I have never been one for use of a lot of Cruise Control in any vehicle. It always felt like cheating. Perhaps something in my long career or running and riding makes it feel like that. You come to think you should always have to use some sort of effort to keep going so fast. Otherwise it’s cheating.
We build up our conscience on funny things at times. There are all kinds of things that feel like cheating in this world. Spellcheck. Microwave ovens. Remote controls for the TV. Deep down we rather wonder if we’re cheating.
Perhaps you’ve had the feeling after a really long bike ride. You get in the car to drive somewhere that day and your mind goes, “Wait, this is too easy.”
After riding up tough inclines and fighting through wind for 20 miles on a series of straight roads on a bike it can definitely feel like cheating to get in a car and drive somewhere.
Then you realize: The rest of the world thinks this is absolutely normal. Cheating is normal.
Truly, the world is based on various systems of cheating, but we call it convenience. Honest effort seems to fall far down on the list of things people value most. Finding a cheaper, easier way to get what you want is the Name of the Game.
Some turn cheating into an art form. Insider trading. Legal loopholes. Forgery. Nigerian bank accounts. Televangelism for money. It can be difficult to tell the difference between cheating and being savvy.
The art of cheating turns into a form of privilege, at some levels. Then it becomes the attitude of “I’ve got mine” in which doing anything possible to protect what you’ve “earned” also becomes the norm. Then you find voter suppression, prejudice and political favors at work. It’s all rather sinister how cheating can become a worldview.
That’s especially true when the cheating gets put on Cruise Control. Then the idea of honest effort seems quaint, even foolish. It can begin to make you wonder if everything in the world is a fixed deal.
That is why it is so important that so many people find it valuable to get out there in the world and move around under their own power. It really is important that we don’t all fall into cruise control mode when we’re traveling through life.
The great religions of the world warn us against the idea that easy living is always the best path. The Bible warns against the many temptations of ease to which we can succumb, and sins that fall from it. The most obvious is the pursuit of wealth without conscience. Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Notice the slant to the present, for the Kingdom of God can refer to both the present and the eternal. Finding your way there takes work, you see. It’s not automatic. You don’t get there on Cruise Control.
Goodness takes patience. Perseverance. Sacrifice. Kindness. Fortitude. Love. Kindness. Charity. Simplicity. Hope. Sorrow. None of these things are easy. Many don’t come naturally.
We have to think in order to feel. Yes, you heard that right. God doesn’t do all the work. You are required to do most of it for yourself. And choose wisely.
Of course there are times when putting it (your life or otherwise) on Cruise Control is not cheating. Last evening on the highway between Rock Island and Batavia the night was dark and the roads were clear. The wind was at our backs for the most part as Interstate 88 slanted northeast and the wind blew from the southwest. It made sense to put on Cruise Control and flow with the traffic.
My Subaru gauges gas mileage estimates as you go. The numbers flickered on the digital readout in front of me, ranging from 17.8 to 38.6. Mostly they fell into the 23-25 mpg range. That’s about what the car is estimated to get in day-to-day driving.
Unimpressive in a way, in terms of today’s vehicles and gas mileage. But a Subaru with 4-Wheel drive is the standard for getting around in all conditions, especially in snow. So there’s a tradeoff in performance you see.
We’re all wired that way, to some degree. Our attributes as runners and riders and swimmers all contribute to our success. But somewhere along the way we all must compromise. There’s the “fast twitch/slow twitch” reality that dictates our sprint or distance capabilities. There are ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs.
And then there is cross-training.
Stronger swimmers with big shoulders have to carry those shoulders all those miles running in a triathlon.
A runner with svelte legs cannot power a bike as he or she might like.
A cyclist in full fitness is a strange creature, all legs and thin arms.
Unless they’re a sprinter. Then those powerful muscles must sit and wait until the closing 5K of a long stage ride or a criterium and then sprint for all they’re worth. In between, there is Cruise Control.
Keep the pace sane. Save energy in the draft or the wake of another. Cruise and keep calm. Study the dials in your mind that tell you how fast to go.
So it isn’t always cheating to go on Cruise Control.
You can learn a lot about the nature of honest effort by actually going out there and putting your body and mind through the paces. It’s a great way to grasp the real fiber of life. And hell, you might even get into heaven if you get thin enough to fit through the eye of a needle.
If you run or ride or swim, next time you click on the Cruise Control on your vehicle, and take your foot off the gas pedal, you can sit back and truly appreciate the conveniences of life.
That’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. Just remember to appreciate it. For tomorrow is another day.