Heart, meet sleeve.
A week and a half ago or so, I read this piece about a man who checked out from society;
An hour hasn’t passed since, when some component of the story didn’t cross my mind.
When I was young I remember having a conversation with my dad wherein we were probably discussing my general social awkwardness and inability to function in school, and he said “do you think you’re going to grow up and be a hermit? That’s just not realistic.” I barely heard any words after that because at that moment I almost changed cellularly. The idea of isolating myself from the world around me was all I could think of since.
At least 45% of me it did.
Of course there’s the other 45% which is hungry for human contact, and the sights, sounds, and smells of what living among the great, unwashed masses provides. The remaining 10% is ever changing, and is most likely the margin that has kept me from flipping my lid and going AWOL.
More than anything, the reason I bring this up today is for therapeutic purposes, so bear with me and we’ll see if we might eventually find a point to it. So, recently I’ve been discussing the general state of the world with a smattering of people in an attempt at narrowing my aperture a bit. On any given day, the palate from which I’m working has every shade of environmental disaster, political upheaval, social collapse, overpopulation, disease, war, and so on. There is so much sadness, and grief, and frustration, and the machine (as I put it, and for lack of a better word) is constantly churning out new battles against the well-being of people, and because I spend the better part of my daily existence sifting through so much of this information, I reached a very literal saturation point on Friday, and came completely unhinged.
I can’t remember if I’d told this story here before, but last spring, with my bike on her roof rack, Demonika drove me into San Francisco with her. She was going to work, and I was going to an appointment I had downtown. It was a typical, kinda grey Bay Area morning, and we were on the freeway with like, a trillion other people. Once the clog momentarily broke, we were maintaining a blistering twenty or thirty miles and hour when I noticed against the jersey barrier between six lanes, ran a very scared little brown dog. I asked Demonika to pull over and I jumped out and gave chase. We were headed against traffic with him always maintaining about a twenty foot advantage on me. I walked along the busy freeway for a mile or so and finally reached the pup. Unfortunately, I was wearing bike shoes, and just as I was within three feet of snatching him up, I stepped on a tiny piece of broken glass which popped under my cleat, startling him, and making him begin to run again. Hundreds of cars passed by, the occupant’s faces pressed against the glass. A few people told me that there was a dog loose, just on the chance that perhaps that wasn’t the reason I was walking on the freeway at 7:30 in the morning.
Finally two Highway Patrol officers pulled up, positioning themselves between me and the dog, their guns drawn. I explained my reasoning for being out there, and they said they didn’t care, and forced me to abandon my pursuit. I asked if they would please go rescue him. They said they would, but once they accompanied me back to my car and sped off, it was clear that wasn’t their plan.
To an indescribable level, and to the core of my very being, I needed to rescue that dog. I still hang onto failing him and on a daily basis it breaks my heart. Once back inside the car, nothing mattered. Had I had my computer with me, I would have deleted all of my email addresses, pulled the plug on this site, and hit the road. I don’t know why I responded in such a manner, but I did and so it was.
While this here website might generally be revered by some, but ignored by most, to me it’s a vehicle with which I can reach a greater audience than I can, say, standing on my front porch. And with this vehicle, I choose to convey bits of information, or perspective that I hope will enlighten, or inspire, or entertain, and because I’m a believer in the butterfly effect, my singular hope is that if what I do personally doesn’t affect an immediate and positive change, then that ripple I created will affect someone who might affect someone who might affect someone, who perhaps will.
It’s all I have to cling to, because effecting change on a broad scale will never be something that I can do. I’m no Dr. King, or Nelson Mandela, but I can strive to be the best possible person I can be, and whether it’s through this site, or in a personal exchange with a random individual on the street, though most days it might be akin to emptying the ocean with a thimble, I have to hold onto the hope that in some form or fashion, it will make a difference.
I’m with you man.
Peace be with you. “I met a mad man in the market today. He wore a grin of the deepest warmth, while all around him the world turned on misery. I gave pause, and wondered, when we all meet in the dancehall of the gods, who will be made the wiseman.” Anon zen poet
And THIS is why we like you Stevil!
You’re a solid individual. While I can relate on many levels with this, I can selfishly say that I’m glad you and I (separately, though living alone with you in the woods is something I haven’t given much thought of until now…) haven’t retreated to the wooded countryside. I appreciate your words and actions, and am always relieved to know that the good fight is still being fought. As a result of the hope that folks like you and I have, good things happen. Keep at it. If we all give up, we all have nothing.
Thanks for writing this. We all have our little piece to do. The important thing is to do it, whatever way you can, at that moment.
Your dog story is familiar. I was on a Cape Cod road, nobody pointed a gun at me, and it was a turtle. His little head was outstretched in the morning sun as he got ready to cross the road. After a moment of hesitation, I pulled over to help him. I barely had two feet on the ground outside my car when an Escalade came tight around the corner and smashed him in his shell. I’ll never forget the sound, I’ll never forget standing in that road with my arms above my head, and I’ll never stop wondering if I could have saved him if I hadn’t hesitated to stop.
And I got back in the car and cried. And I called my wife, who was in grad school a thousand miles away at the time and left her this long, weepy message, and I so wanted to just never go back, to my office, to go pick up my lunch, anywhere. I felt overwhelmed by the Big Ugly we have visited on the world by our presence, and the innocence I remembered having, even in the moments before that turtle got smashed.
I called my wife that day because I knew she would get it. I read your blog because i like bikes, sure, but mostly because you get it, too, and i need to know there are people like you out there.
But if you decide to go hermit in VT, I’ll give you my address and leave homebrew on the porch for you to steal.
coming unhinged is okay, honest
staying unhinged is not okay, okay ?
Thanks for being honest and doing the things people just press their faces against the car window in bewilderment.
Every other morning I come to work, flip on the compooter, log in, and check AHTBM. My work server filters the “sports category” and asks if I’d like to use my “quota time of 60 minutes per day” in ten minute increments. All this to say; you sir, are worth my ten minutes of quota time 😉
Real people are doing real things all over the world. Kids are innovating apps and inventions to make the world better and volunteers are searching the remotest parts of the forest to prove the existence on one species of snake. (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/the-mystery-of-huttons-pit-viper-in-meghamalai/article6354942.ece).
“If there’s one thing that I can’t explain
Is why the world has to have so much pain
With all the ways of communicating
We can’t get in touch with who we’re hating”
Thanks for this Stevil. Not much can cut its way through the tarry black mass encasing what used to be my heart, but this did, and I needed it.
Bless you! You are the child of your parent’s hearts. Never ever think it doesn’t matter; everything each of us does makes a difference EVERY day. Keep believing.
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. there were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.” I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
― Loren Eiseley
Thank you Steve.
Thanks for the thoughts. Ive been having an off day today, so really its kind of ironic that i should see this post. Misery loves company but when all us miserable fools pick eachother up in the atomic wedgie of life, giggles can be found. Keep flapping your wings there, Madame Butterfly, and Ill keep flapping mine here. Deal?
thanks Stevil. this is generally the sanest thing I read on any given day, why wouldn’t we want to drink beer and ride bikes to drown out the noise of all the suffering?
In my first adult trip to LA a few years back, I determined that mental illness and population density are directly correlated. What this means is that we need that connection to wilderness, to emptiness, to solitude. Some of us need it every weekend, others a few times a year. And then there’s those who just go all out and they are the sanest of us all.
Too many great, thoughtful comments here for me to add anything more except to point out one of the most telling lines from the hermit article: “You had to have contact with other humans, he claimed, in order to get sick.”
True, perhaps, but your column, Stevil, is a little bit of the cure.
Thanks for this. And for being a good dude.
Beautiful and horrible are all around us. Sometimes the line separating the two is as thin as a razor. What you do here adds some smiles to the pile for me and I would bet many others feel the same.
Love you buddy.
My story to relate unfortunately began with death. My mom, my cousin and I were driving from Mpls to Duluth when I spotted a dead Porcupine on the road. I slammed on the brakes and pulled over to walk back up the freeway and retrieve it. We would harvest the quills and give them to our friends of the Red Cliff band of Chippewa. We would often trade them things like this in exchange for permission to collect sacred stones from one of their beaches. Just about the time I had the Porc wrapped up in newspaper and we started heading back towards the car, a trooper pulled up looking particularly pissed off. He yelled out the window to get back down to our car and that he wanted to talk to us. He then proceeded to scream at my mom about “endangering children” (I was 20 and my cousin was 24 at the time) by being out of our car on the highway and what the hell were we doing anyway. My mom looked at him with a completely straight face, unfazed by his anger, and said “Picking up a dead Porcupine off the road.” He was so taken aback by her response that all he could do was tell us to get back in the car and leave.
Later that summer my friend Patrick got a ticket on 394 after we blocked two lanes of traffic during rush hour in order to allow a female Mallard and her cute little herd of chicks make it to safety after they crossed the highway. Patrick said it was the best ticket he had ever received.
I don’t bike as much as I used to, and I’m not really into bike culture, but I read your blog because of stuff like this. Thanks.
And with that sentiment in mind, I wanted to link to a counter-opinion on the hermit story that changed my view (admittedly, I hadn’t done more than seen the headlines prior). http://the-toast.net/2014/09/03/went-woods-steal-candy-children-maine-hermit-terrible-hero/
I don’t see how any of this has a goddam thing to do with tennis balls but clearly, you sir, are not a dick. So thank you Stevil, the world could use at least two more just like you.
Again, see. The tennis ball shall always rise to the top. You are welcome, one and all.
(wordpress says this comment is too short and sent me back to try again):
Thank you. You are not alone.
Remember: we’re all in this shit together.
I was once riding home around a lake subdivision. A mama goose with geese babies (goslings or some such shit) was crossing the road. A jagoff in an oncoming car went out of his way to hit them all. I stopped and cried and moved them from the road. The thing that stuck out was the car coming around the bend and the occupants looking at a weeping spandex clad manboy carrying geese from the road. I cant imagine what they thought happened.
I came for the bikes and bad words. I stayed for posts like this. Your heart is on your sleeve but it is that honesty and the humanity and decency it reveals that gives me hope in these dark times. Thanks.
It’s sorta silly, how much I appreciate you and what you do here, even though we’ve never met. Thanks man.
Stevil, that’s why you rule man!! After figuring out you are you, the day you introduced yourself by your real name at the SF cross bicycle race. I dig the truth you lay down here!
I was tempted to say this:
but this post did strike a chord, (strike a chord? fuck, within seconds I had ‘Stairway to Heaven’ over laid with ‘Everything Zen’ bouncing around my cranium)..
As we say down here at the end of the Earth, “Good on You, Mate!”
While we are still rapidly accelerating towards our own demise as a species/planet, it is becoming more widely accepted that we need to change, and there are more people out there working on it, or at least spreading the message.
It all starts with people doing their best with what they can, and you’re one of them. If we don’t turn this planet into an uninhabitable hellhole in the space of the next few human lifetimes, it will be because of people like you. If you “punched out” from fighting the good fight in whatever sense, it would be a tragedy.
I came for the bicycles and the beer/punk/metal fueled creativity, and I keep coming back for the thoughtful musings about our world you seamlessly intertwine with those. Thank you from the other side of the planet.
Thank you so much for such a heartfelt post. I too have always felt torn between choosing solitude where I feel comfort and confidence, and the scarier world of society. I recall having similar conversations with my parents.
Your post this week really hit home as I just had my first kid, firmly swinging my 10% away from an isolated life.
While the world out there is scary and awful, I can at least make the small part of society around me a better place.
Just a skateboarding distraction for you:
Keep on with your keeping on. I can’t say anything more than what has been said already. I too came for the bikes/beer/art/metal/craziness, but stay for everything you put out there. If occassional posts such as this (even if they become more frequent) help you to vent / keep your sanity, I, like most of your readership, welcome them. Judging from many of the previous comments, these types of posts help to keep things in perspective for us too – in this mostly crazy / insane world in which we live…. So yeah, keep on keeping on, we will be here….and, on yeah, tennis balls.
thanks for writing this, and echoing the above; you are not alone man. i believe i speak for a lot of your “greater audience” when i say that we are here because you are the way you are (not just for silly banter and bike GIFs). so thanks – and keep kickin’ ass and trying hard because it may feel like it sometimes but its not wasted effort – it DOES make a difference. much respect Stevil – B.
Looks like there are like minded good people out there to join you, stevil.
This story reminds me of something my good friend told me in years past as I was going through some stuff: “You’re a good book, and I’m rooting for the main character.”
Sure as hell put a lot of things in perspective for me, and has allowed me to live my life as true as I can.
“Unhinged” was the exact word I used to describe my state of being in recent weeks. It’s fucking intense, this world. You’re much loved and stuff.
Keep talking Sir.
Notes that resonate well. Thanks for that.
Thanks for that and thank you for reaffirming it’s ok to be a good person and to give a shit about bigger and littler things than yourself.
You’re beautiful, brother.
This really hits home for me. We share this planet with some really terrible people, and they seem to get better all the time at spreading filth. As humans, I think we have a bias towards thinking of bad news as somehow more relevant than good, and that bias influences what gets air time, and how we feel about it. Years ago I heard an interview on NPR. They were taking to a lady that had had over 100 foster kids come through her home over the years. The interviewer asked what motivated her to do this for kids she knew might be with her for only a few weeks. She dropped a little wisdom I’ve treasured since. She said “I’ve decided that I will do what I can do in the moment I am given to do it”.
Thanks for your insights, and keep doing what you’re doing.
You’re preachin’ to the choir Rev.
Couple of things that keep me on this lousy train ride to oblivion when all I want to do is bail on all the weirdness and mania and head for the hills…………
1. The world has always been this way. Expecting any different is the issue. We can and should try of course but it’s not a failure to fail if you know what I mean.
2. Sometimes when riding my bike through traffic to work in the city I look at the sky or feel the breeze or see the dawn and realize it’s pretty cool just to be alive to experience it all.
You speak for me and with such eloquence, my dear, dear boy. The world could sure use more like you.