being informed. Even as the Trib carried the issuances of dunderheaded columnists such as Dennis Byrne or the petulant ravings of Cal Thomas, the drivel of anachronism and dog-whistle anger couldn’t drive me away.

IMG_2575.JPGI kept subscribing to the Tribune even when I was in the employ of smaller competitive newspapers. When I was hired as an editorial writer for the Daily Herald, the third-largest newspaper in Illinois, it was an opportunity to learn how the editorial voice of a newspaper actually worked. There is nothing like knowing that 300,000 people might read your words to make you think about what those words really mean.

History

All this engagement covered decades of my life. A couple years ago I even pitched the Tribune on a business idea that was reviewed for months with considerable favor before it was declined due to financial pressures to keep their traditional and online sales staff focused on building news holes and propping up online content.

So I’ve been inside the Tribune building several times. The lobby is impressive. The offices are just like every other newspaper where I worked. Desks piled with old editions of the paper for reference and whiteboards in the sales department marked with sales objectives and target accounts. Some things never change.

The Tribune building is perched on a small rise of Michigan Avenue next to the Chicago River. Back when I lived in Chicago in 1983-84, I’d often run from our flat in Lincoln Park down to Michigan Avenue and Grant Park, then come back up the lakefront trail. As a fit and somewhat naive kid of 23 years old, I looked at that journey as putting my stamp on the City of Chicago. I felt like I owned the place.

IMG_2539.JPGAt the same time, the city and its business leaders were daunting in ways that seemed at once opaque and frighteningly transparent. Through connections in running I once wound up in a business meeting to discuss the concept of hosting a mile race down Michigan Avenue. Also attending the meeting was a world class runner named Eamonn Coughlan, the Irish miler and 5000 meter runner who set a world indoor record for the mile and won international championships in the 5000 meters. The meeting was full of people trying to prove themselves the most insightful on the matter of the race and Coughlan watched it all patiently, but I could tell he was frustrated.

That was one of the many moments over the years when I realized that the people who believed themselves special were in fact desperate for approval. Meanwhile, here was a world class distance runner that would place fourth in the Olympics several times who truly knew what it mean to put it all on the line and “fail” in the eyes of those who considered an Olympic medal to be the only sign of success.

It put my own striving in perspective. From then on, as I ran down the Magnificent Mile I realized that every building along the way, while massive in scale and daunting in terms of the money, management and revenue that sustained it, were still just the product of people who could be just as phony as the men gathered in that room trying to impress the world class distance runner in their presence.

Return to form

IMG_2512.JPGI’m not the runner I once was. But it still felt fun to run the Magnificent Mile yesterday on a sunny Sunday morning in May. It was an anniversary of another kind as well.  It was the first weekend of May in 1983 that I moved back to Chicago from Philadelphia. 35 years ago.

Other than a few new buildings, the street known as the Magnificent Mile still looks pretty much the same. The tulips were arranged with care in planters. The shade still felt cooler than the sun. My reflection in the windows and polished black granite of the buildings still looked like very much like a runner I knew. A lot slower and older, but still a guy trying to make sense of life on the move.

Carved in marble

Then I passed the Tribune Tower and thought about the times I’ve sat in that lobby looking at quotes carved into the marble walls inside the lobby. Each quote speaks to freedom of the press and the importance of truth. There is nothing fake about the fact that such concepts are under siege by political forces that are more impressed with themselves than with the power and importance of the law and the freedoms it protects.

Eamonn Coughlan.jpeg

Eamonn Coughlan, the Irish distance runner. 

I thought back to that meeting in which Eamonn Coughlan sat patiently listening to the blowhards in the room trying to impress each other with their half-baked ideas and half-knowledge of what it takes to put on a race, or to actually run one.

That’s when I realized that despite the supposed sophistication of the men who build tall buildings and occupy them, their urges and intentions can be a base and petty as the dirt and detritus gathered around their foundation. Even a city as large as Chicago is still an illusion of perceptions and the bluster of names written in big letters.

I can admire the success of people who build big cities such as Chicago and yet not fall prey to the idea they are somehow perfected in their nature. The near-ruination of the Chicago Tribune by developer Sam Zell proved to me that people can be exceptional in one field and not grasp a single aspect of a field outside their area of expertise. Seemingly smart people can do really stupid, stupid things.

It is the arrogance of those bearing grandiose assumptions and piles of self-righteousness that so often ruin life for the rest of us. Even people with Big Shoulders can possess really small minds. I’ve seen plenty of proof of that.

 

 

 

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Painting your blessings

IMG_2464.JPGI’ve written a few times before about how a three mile run is about the perfect length to enjoy fitness and clear the head. This morning the winds were high and it was cloudy here in Illinois, but the temps were in the low 60s. That makes for some nice running weather. A blessing, you might say.

I was excited to run this morning because it’s been a couple weeks since my meniscus repair knee surgery and I’ve been adding a little mileage each week as I do some cycling, weight work and swimming as well.

Go for it

So this morning I decided to “go for it” and cover a three mile loop that starts at our house, winds through a neighborhood, climbs a small hill on an unincorporated road, circles a drive through a wooded neighborhood and returns by the same loop.

The run also felt good because last night I finished up painting the second giant fiberglass dog sculpture in the Bulldogs Unleashed public art project here in Batavia, Illinois. I’ve put in dozens of hours to complete two 44″ bulldogs for a public project titled Bulldogs Unleashed that raises money for the Batavia Foundation.

IMG_1578 2.JPGThe first dawg was for the high school. It features views of the stadium and some athletes engaged in their sports. The lights on top of the dog symbolize people lost to the program over the years. The theme is titled Lights Over Batavia. I liked painting that bulldog because a friend of mine coaches at the high school and along with some students and faculty, we got to collaborate on the idea.

Cold comfort

There were some cold nights spent in our garage painting because the dogs are so big we could not get them downstairs into the studio space in our basement. That meant the alternative was to paint in the garage.

Finally it warmed up a bit over the last few weeks, and I was grateful for that. I’m pretty good at tolerating a bit of chill after all these years of training in the damp and cold and discomfort. But when you’re trying to concentrate on a subject or paint a straight line, it helps if you’re not feeling like you’re going to freeze.

IMG_2450.JPGEach dog probably took about thirty-forty hours to paint. I did not keep track because it doesn’t matter to me. The end result will help raise funds for some great non-profits in Batavia. The artists get paid for supplies and for their work on the project, but the goal is to leverage the work as a fund raiser. So the hours you put in may not equate to much in terms of pay, but I figured that it still came out between $20-$28 an hour. That’s more than fair.

IMG_2446.JPGIn the past I’ve painted a number of these projects and did them for free. I’d have done these for free as well. But it is nice to be compensated and respected. Many times in my art career that has not been the case. I once participated in an art show in which the patrons were treated to a seven-course meal while the artists were given brown paper sacks with half-stale ham sandwiches and chips for dinner. We had to buy our own drinks.

IMG_2443.JPGSuch are the ways of the world sometimes. I well recall that after I’d won a running race there would often be a big ceremony to give away raffle prizes, but the winner of the race would get some worthless trinket. I never understood that. After all, we paid the same fees as those winning stuff in the raffle! Shouldn’t there have been some sort of return on investment for training hard enough to win? Apparently not. A reverse psychology perhaps. “You won. You already got your reward.”

Hmmmm. So I’ve learned not to take any show of respect in any endeavor granted.

Finish line rewards

But I will say that it is also a relief to have finished the projects and have them come out well. Like all objectives and plans, there were stumbling blocks of design along the way. Artists need to be problem solvers in order to be successful. Painting on a three-dimensional surface presents different challenges than working a flat canvas. One can map out a design and learn along the way that it won’t work. Then you have to call an audible on the spot. It’s like turning the corner in a race and finding out there’s a big head wind. You need to learn to improvise. Even painting is a competition of sorts. You’re competing to overcome challenges.

IMG_2459.JPGOne of the fun aspects of the second dog was creating a little “world” themed around Batavia. It featured buildings and icons. I even included a pair of runners that were based on images of my wife Sue and I. It’s a fun thing to build a little of yourself into a piece like that.

Now that I’m done with the public art projects I have a commission yet to do and will be working on a number of new pieces for my June solo show at Water Street Studios. It will be titled Road Trip. This will be balanced with an increased training emphasis in preparation for the late May training camp we’re attending in North Carolina.

Time is so precious. But it’s a much more rich experience when you have something like art and fitness to focus upon. I feel blessed for that.

 

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For the love of God, let’s protect the earth

Please note: Today’s We Run and Ride addresses at some length and depth the theological issues driving cultural conflicts in this era. This reflects, but is not an excerpt, the work of a book I’m writing titled Sustainable Faith. This new work incorporates the writing of Professor Richard Simon Hanson, a scholar of Judaism at Luther College, whose treatise Religion from Earth constitutes a portion of the book. This blog reflects an immediate, fervent and unapologetic plea to consider the real source of ruin and conflict in this world. For some it may hit very close to home. But give it your consideration. It may be one of the most liberating pieces you’ve ever read. And remember, God is love. 

Scott PruittThe Chicago Tribune this week reported that the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, a man named Scott Pruitt, has deemed it necessary to relax air pollution laws as a favor to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose efforts to bring a company called FoxConn to southeast Wisconsin has prompted the director responsible for clean air and water in America to toss the law aside and grant the right to produce health-compromising smog that will affect the residents up and down the shores of Lake Michigan.

That includes Chicago, which has its hands full to the south as well, where industrial polluters keep dumping toxic chromium into the lake. The Chicago Tribune reported,

“A wastewater treatment system at the plant malfunctioned on the morning of Oct. 25, a problem that wasn’t noticed until the next day. Indiana officials were notified Oct. 27, according to the company’s letter, which is dated Oct. 31 and requested “confidential treatment” of the incident.

Law students at the University of Chicago discovered the letter while tracking pollution violations at U.S. Steel and other factories on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan. The document tops a stack of evidence gathered by attorneys at the university’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic for a lawsuit they are preparing that will accuse the Pittsburgh-based steel giant of repeatedly violating the federal Clean Water Act since 2011.”

A (formerly) Republican initiative

This is why the Environmental Protection Agency exists. It was established by Republican President Richard M. Nixon back in the early 1970s when air and water pollution were so bad people were literally dying from smog-related illnesses and rivers caught fire in Ohio. Something had to be done. America was sinking in a mire of stench and disease. It was biblical in proportions.

If you’ve never run or cycled in really foul air, or encountered water so thick with pollution that fish have lesions popping out between their scales, then perhaps it might seem fine to “relax” regulations to benefit a big company such as FoxConn. After all, they’ll be bringing jobs and money into the economy, so it’s a wash, right?

Seen it all before

DetritusWe’ve been down this road and it is pretty goddamned ugly and dangerous. When companies are allowed to take shortcuts and gain concessions that favor their polluting ways, the profitability of those actions can surely be enormous. But that’s because there is not a full and true accounting for these costs to human health and the environment. America too often allows industry to privatize the profits and dump the costs of human health on the public. Thus the true costs of maintaining the American economy is based, to some extent, on a massive lie. It is thus no coincidence this same selfish lobby resists a public option for health care.

Industrial pollution causes cancer, lung disease and many other illnesses that affect workers and society at large. These are real costs and real dollars. But they don’t appear on the books of companies dumping all kinds of crap into our air, water and land. And that’s a crime, quite literally. It is criminal to pollute our planet.

The facts hurt

That’s not liberal nonsense. These are the facts that originally drove our nation to clean up its act over the years. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, Superfund cleanup sites, wetland protection and mitigation and conservation laws are all products of an era when conservatives had a conscience, and when the United States of America made a bipartisan commitment to become a healthier, safer place to live.

But those days are gone, for now. The current cabal of conservatives resists environmental protection as if their lives depended on it. Which is the irony of all ironies. They’ll eventually learn that facts can hurt them despite all their selfish and ideological denials.

Getting the outdoors

Bright Kind of GuyBetween my running, cycling and birding, I spend a lot of time outdoors. Over the last forty years, I have lived 14,400 days. I estimate having spent an average of two hours every day doing some sort of outdoor activity. That’s 28,800 hours or 1,200 days, which equals 3.28 full years outside under the sun, in the rain, on cold and hot days. And that’s a conservative estimate, no pun intended.

So I know from direct personal experience the difference between a clean environment and one that smells, has evidence of poisons or chemical spills, or that makes it difficult to breathe. I’ve stood by the Fox River in my former hometown of St. Charles, Illinois and watched as a drainage pipe pumped out suds so deep they would have risen over my head if I’d stepped into them. There was an environmental activist in our area who called himself The Fox. He once dumped sludge gathered from the pipes of a polluter on their own white carpet. Over the years, his message got through.

Polluter In Chief

Thus I think the idea that this zealous, self-righteous dingbat Scott Pruitt has the right to wave his hand and dismiss an obvious source of pollution as “necessary” to the health of the Wisconsin economy is a falsehood and an outright lie.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Scott Pruitt presents himself as a “Christian” man. He’s been raised in the mentality that he is, to quote a recent NPR story, “On fire for God’s work.”  The NPR story lead begins with this statement: “The Sunday before Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt stood on the stage of his hometown church, bowed his head, and prayed.

“I stand on a platform today with a man of God who’s been tapped to serve our nation,” said the Rev. Nick Garland, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.

“It’s an honor for the kingdom of God to have a man of God who’s going to fill that role,” said Garland. “We wanted to pray for you today, and ask God to bless you.”

Well goddamn, that’s interesting

Pruitt is a lawyer that has spent a chunk of his career actually suing the agency he’s now been assigned to run. You may well have heard how that’s going. He runs the office with a strange combination of secrecy, paranoia and ego. The personal quirks alone are weird. His demands for respect include raising a special flag whenever he’s “in the office.” He also sought to purchase a soundproof booth from which to conduct his business. And on the public dime, he’s also traveled first-class, and somehow his pet employees received massive raises for no additional responsibility. All these are signs of a fearful and potentially corrupt personality. That is what is so disturbing about the supposed “Christian” nature of the man.

But perhaps that pattern of self-aggrandizement should be no surprise. Christianity itself was formed in the wake of a man named Yeshua, a devout Jew. We now know him as by the name of Jesus. But in His day, he challenged the religious authorities who ran the temple to evolve from a religion of literalism and law to a faith based on the love of God.  In the Book of Matthew we find Jesus giving a response to the legalistic zealots he confronted:

Matthew 15:34-40

 34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”–Matthew 15: 34-40

Killers in charge

IMG_2764But the religious authorities thought they knew better than Jesus. They conspired to have him killed. Before they did, Jesus spoke to them about the true nature of His ministry, and predicted, “Raze this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.”

Of course, they took him literally and laughed at him because it took decades to build the temple. But Jesus seldom spoke in literal terms. He even chastised his own disciples for their failure to comprehend the meaning and purpose of his parables. “Are you so dull?” he inquired of them.

Dull disciples and zealots abound

Those same dull disciples and religious authorities are living among us today. Scott Pruitt fits the description. So does the entire religious cabal of the Southern Baptist sect from which Pruitt has arisen. The conservative evangelical community is consistently guilty of the same sordid conspiratorial bullshit that the zealots pulled on Jesus two millennia ago. They branded him the liberal of his time, conspired to ruin his reputation and had him killed when he wouldn’t fall into place with the party line. It’s all so familiar that people can’t see the forest for the trees these days.

St. Paul: zealot on patrol

Even one of the principal sources of Christian scripture in the New Testament began with the persecution of others in the name of religion. That would be St. Paul, the brilliant yet massively flawed proselytizer whose letters captured so much of the Christian spirit. Unfortunately he also kept too much of the arch soul who persecuted Christians before Paul experienced the spiritual epiphany that converted him from rigid Jew to chameleonic Christian advocate.

This excerpt from a website hosted by Franciscan media captures the “conversion” of Paul in all its Hall of Mirrors glory: “But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.”

You can look at it any way you want. But that’s some pretty fucked up stuff right there. Paul reportedly fought for control of the legacy of Christianity with Jesus’ own brother James. So the battle for the soul of Christ and its expression in this world was a conflicted sibling rivalry right from the start.

Paul’s Legacy of zealotry

Paul’s zealotry is the primary legacy that has carried through to the conservative brand of Christianity that aligns with selective strains of Old Testament discrimination and intolerance advocated by the religious authorities in Jesus’ day. These include discrimination against women, gays and quite frankly, the poor and ill.

WindowsJust like the zealots of old, the latter-day religious bigots still read the Bible as a literal document and a design for discrimination. At times this zealotry has even suited the purposes of modern-era slaveholding and genocide. That was certainly the case in North America where slavery and the massacre of Native Americans were conducted under a banner of racial superiority and Manifest Destiny. Conservative Christians may not like the direct lines of this ancestry but they are so powerfully evident and true it requires a direct and persistent campaign of denial and revisionism to assuage the guilt and prevent such associations from overwhelming the faith that claims such innocence and casts itself as a “light in the darkness.”

Bookends

The best defense is often a strong offense, and thus the religious zealots of today seek powerful allies to advance their agendas, both secret and obvious, in the Information Age. This occurs through transfer of literalism and legalism into theocratic policy. Much of this hinges on a single word, “dominion,” which is ripped from the context of the Old Testament and Genesis to grant human beings claiming providential favor all sorts of selfish rights and aims. It most certainly is used to accord the human race the right to do with the earth whatever it wants. To seal that deal, a few lines from the Book of Revelation are leveraged to seal the deal with a Kiss of Death in claiming that Jesus will someday come back to create a New Heaven and a New Earth. Dominion and Armageddon are the Bookends of appropriative conservative Christian theology.

Look it up

You can research it all you want. I have studied the issues of corrupted Christian theology for more than thirty years. I saw it at work as a member of a highly conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran church. Recently some close friends from that church visited the Ark Encounter museum in Kentucky. They’re dear people to me, but that does not mean they are not dearly mistaken about the origins of the earth, or creation. Millions of people willfully chose to live by these delusions because it provides a convenient explanation for the beginning and end of time. But their limited imagination does not constitute an insightful revelation.

I’ll be blunt. I distrust the shortsightedness of literalistic Christian theology. Its dull and simplistic explanations willfully ignore entire swaths of well-documented human knowledge. It’s cultural approbations in favor of discrimination are harmful and disgusting. They drive prejudice and discrimination, and these lead to wars and death and destruction of the earth. Christianity in this form is a danger unto itself. And that is why I’m almost completed with a non-fiction book titled Sustainable Faith. I want to rescue Christianity, and the world, from the dim-witted, selfish zealots like Scott Pruitt who think they deserve the right to run, and ruin, the very world on which we all depend.

Anti-Christs and Anti-Country

Flag WaiverThe zealous Christian worldview and it approbations are anti-scriptural in every respect. But this approach to “faith” is immensely popular because it is easily consumable. It is foremost a religion of sound bites that include an unhealthy dynamic of dog-whistle fear-mongering and self-righteous confessional language.

Many of our Megachurches have sprouted from institutions such as the Moody Bible Institute that have turned out a brand of religion that offers a supermarket of baptisms, praise bands and a cultlike alternative to traditional Catholicism.

Almost all involve some sort of denial of modernity in favor of anachronism. Most fail to see the Anti-American nature of this worldview even as they spout words of patriotism and post social media memes to “support the troops” as some sign of holy contrition. America’s military is rife with the brand of hyper-zealotry. Yet America’s military is also rife with sexual harassment and only recent has dealt with discrimination against gay and transgender members. But Donald Trump wants to roll all that back. He’s got support from religious zealots to do so. Their discomfort is based on age-old insecurities and prejudices. And thus they contradict the security of our nation on basis of sexual fears. It’s a sickness of mind that does this.

Thus the truth about the religious and political authorities who spout such a corrupted version of scriptural worldview is their qualification as the Anti-Christ. End Times theologians love to point at politicians as signs of the Anti-Christ, but the lessons of Jesus and John the Baptist show us that the harshest danger to religious faith comes from within the institutions claiming the authority of God. These are strong accusations to make, I know. But the evidence is everywhere, and the evangelical fealty to the likes of Donald Trump prove just how far the legions of the Anti-Christ will go to gain power.

Swaybacks

That is why the evangelical vote was so easily swayed to Donald Trump. His Make America Great Again resounded like a call to the New Crusaders and conservative culture warriors eager (like the Old Days) to slay Muslims and turn America into the New Jerusalem. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Donald Trump rushed to make Jerusalem the new capitol of Israel. That is dog-whistle leadership right there. His religious directors have been waiting decades for that move. Trump doesn’t really care. He only wants to do what will earn him popularity and quell his massively perverted and disturbed soul. Or else he’s simply a sociopath. And that possibility exists.

Disturbing alliances

Storm PanoBecause this sociopathy stuff doesn’t stop with religion. It also aligns with a new brand of selfish consumerism that in populist terms has accomplished some intensely wild corruptions of law and legacy here in America. Most prominent is the strange relationship between Christianity and the gun lobby. That alliance has succeeded in convincing millions of so-called Christians that guns are somehow a tool of Christ and God. Guns are designed for one thing: killing. One of the 10 Commandments says: Thou shalt not kill. Thus every Christian gun owner defies their claim of protection from God by taking the matter selfishly into their own hands. Talk about lack of real faith. Talk about putting the “laws of men before the aims of God,” as Jesus once accused the religious authorities of His day. These patterns just repeat themselves over history. And the zealous religious authorities just keep seeking power and approval. But all they truly reap is corruption and death.

To accomplish this massive exercise in hypocrisy, the gun lobby in league with constitutional originalists (the secular side of literalism) has sliced the Second Amendment in half and left the first part to die. All to emphasize the selfish and dismissive claim that “the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Never mind the part about the “well-regulated militia.” That’s no longer applicable.

That’s the same corrupt logic that allows zealous Christians to dismiss the outdated laws of Leviticus on one hand yet bring forward their prejudice against gay people on the other. It is cherry-picking values. That is the heart of corruption and hypocrisy. And the neoconservative Christian movement is the locus of hypocrisy.

Self-righteousness

Thus the modern version of conservative Christianity shrouds itself in righteousness but in fact it is the Religion of Self and a Claim to Salvation that is all about ME ME ME.

Do megachurches still do the work of Christ in this world? No doubt. But like those who embrace the philosophy of dominion toward the world yet allow its destruction in the name of profit by corporations, there is a deeply hypocrisy at the heart of Christian ministry that cherry-picks its issues. The same holds true with those who claim to be Pro-Life and anti-abortion yet will not accept the idea that birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancies. The twisted morality of these arguments is the root cause of so much conflict and contradiction. It constitutes the same legalistic hypocrisy of which Jesus accused the religious authorities of his day. The pattern holds true.

How rich it is

The Bible is rife with warnings about the love of money. Yet the selfish barkers of the Prosperity Gospel have the President’s ear, because that’s what he believes and espouses. It’s all about Him, and how rich he thinks he is. But there is no contrition about the fraud and abuse and money-laundering that have positioned that man for public office in terms of money. But lacking the character of a true Christian, the man is a massive deception and all those who support him are whores for the association.

Even his porn star girlfriends know better, but so-called Christians still hold the man up like a hero for the ages, a God-chosen sub-deity. Even George W. Bush preached this brand of providential superiority. “I’m the Decider,” he bragged, and went on to claim, in essence, that he was installed by God, and that God talks to him.

It’s about the green(s)

donald-trump-golf-990x556Thus it’s no surprise to many of us with eyes and ears and discernment to realize that a man like Scott Pruitt and his Commander in Chief feel mighty fine compromising our environment in favor of selfish interests and profits. Trump sees the world as his own golf course. And he drives on the greens.

That’s the same view that religious authorities had about Jerusalem in their day. They also made liberal use of the temple treasury 2000 years ago. Jesus upset that dynamic and knocked over the tables of the money-changers. But that didn’t stop them.

Centuries later the Indulgences paid to the Catholic Church reflected the same greed before Martin Luther came along to challenge that corruption with a call to salvation through grace alone. He borrowed from the better side of St. Paul to do so, proving that no human being is perfect. But you’d never know it from the way some guided by their own sense of self-providence behave. The things they get away with…

Historical corrections

But reality and true spirituality have a way of correcting such false pretenses. Because while the selfish continually grab all they can get in the short term (witness the Republican tax cuts that benefit the rich…) the earth and creation have a long and patient record of fighting back. These equate the temperament of God. Even God, as it is stated in the Bible, felt the need to wipe out nearly the entire human race at one point. It wasn’t a literal worldwide flood, but it was big enough to wipe away a lot of human shit.

Ironically, that much what climate change is predicted to do in the next 100 to 200 years. Our coastlines are under siege from oceanic expansion. America’s military base in Norfolk, Virginia is the largest in the world, and they are in denial about the inevitable inundation of that port.  Onward Christian soldiers, indeed.

Global problems

Billions of people will be displaced eventually by climate change and ocean expansion. Yet the religious zealots of today deny on principle that climate change is real. They call the science predicting these changes “political” because it doesn’t fit their own selfish worldview and the theology that only God can affect what happens to the planet.

That’s pretty much the same attitude people expressed toward all of God’s prophets over the millennia. The world laughed at Noah and his ark. The religious authorities dismissed John the Baptist for calling them “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers” for their corrupted, selfish practices of religion. If God works in strange ways, it’s only because people are too dumb, stubborn and lazy to see the signs. That’s why modern miracles essentially go unnoticed. Conservative zealots refuse to see the real warnings of God all around them. They’re frequently preoccupied with hiding their own dirty secrets.

Guerrilla tactics

That’s why it was necessary for John to use what we might call ‘guerrilla tactics’ to “make straight the way for the Lord.”   He was the voice of one crying from the wilderness. Mainly that’s because the city was dirty in every sense. We’re headed back in that direction. And perhaps you prefer the smog and burning rivers advocated by the likes of Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump. Perhaps you believe that the God you think you know actually wants us to ignore the call to create the kingdom of God, “on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s the Lord’s Prayer, mind you. It says that the “New Earth and New Heaven” is ours to engender. Jesus will come back in spirit once we accomplish that mission.

But it isn’t going to happen with the dirty players of religious zealotry and political greed in charge. The hypocrites and brood of vipers still wander among us. They pray in public places and make a show of their wealth and position in life. Jesus hated them, and they killed him for it.

Biblical times

So it all sounds so biblical when you think about it. The latter-day zealots are in full engagement bringing about their own version of hell. striking down laws that protect us from cancer and smog and water rife with life-destroying chemicals. Gutting programs that protect the poor and elderly. Killing public education in favor of a religious driven propaganda that defies science and favors ignorance.All because they think God told them this is the right thing to do. They are a band of heinously religious fucks.

I dare you to prove me wrong. I firmly stand with the side of God and Jesus Christ on this issue. The Bible is rife with imagery drawn from creation to convey spiritual concepts. It uses the device of metonymy, “the use of the character of one thing to represent the nature of another.” That is the real significance of creation in scripture. It isn’t about a literal Genesis or a creation in seven days. It isn’t about denying evolution because people can’t stand the idea they have a close genetic relationship with apes. We need to grow up from these pathetically childish depictions of scripture and the effects these worldviews have on our actual existence.

And here’s the ticket out. This is the Deal.

God is love. Love is real. We don’t need to deny our material existence and the health of the earth to experience the love of God and the power of forgiveness in our lives. 

Love stands apart and in synchrony with creation.

But if we ruin the planet in the name of short-term gains and ravenous appetites for stimulation, even the love of God won’t save us. We’ve seen that story before.

 

 

Posted in Christopher Cudworth, cycling, evangelical Christianity, religious liberty, same sex adults, we run and ride | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moonlighting as a cyclist

Personal moonlight.jpgThis morning’s ride started at 5:45 a.m. The sun was up far enough to provide some light. A bright moon was still perched in the southwestern sky.

We tend to think of the moon as truly “here” only when it is full. Of course that’s an illusion of our limited perspective. The moon is always “there” but sometimes it lurks in shadow 200,000+ miles away.

That realization gives new perspective on the term “moonlighting.” The traditional definition of moonlighting is to work at another occupation other than your main profession. Sometimes we do it for additional income. Other times we hope that some gig we like might turn into a full time job. The best scenario of all happens when moonlighting turns into a profession we love so much it doesn’t even feel like work.

I sort of do both with my writing and art. There is money to be made, but also satisfaction to be gained from doing things I’ve loved to do all my life. This blog does not pay me a thing, for example. But it has gotten me other work on occasion. That’s what you might call an avocation.

But I have to wonder what it must be like to have the talent of a professional bike rider and be strapped to that commercial machine for hours on end, and day-after-day. The seeming glamour of it is surely counteracted by the raw work, pain and risk of the profession. Add in the pressures of doping and team contracts and there is no way that anyone could moonlight as a pro bike rider. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

Moonlighting as a runner

I once blended my running with my work life, if you could call it that. As a team member on the Running Unlimited club I wound up working quite a few hours at the shop. As part of the team contract they paid for my races and my shoes. My “job” also included talks and seminars, inspirational meetings and some coaching. I even managed a sports complex for a while for rent money.

After a couple years the couple that ran the shop had to move east because the main breadwinner had accepted a transfer. They tried to sell me the shop, but I showed the numbers to some financial guys and they said it was overvalued.

The shop was sold instead to someone who moved the location a few towns over and made a go of it for many years. Thus my moonlighting days as a runner taught me one important lesson. There is no sure thing in this world unless you are determined to make it happen.

Focus

It all comes down to focus. I see people posting Instagram pictures of themselves on bikes or running or half-clothed or hawking some goods day after day. I admire their dedication. They are one-trick ponies with a personal brand to promote.

By contrast, my Instagram feed is all over the place. One minute I’ll post a photo of myself getting ready to ride and another minute I’ll snap a pic of a piece of discarded toast on the street that looks like a pair of tits was burned into it. I can’t help it. I find shit like that funny.

Personal brand highlighterFeeding the public

If shit like that makes my feed too random for public taste, I get it. People generally like their social feed friendly, predictable and inspirational.

Thus photos of women sharing their hot bodies on Instagram tend to be pretty popular. I can’t really compete with that. Even a decently shaped 60-year-old ass with biker tan lines is no fodder for the Kardashian world.

I suppose I could stake the claim, as I have hashtagged on occasion, of being the #humanhighlighter. I often wear bright or reflective gear. Perhaps that would win me a sponsorship from Proviz360 or some other activewear supplier. But then I couldn’t post images of tits on toast. Where’s the fun in that?

No f’n idea

Perhaps it’s my ADHD that keeps me from abiding that kind of focus. Or maybe I don’t really get how half the world works. All my life I’ve bumped into situations where I think I king of think I know what’s going on only to find out later that I had no fucking idea what was really taking place.  Life can be tough to figure out and moonlighting at shit even within your realm of expertise does not necessarily make it any easier.

One thing I do know is that I could never have truly been a professional runner or a professional cyclist. While I was massively focused for a time on becoming the best runner I could be, there was this thing called raw talent that I did not possess. I knew deep down from the early days of high school competition that I was not truly part of the running elite. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Either you’re faster than other people or you’re not. I did do the best with what I had. Won quite a few races and broke all my PRs after college. Then I mellowed out for a lifetime of fitness training. That was a good decision.

On the bike

Ever since I started cycling fifteen years ago, I’ve seen improvement in efficiency oon the bike, but have not necessarily gotten faster over the years. I’ve never ridden a one-hour 40K, for example, like my brother-in-law once did. And I never will.

Personal brandPart of that is the inevitable effects of age. I am still beating my former times on the occasional Strava segment these days. So one can moonlight at this cycling thing and see improvements despite the depressing progression of crepey skin and less than responsive muscles that are signs of age.

Cycling is both the most forgiving and demanding of sports. It beckons you to do more and punishes you at the same time. One might even call cycling an abusive relationship of sorts. Half the world seems to be engaged in one. Might as well lose weight while you’re at it.

Crits and tris

It’s a commitment that requires some personal branding. I’ll still shave my legs this summer despite the fact that I only competed in one criterium race all last year. Perhaps that will change. I’m up an age group now. So it might be fun to try to win a crit or two. There are still tough 60+ riders. No guarantees of success. Whatever the racing choices on the docket, I’ll still shave because that’s what cyclists do. It feels better to be sleek when doing triathlons than barking around like some hairy tri-dog. I can’t help it. That much has been ingrained in me.

It’s all in how you look at things. We’re all mostly moonlighting at this fitness thing. But that’s the point. Like those times when the full moon isn’t visible, it helps to know it’s still there. Even that sliver of a crescent moon says something. It’s there even when we can’t see it. We take it on faith that the pursuits we choose are worth it even when we can’t see immediate results. They contribute to our well-being in ways that we can’t always see, even in the moonlight.

 

Posted in aging, aging is not for the weak of heart, Christopher Cudworth, competition, cycling, cycling the midwest, healthy aging, healthy senior, running | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment