Every couple months I get to talk to my good friend AD, we go way back to a rainy day on a basketball court, sometimes I make the call and other times he does, the instigator never really has any bearings on the tone, level or strength of our connection. We are brother be it at home or abroad, we pick up right where we left up the last time we spoke. I dare say that is the sign of good friendship one formed through years bonding and numerous days lounging in campus dormitories gnawing on 2 day old pizza. I have had other friends, more sophisticated, more ambitious, ones who make me feel like if I keeping nurturing the relationship I will be on the front page of the NY Times before I know it. The latter group however is short on long-suffering (pun intended), a couple weeks of being incommunicado and you are dropped from the speed dial setting.
What does this all have to do with cyclocross or God you say? Well hear, hear: The trustee cyclocross bike is in my opinion the most loyal of the never ending genres under which bikes are classified these days, they go as fast as your legs will propel them, keep up with any roadbike, all the while looking as good as the parts you hang on them. Cross bikes are willing to be the winter bike and venture into any terrain your heart desires. The cyclocross mirrors how we feel inside; the dirtbag who would rather have panniers, fat tires, a flask and a destination with no plans on how to get there or the wannabe racer with 60mm deep wheels, you can dress a cross bike to be the embodiment of your current or desired mental state.
I just reactivated my Giant TCX. I put on some 28cc tires, new bottle cages and bar tape. The first ride was akin to a conversation with your high school sweetheart at the class reunion, awkward and forced, trying to find a conversational angle that skirts the elephant in the room. The sensation of speed was subpar, I searched for that feeling of riding a wild horse, the lurking aggression apparent in a race bike, the twitchiness of a steep head angle apt to respond to input from your pinky. I put in more effort try to coax that same feeling out of the aluminum frame to no avail, stood up and mashed the pedal, hoping to rouse the slumbering Cheeta within… No dice. Then something happened… I gave up.
I relaxed into a slow cadence, sat up and looked around, I soaked in every bump usually absorbed by the compliance of carbon strands, felt the tingling in my hands from my fingers up to my neck, the 28cc tires took the edge off but the frame stayed live. On the decents, the relaxed geometry seemed to curve around the contours of the road and I thought … Hey this reminds me of God! We constantly chase speed, upgrading to the latest and greatest all the while relegating our first love to hang in the basement, with only the occasional call up when the fast bike is in the shop or the weather is bad. The cross bike never complains, always reliable, always willing. Romans 8:35 says what shall separate us from the love of God, not trouble or hardship or persecution or famine…
As always it is hard for me to juxtapose the premise of a need for speed and one to look up and smell the roses on the bike just as in life. God can help me see through the fog and one of the ways he does it is through a 5 year old aluminum cyclocross bike.
Thanks for stopping by…
In the Eyes of the Beholder.
Lately, I have been pondering the limits of morality as it applies to different people in different circumstances. What sets the boundaries beyond which we call a morality timeout? Who draws the lines where it is too far to cross? Are we governed by some universal meter, religious, social, or political ideologies and are these standards universally applicable? Are our personal morals universal or do we reserve the right to adjust them depending on out physical location and social circumstance? Really, think about that… Do We?
I just came back from Nigeria where the economy is doing great with $510 billion in GDP, ranked 26th in the world (the fastest growing economy in Africa) but also a country where the great troughs of poverty can still be see. It is still a place where uncertainty in the areas of food, shelter and security is commonplace alas tell me a place where those concerns do not exist. Someone supposedly credible explained to me: Nigeria has two economic streams, the legal/transparent stream, and the Shady stream. He claims the legal stream puts Nigeria not so much better than any other African country in terms of economic viability and growth but the illegal really boosts the economy and provides people with the resources required to drive economic growth (the reliability of this statement is a topic for another day). Now when I say Illegal, I do not mean stealing and tax frauds and extremes like that though those things do exist and are commonplace. In this case I mean markups on prices which both parties know is going on, gratuities given and received that reach up and above the 20percent expected in western cultures (actually American culture), bribes, kickbacks, unprofessional gifts etc. These things done because it’s the way it has always been done, because it is the grease that lubricates business and gives you a better chance of getting the next contract. It is a means of spreading the wealth in a country where the socioeconomic stratification is so wide and distribution of wealth and resources so uneven and restricted to the one percenters’.
Now if one looks at the world through a “Black and White” lens where there are no grey-zones, if we judge the world through the standards set by the bible without discernment, if we are rigid in journeying through the rigors and messiness called life, we might relegate such practices as illegal with no possible excuses to justify them. However we fail to take into consideration that only God judges the Heart and rewards according to what our actions deserve (Jer 17:10). Now I know some might see this as me justifying such behaviors but like many other quandaries, I find myself the amphibian; born of the land and of the sea, able to live both lives and torn by the dichotomy that exists thereof. Pondering this situation whilst trying to reconcile the prevalence of “off the book side businesses” almost everybody I know in Nigeria does,(a banker gets a N15,000 appreciation for fast-tracking someone’s application, an Oil company man gets $50,000 for choosing this contractor over another) there is the unspoken rule that one good turn deserves another. I asked a friend where he draws the moral line, I said I want to be financially comfortable, I want to contribute to society, to my country, I want to give and I want to receive but I don’t want to steal, so help me see how what people are doing is not stealing.
A quote from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath summarizes his response: How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him – he has known a fear beyond every other.
People do what they must to survive. A system in which surviving requires, some rules be bent, truths warped, actions taken with the normalizing clause “as long as you are not hurting anybody.” Well at the end of the day, we are hurting someone by marking up the price, by selling a good for twice its actual cost, someone is paying for the greed that has been trickled down the system, the price being paid is not always in money but in opportunity, in dreams, and the most costly of all in hope and faith. Usually people are okay if the only people they are hurting is the government because the general feeling is they do not care for us, they plunder and loot us, but in the end hurting the government gets richer and the people poorer.
I will not pretend I know the answer to this conundrum because its a system where you need to stay alive in order to change, and to stay alive you might need to reevaluate your moral boundaries and any adjustment of your moral boundaries puts you in same group as the rest (no small or big thief… a thief is a thief). Here we need strength and wisdom … Strength, Wisdom and Gratitude that God does not just judge the works of out hands but sees the inner things of our hearts.