Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.~ Helen Keller
We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a value; and (3) by suffering.~ Victor Frankl
I have been riding bikes for years and have had a few crashes. Fortunately nothing serious. I am also a fan of bike racing, and especially the Tour de France, were serious crashes are all too common. Recently I was watching this year’s Tour and saw the rider Cadel Evens being treated by the race doctor for a bad tumble. Evans was scraped up on his leg, his hip, his elbow, and his back. His jersey was shredded and his shorts were ripped open. He was bleeding from multiple locations. He was also showing some concern for his left collar bone, which he has broken five different times from bike crashes. But the race didn’t stop and Evans was treated while still on the bike. (photo at left)
This got me thinking about how biking is something like life. We don’t think we will crash. Crashing is for other guys. Another word for crashing is suffering.
When bike racers start a race they do not anticipate crashing. They can’t. They must stay focused on the task at hand, that is, racing. They go forth with high hopes, knowing that they might crash, even get seriously hurt, but they don’t believe they will. The only protection they have between them and the pavement is a thin layer of Lycra.
In life we start each day with hope. We hope the day will go well, we hope the day will fulfill us and make us happy. And we tend to believe our hopes. But at any minute we can crash, literally or figuratively. Crashes can be financial or relational. They can be physical ailments or injuries. They can be the loss of a family member or friend, or the loss of a job.
Often the cause of the crash is our own fault: We don’t take care of things we need to take care of, we don’t prepare well enough, we make choices out of selfishness or ignorance. But often the cause of the crash is something out of our control, something that comes at us and hits us, as it were, broadside.
Or, if you are riding in the Tour de France, it might be a dog that walks in front of your bike, as it happened in the 2007 Tour.
Life does not stop coming at us. Time does not stand still. We eat and then we get hungry again. We pay bills and then we pay them again. And most days are like the days before. When we do crash, life still keeps moving. Often the only protection we have against crashing is the thinnest of layers: Some insurance, a credit card, the help of a friend, luck.
We know all this, but we still get up each day and dive in to life. I guess it is just human nature to keep moving forward and and think maybe tomorrow will be better.
As I watch this year’s Tour I know those guys have a choice to ride or not ride. But as I look at my life, which includes responsibilities to myself and and my family, I know I don’t have the option to live or not live. I must live and hope that each day will bring forth life. I’ve got to show up, as do we all. So I keep moving, living as though it won’t be me that crashes today, and knowing that crashing is a part of life too. In fact, it is often through accepting the truth of our reality that we have any hope for joy.
When I think of my girls growing up and living life to its fullest, I also know they will have crashes. My job is not fundamentally about keeping them from crashing, but to give them the right perspective on life so they can deal with their crashes, although I also do not want them to crash.