A Grander Vision: the Midnight Marathon and Redefining Security

I wanted to tell a much different story than this, but this is the story that I am going to tell.

Monday was one of the best days, then one of the worst.

And it started on Sunday.

One of the best days…

On Sunday we rode bikes. And that’s what made it one of the best days.

We rode from Somerville, then out along the Boston Marathon route to the starting line in Hopkington. We rode up all the hills; up and up and up for a few hours to meet with more than a hundred other cyclists already there.

We were joined not long after by those getting off the special bike-only commuter rail train which stopped in Southborough to disgorge around 700 cyclists.

And then we rode the Boston Marathon at midnight, as many of us had done before.  For five or so years now what began as Greg Hum’s idea has become a movement of sorts. This year being the biggest yet.

And so Sunday passed into Monday and it was one of the best days.

When you bike along quiet roads in beautiful nature with little disturbance from cars, surrounded by friends and like-minded individuals – especially on the way back when everything is downhill – and the miles and the stress melt away – that’s when it’s one of the best days.

When we crossed the finish line in the early hours of Monday to so many smiling faces and friendly law enforcement officials along the way – we were so pleased that the bicycle end of things was safer then last year’s Framingham train track debacle.

But as we departed from there in the early hours of the morning, little did we know that about 12 hours later it would become one of the worst days.

One of the worst days…

Later on Monday afternoon – around 3pm or so – there were a couple of explosions by the finish line. Packed with people at one of the most publicized sporting events in the US this was no small situation.

People died, people were injured. The media did as media does. I will leave you to read what you will of the official documentation.

Someone decided to do something horrendous to my beautiful city and I’m not happy about it.

A Grander Vision

Last week I had the opportunity to interview the amazing Sayre Sheldon, long time peace, political, and social activist, professor and so much more. One of the places she has made a mark (or perhaps created the benchmark?) is in women’s participation in war and peace activities. In that chance I had to speak with her I was exposed to a mind and a personality that has seen the world change more than once; I heard the view of a far reaching vision.

Moments Like These: a powerless present

When we hit moments like these we want retribution, perhaps harsh justice, we want to get mad. Nothing is quite so disempowering as watching the news, reading the feeds and receiving so much information and yet being powerless to take any seeming real action.

We want to get mad or be able to just do something.

And some people did – more than 1000 people volunteered their homes as places to stay for those who may have been displaced in the chaotic happenings after these harrowing events.

But when we get to the point when we look at what happened on Monday not through the lens of the immediate but of a lesson to be learned, as history – then how will we see it?

And then I learned about Women, Peace, and Security.

I want peace and security in my country, in my lifetime. In my city, in my neighborhood. Sayre says this has something to do with redefining security itself. It has to do with a grander vision for our society, our world.

There was a UN resolution passed back in 2000 – referred to with the rather impersonal sounding call code of S/RES/1325 (short for Security Council Resolution). And it had something to do with women, peace, and security as far as I knew. Then in December 2011 President Obama signed an executive order (Executive Order 13595) that the administration would adopt an official action plan to get in line with this UN Resolution.

And all of that happened before I’d really been paying any attention to any of it.

But it’s amazing the power of one person – if we know even just one person who cares about something then it might matter to us too. And now I know more than one person who – these people, rather (and maybe even me too someday) – are making this women, peace, and security thing a reality in this, my own country.

Redefining Security

When those explosions went off the first responders were on the scene – doing their job – and in so many ways doing what no one else can do. And that is part of the definition of security. That’s the part we see the need for, and know without having to be told that these kinds of harrowing happenings would be a much darker place without them.

And we owe such gratitude.

But security must needs look beyond the immediate need of the moment. Beyond first hours where the fight of life and death balances on the edge of a knife. Security is defined by so many other moments tied to these dire events.

A day from now, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, a decade from now – I do not want to hear how this, that, or the other damage to a person was not addressed, not healed. Security is defined by this too. It’s not just defensive munitions, options, personnel, tech, and placement. It’s not just training. It’s not just offensive tactics and position. Security is the health and well being of those injured on Monday years from now. It’s the ethos of the city that bore this wound. It is in the immense capacity for compassion that our first responders demonstrated. Will those displaced have food, will those injured – not just physically, but also the wounds of the human heart – have the care they need?

Security in the traditional sense is something we need yes, but a grander vision for security is something we need too. This Women, Peace, and Security resolution (and connected National Action Plan, and WPS Act that is in the works) challenges us to do just that – to rebuild our concept of security.

I’m no lawyer and no legislator but this is why I give a damn about this – not just as a lady person but also – can you believe it – as a cyclist too.

Sunday was one of the best days because the security to be in that place – doing this simple thing with so many others – was in place. We could just be. And that’s how Monday was supposed to be.

I’m not a fan of retribution or vengeance. I’m not a fan of violent forms of ‘justice’. The only way I know how to change the course of causes that leads to things like this is individual transformation of one person at a time.

My bicycle has taught me humanism, as only a device with such people who love them can. My bicycle has given me a different view of security as something ephemeral. I can put on all the armor in the world but my security depends upon my relationships with others upon the road. Ephemeral security does not mean insubstantial or non-existant – I mean it here to be a trust we put in others – because our civilization does not work without each person – ordinary people are the most important beings in the world.

When we look at ourselves and our place in this world and see security not as locks, chains, alarms, armor, and weapons but rather as the social and community ties that tide us over and heal us long after these others are gone or are obsolete – then we begin to see that grander vision. We begin to redefine security.

But it starts with each one of us.

reblogged from my main blog at tourdewhatyouwill.blogspot.com

Warp Cores and My Bicycle the Time Machine: What it Means to be Human

I attended a most interesting talk on quantum computing (and a mess of other things) by a noted professor of MIT in December (in a pub). (Hat-tip to the Bandit Man for this suggestion.)

Besides sending photons back in time and qubits and such, there was of course talk of parallel dimensions and alien life, the sort of thing often reserved for science fiction. This combined with a recent conversation sent my mind to wandering, here’s a paraphrase and a bit of a tangent….

Rodenberry’s Vision and My Childhood in Spaceships

I’ve always loved science fiction. Some lovers of literature and other genres don’t quite understand why. It is often seen as some sort escapism. But for those of us who love science fiction, many of us love it because of its power to show us what it means to be human. We seem to have to take a step outside of ourselves to truly understand what it is to be exactly human. To answer, “what really is alien?”; we must look at ourselves and ask “what is it that is truly human?”.

And there’s more to it than just fiction or our best stories. Beings that are at once perhaps either supernatural, alien, fantastical, or godly in our stories are removed from the human experience by this otherness. They are not human, yet interact with a human world on a human scope (or near), close enough that we can still relate to the story. It could be argued that stories have to be relate-able on some scale in order to move us. (And probably has been long before this musing…)

Growing up I always loved watching Star Trek: Next Generation, and while there were crystalline entities, the godlike Q, energy forms, the Borg, and androids, so many of the races met on the Enterprise were humanoid. And while we might argue that from a special effects budget perspective it makes more sense to slap makeup on some actors, I think Gene Rodenberry’s vision was deeper than that. That somehow we must often have the mirage of humanity in order to relate to the stories at all.

I don’t think that the probability of (or incredible improbability of) parallel (or convergent) evolution producing unrelated-yet-humanoid life forms all around the cosmos was Rodenberry’s point; or the appearance of so many Earth-like (M class) planets either. Those may have helped with not needing space suits in every script. So much of what we have observed in the heavens from our own local star system to exo-planets does not point to the prevalence of human-life-friendly-type-worlds that abound in the realms of science fiction. These observations do not seem to support his hopeful view. But once again I think this link to humanity, in an ecological-story-setting sense, makes for better story telling.

And so we move from a story telling style of a great alliance of planets, The Federation, governed by a Prime Directive, to an even more intimate story telling methodology: the individual.

Doctor, Archetype, Hero?

Coming out of a recent conversation about Doctor Who, came a discussion as the Doctor’s function as a hero of the individual. (I’ve seen just about every episode, even on back to the black and white ones from the ’60s all the way to the present revamped version.) He represents the freedom of the individual in a cosmos of standardized, emotionless, conformist, conquest-driven military societies and races. Not all Who nemeses are like this, but the favorite and timeless enemies of the Doctor; e.g. Cyberman, Daleks; demonstrate this behavior. Even the Time Lords themselves, his own people, were strict and hands-off when it came to matters of time travel and space happenings. The Doctor himself is antithetical to their philosophy. He stole a TARDIS and travels anywhere and any-when in space and time without regards to the Time Lord structure and rules. (If he was subject to the parameters of Star Trek‘s Prime Directive, he would have been a very, very bad boy.)

And in his seeming humanity, in both appearance and mannerisms, he reminds those he encounters of the human race what it is to be human. He encourages them to move beyond freaking out or giving up when the going gets tough to remembering how they got there in the first place: through uniquely human brilliance, creativity, determination and teamwork. He remembers humanity when we forget ourselves and so reminds us. All the while constantly having to remind humans that he is not himself human.

Aliens are so frequently saying how weak, how destructive humans are across the films, tv shows, and books I have encountered.

Is that how we see ourselves? Or is that how we’re challenging ourselves not to see ourselves?

Us, Ordinary People

I want to consider for a moment a role the Doctor plays in the lives of so many people who encounter him. He serves to wake people up to the wonder that is the universe in which we live, to the profundity of the nature of the life of the ordinary person. More so in the story lines of recent years, he constantly voices that there is no individual more important and significant in time and space than the ordinary person.

The great storytelling that has sustained my love of this genre, long past when it was only the forceful insistence of my elder brother than began it, shows with such lucidity; and often in a very uncomfortable way, just what our behavior as human beings looks like outside the norms of our today. Outside our usual days, objects, transit options, and interactions it is easier to see exactly what sort of cruel and generous, destructive and altruistic creatures we are. And this is all from fellow story tellers of our own species.

Look Beneath the Surface

Science fiction looks from the lens of the outside and can teach us much. But true and lasting change comes from within, so we must see ourselves as we are, here and now. We must awaken, and there isn’t going to necessarily be a goofy alien time traveling rebel to help us wake up. It’s the choices we make now – it is a choice to open our eyes and see.

The choice to wake up or not – the whole point of Buddhism in my understanding is to impact our daily lives on an immensely positive scale so that we can then engender a positive change in society at large – ultimately so that humanism is the common sense of the era. Buddhism issues this challenge to look beneath the surface, to face the current situation for exactly what it is, to transform our present truth into that seemingly ephemeral better tomorrow.

And the best prescription to see what’s really here means going out there and getting a bit messy. That’s what the Doctor excels at. And a bicycle can be that lens from inside the present – you don’t get to hide behind technology here:  face to the wind, it’s you and the road and the people and the city and the world. In your face. In real time. Eye to eye. The real human experience.

A bicycle can tell us a lot about humanity when we look at how we treat our most human forms of transit. All this in the nitty gritty present, not a far-off world, an alternate dimension, or life form we’ve never seen. This is every day people, those folks we pass and know and don’t know and love and hate and ignore and greet…  our species.

And maybe this bicycle is the vehicle of change too.

My bicycle may have modern components, but it is a time machine. And yes bicycles aren’t spaceships. But I think the people who dare to ride them are heroes. Every day, ordinary heroes. It’s a simple thing, this bicycle. It doesn’t have a warp core, it can’t make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, as Han Solo says. But it challenges the way we move, the way we think in this ordinary world that is so amazing.

On a bike you have to look people in the face. You can’t hide the humanity of this thing, because it has no real life without a person to make it move.

A bike helped wake up my life, and it’s helping my city wake up – maybe even the world.

But what can a bike teach us about being human? Sure I pedal and it goes…but there’s more…

My bicycle allows me to confront myself by revealing my behavior as a human being. I don’t need a space ship or a time machine to show me what the reality is of being human today.** My human powered transit can teach me that. Humanism on wheels = bicycle. If we ignore our human transit we’re ignoring an essential part of us. And just as people who don’t introspect and face themselves head on don’t grow – how can we? Our treatment of our cyclists can tell us a lot about where we are as human beings right now.

Will we listen? Will we take action?

 

____ ** But I don’t mind the idea of a TARDIS:)

reblogged from tourdewhatyouwill.blogspot.com

The Hills are Alive with the Tick of Derailleurs

98% of the time I ride a fixed gear.  Be it Charlie or Mercutio – this is most of my bicycle life.

Hub on Wheels with yellow Bianchi

However, I also have a bike with gears, gasp!  She is a Bianchi Veloce with a Campagnolo groupset – 9 speed.  She only comes out for nice weather, she is a fast, saucy minx. She goes by either Bumblebee or Princess Buttercup depending on the day of the week – did I mention she’s yellow?

Hub on Wheels

This year I was actually able to do the 8th annual Hub on Wheels ride – about six thousand cyclists choosing either a 10, 30, or 50 mile route.  I chose to undertake the 50 mile route.  The Bandit Man was also doing this, so it worked out all the better.  The Bandit Man has done this ride many, many times and has copious wisdom of its nuances.  I was grinding my teeth and planning on taking the fixed gear, he pointed out that there would be hills.  I thought, I can take the hills! Fixed gear or nothing!

Then I remembered, that now instead of anything close to a training- or exercise-length commute to work, I have a paltry 3 some-odd miles.  And no hills.  Except for Prospect Hill once and awhile, and that does not count.  (And I haven’t even been riding far enough, often enough as it is, even though all I do all day, every day has something to do with bicycles.)

I do ride every day, but it’s mostly flat.  Recent rides of Nashua River Trail and Minuteman, also flat.  Hills and I are odd companions at best, awkward strangers to be more accurate. There’s a line in the song “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast that goes “flabby, fat, and lazy/ you walk in and upsy daisy!”.  And while “flabby, fat, and lazy” may be an overstatement, my hop-skip-and-a-jump commute has made me the cycling equivalent of this, or at least in my own estimation.

So I took the geared bike. (After swapping out for a Brooks saddle, pedal clips, adding a bell, an extra bottle cage and some other tweeks the night before.)  And for the first 15 or more miles realized I had forgotten how to shift.  Yes, I can press the levers and all, physical ‘can’; but-the-what-gear-to-use-and-why and ow!-why-did-it-do-that?-is-my-derailleur-broken? thought process prevailed.

With some reminders, by the time the 50 miles were complete (actually I think closer to mile 30), I didn’t have to think about it quite so much.  By mile 40 it was more second nature.  And, by the end I was glad I had taken the geared bike.  I want to get to the point where I can do something like this on a fixie, like some completely impressive-awesome-stubborn-strong-inspired people can, but perhaps I’m not there yet.

The moral of this story: riding 50 miles straight, which I had never done before*, is a pretty wonderful way to celebrate a birthday (mine is today).  Especially when you get to spend the day with wonderful people, make new friends, and are not defeated by ridiculous hills or industrial-sized staples popping your tire in the first couple of miles.

I wrote more about the plot for the work blog, and will give the most necessary gratitudes in another post near to come.

At the end:

Pronto and Bumblebee

Pronto and Princess Buttercup return in triumph to Government Center, only to find the Beer Garden closed.  A rear flat to the tune of a massive staple on Storrow Drive on the Princess set us near to the back for the rest of the ride…. more on that tale will be saved for another time.

Many thanks to all those who rode, sent encouragement, came to aid, smiled, waved, rode together, shared their wisdom, supported the ride as marshals, sweepers, mechanics, first aid…I can’t think of all of the roles, but thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

*(I had done more than 50 in a day, or 35 some odd in one night)

The Lost Boy

This is Charlie enjoying his morning soy cortado from the ERC whilst on his way to work….

Charlie coffee

Charlie's morning cortado

But besides being fabulous and blue and my longtime companion (7,500mi and counting), Charlie has been a little shy and mysterious.

I wrote this: http://tourdewhatyouwill.blogs

pot.com/2010/10/charlies-post.html awhile back, to record what I do know.  But besides that, didn’t know much…

But we’ve learned a little more!

My glorious cycling roommate came home with this book:

Cyclopedia

Cyclopedia

Authors and Credits

Authors and credits and such

And inside this book there are many entries on many kinds of bicycles (to state the obvious)…

On page 136 one finds the Austro-Daimler Vent Noir:

 

Vent Noir

Vent Noir, p 136

which Charlie obviously is not. However, most interestingly, on the facing page one finds this bit of information:

p 137

page 137 excerpt

The interesting and new part, for me anyway, reads:

Although sold in Austria under the name Puch, the bicycles were renamed for export markets as Steyr-Daimler-Puch or Austro-Daimler….”

And when you look at Charlie, I mean really look you see a Steyr headbadge

head badge

head badge

Tube art that’s a little different:

Tube Art

Tube Art

Down-tube reads Puch Bergmeister…. no mention of Austro-Daimler

Down tube

His sticker says “Made in Austria”, he is lugged steel. Lack of Austro-Daimler branding suggests Charlie is an expat, that somehow he came here from Europe but not through manufacturing and export lines, that somebody brought him here. Who are you, lost boy?

Tales from the Road: Parts

Charlie went fixie in October, we went through a cog in 5 months….

….that meant replacing half the drive train after 1,700 miles.

hub

the new and never used freewheel

New Dura-Ace cog

SRAM chain

 

Charlie showing off his shiny Origin-8 rear hub, back when things were still shiny and new at the beginning of March, right after the tune-up….

orion

shiny new

Still have yet to use the freewheel on this flip-flop hub. Still rocking the same old chain-ring, over seven thousand miles with that thing, but the rapid development of chain stretch each and every time we replace the chain says, it’s almost time…. Maybe when this cog wears out in a couple months (or less b.c I’m riding more), we’ll replace the entire drive train.

Just like our bicycles we have to adjust to changes, reinvent ourselves from time to time.  Doesn’t mean we have to reinvent the wheel; but to invite new adventures, new growth, new chances for happiness, we might need to change up what used to drive us.

Dreaming of Campy parts….

We’ve now gone over 7,500 miles together, Charlie and I….

….here’s to ten thousand! 

Writing Exercises: Charlie’s Post

Writing exercises, from my bicycle’s point of view:

Hello, My name is Charlie. I’m from Austria and I’m blue. We know at least that much because my sticker says so. I’m a bit of a lost boy you see. I was rescued from a dumpster by Bud, at Cambridge Bicycle, and then re-outfitted. (The time between this and the next part of my adventure no one knows about and I’m not telling.) I was put out with the other used bicycles in front of the shop and a girl in a dress walked by me. Then she came back, she just couldn’t walk right by. First she thought I was too tall for her, but after a test ride we knew it was meant to be. I was sold to this weird girl, Jessie after that, who took me out of Cambridge, to some place called Waltham where there aren’t as many of my people. After living in that place for awhile we came to Somerville.  My people abound!  I live in a stable of bicycles now, so I’m never lonely.

I don’t talk much, so the best Jessie can figure is that I was manufactured in the late 1980’s, shortly before my parent company: Steyr-Daimler-Puch was broken up in an antitrust lawsuit. They also did some shady business back in WWII but that was before I was born and so I hope I’m mostly innocent?

I’m also a Bergmeister. Don’t tell but, I could be older than I look, they started making Bergmeisters in the 1960s as a step up from those pedantic Clubmen (Clubmans?). Bergmeisters are known for their signature copper plating, but like I mentioned before, I’m blue. I also have this snazzy seat tube art with commemorative Olympic rings, which is all well and good, but which Olympics? I don’t remember exactly and the sticker doesn’t remind me either, you spend time in dumpsters and let’s see what you remember…

When I’m not outside I tend to spend my time in scenic basements, in Waltham and in one particular brownstone in Boston. I don’t have to sit outside in the rain and the cold to wait all day. But my favorite place is outside, by the Charles River, for which I am named. Oh I almost forgot to mention, I’m a Buddhist bicycle, I didn’t know that I was but I carry Jessie to Buddhist meetings all over the place, so does that make me a Buddhist too?

Well this is the most talking I’ve done in awhile, I usually leave that to my human. Oh have you checked out my new drive train? I’m a fixie now.   And boy oh boy I’m getting a tuneup next week!

From a girl’s perspective

I’ve been reading some of the bloggers on Boston Biker sharing how they deal with four season variability whilst cycling in Boston.  With the exception of this brilliant piece of wit, I haven’t heard much from the ladies.

Not that thermodynamics applies in much of a different way to we women folk, but still I will add in my two cents.

Year-round lady cyclists? First of all we do exist (even this far north).

So what to wear?

So this is what I wore this morning on the cold ride in, which thankfully had so little wind I was thrilled.

Head:
-Bern helmet (doesn’t leave much room for a hat underneath, but has liners you can switch out)
-360s Ear warmers
-Scarf (when 45 degrees or lower)

Body*:
-tanktop (usually cotton)
-Sugoi Runners Hoodie (makes you look like a ninja, I only put the hood up when it’s below 20 and windy, hood fits nicely under a helmet)
-L.L. Bean vest (Polartec fleece)
-Wool felt knee length coat (with proper layering this functions between 45 to below zero, can keep out rain (for awhile) and snow)

Hands:
-fingerless gloves under
-NorthFace APEX gloves (for wet yuck)
-L.L. Bean gloves (realllllly cold my hands are going to fall off days)

Legs*:
-long undies by CuddleDuds
-Jeans
(*besides usual lady type undergarments)

Feet:
-SmartWool socks
-boots of some kind or another as long as they fit in the toe baskets (toeclips)

Sometimes like today, also
-ToastyToes shoe warmers

For rain/slush/yuck
-Rain coat
-plastic rain pants
-Hunter Boots (knee high, obnoxiously blue, and yes they fit in the toe clips)

Much of this I have had for years or has passed down to me, some of it is retrofitted from my years riding horses, much of the “fancy” gear items are gifts from my family in the hopes of no more hypothermia.  You see back in the Waltham days, when I was just figuring out this longer distance in the weather stuff, there were a couple instances of hypothermia (and one of heat stroke).

Oh ye cycling commuter perspectives vary…. I work at a business where the dress code is very strict and rather conservative, this means usual cycling clothes are not an option for the workday.  So my reply to this is to commute in one set of clothing and work in another, not the right solution for everyone.  The stage for this was set when I lived in Waltham back in 2010.  I was commuting 12.2 miles each way via bicycle and that commute in work clothes would have rendered my entire professional wardrobe a tatered ruin blowing in the breeze.  I am not dainty, I push myself when I ride, I don’t want to have to be going the speed of a person on crutches just to keep my wardrobe pristine.  There are some amazing people out there who can go quickly and look fantastic at the same time.  I am not one of these people.  I get grease stains, I fall and rip my pants (seemingly only when they’re brand new, why?), I ride through puddles.  And even though I have a fender situation (race blades, think fenders with commitment issues), I know myself well enough to adapt to what I need.

End of my two cents.

Sun Tzu on a bicycle?

Cycling and soft power, part 1

I’m a veggie powered girl on a bike and I am changing the world. By riding a bike.

 

An enigma on wheels….  Adventure rolling by…

Before I braved these city streets on two wheels myself, I’d seen them in my college years, had friends who were - cyclists.  They seemed to walk some other path.  I just didn’t get it.  Over time and many other variables (location of residence, schedule, financial, sense of adventure, wanting to feel the wind on my face) I decided to give it a try.

No one ever held a gun to my head and said, “You’d better ride a bicycle, or else you’re gonna get it!”  No one ever threatened my family or loved ones and forced me to ride a bicycle.  No one told me I was doomed to damnation and hell fire if I didn’t bicycle.  No one made me do it.  No makes me do it.  It’s all an internally motivated decision.

I wanted the sun, the sky, and the stars.  I wanted the wind and the city lights. And so I rode.

I didn’t want the stuffed and stinky T.  I no longer wanted to engage with the unreliable and inefficient buses.  I wanted a choice. I wanted my own piece of that enigma and adventure. So I rode.

That attraction, that drive is part of something larger.  Something internally motivated.  Something that can change the world.  You might call it soft power.

Soft power?  Professor Joseph Nye’s term for the sort of influence and power that doesn’t involve guns, wars, economics, appeasement, sanctions, coercion, and the like (i.e. hard power).  Soft power comes from the power of attraction.  Soft power means getting the people you want to do something you want them to do without the use of force.

 

Soft power in action in the present…

This Economist article (to paraphrase and oversimplify a bit more than I’d like) documents the Chinese government tapping the legendary Sun Tzu on the shoulder and recruiting him out of history to serve as their soft power mascot/bandleader/spokesman.  A lot of things in more recent Chinese history make it somewhat unpalatable; human rights violations, that whole Tibet thing, that whole Communist thing, just to name a few. So how do you sell your image to foreign investors to help maintain your-total-crazy-awesome-wonderful-scary-impossible-to-maintain economic growth?  Soft power of course.  You don’t want to come off as extremist, too one sided, or threatening, no! No! No!

So who comes to the rescue?  Indubitable historical legends (they have that Je ne sais quois).  Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce Sun Tzu, legendary figure to whom The Art of War is credited.  Now walk into any largish book retailer and you can find all sorts of extrapolations on The Art of War, from fashion to business to martial arts, probably even baking (but I will admit, I haven’t checked).  But as the Economist author points out, it is, in the end, still a book about war, which is not soft power.  So in trying to get in on the pop culture let’s-do-everything-according-to-The-Art-of-War-and-we’ll-succeed bandwagon, these government leaders have, in fact, not exactly hit the soft power nail on the head.

 

Getting it right, for the right reasons…

“… I would like to propose inner-motivation as the most important key for opening the way to an era of soft power. Over the ages, hard-power systems have succeeded by using the established tools of coercion or oppression to move people toward certain goals. What is characterized as soft power, however, is by contrast based on the inner-generated energy deriving from the internal urge that is created through consensus and satisfaction among human beings. The processes of soft power, the unleashing of the inner energies of the individual, have since ancient times been considered the proper province of philosophy in the broadest sense, rooted in the spiritual and religious nature of man.”

 

These words belong to Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, lay Buddhist leader, educator, scholar, writer, etc. who gave a speech at Harvard University in 1991 on soft power. He outlines an idea for social change based on the change within an individual, and how inner motivated change lays a powerful and profound foundation for an age of soft power.  But how does my riding a bike contribute to the foundation of a new age?

When you ride a bike you’re making the choice to walk Frost’s “road less traveled by” (as opposed to say, driving a car).  You’re making a statement even if you’re not out to make a statement. We are rolling advertisements for everything biking is. We’re a varied bunch with a lot of different ideas on just about everything. But we are through this very act, often inadvertently, making a statement for change.

Cyclists, in choosing these less traveled existential by-ways, in many ways embody this old New England standby (and of course other places!) of the “do it yourself” or DIY mentality. Do not leave to others what you can do.  “Stand up and make the change.”* “Be the change you want to see in the world.”** DIY comes from internal motivation for change, for betterment.  DIY requires you reach inward, past what we are sold or told we can do, a push inward toward creativity and growth.

Ikeda’s explanation for a powerful social change comes from such internal growth and exploration.  When we dig deep inside for what we’re truly made of, when we work to expand our capacity, when we challenge what we thought was possible we are walking the path to internal change. The same creativity and courage that powers DIY can power social change.

 

Part 2 coming soon!

Nice to meet you

Hello Boston Biker, nice to meet you.

This is the story of Jessie and Charlie the blue bicycle.  We’ve been blogging here since 2010 and now it’s time for a little something new…

Charlie has been in my life since June 2010, we’ve gone just over six thousand miles together.  This is the bicycle that has seen me go from-here-and-there-fair-weather cyclist to come-blizzard-hurricane-zombie-apocalypse-I’m-still-going-to-ride cyclist.

A little wobbly on the Word Press at the moment, just finding the balance.

Here we go!  Thanks for reading.

Launching….