Why

The following is an attempt to answer the question of why would I ride my bike 165 miles in steady Seattle rain.

“We don’t live to eat and make money.  We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life.  That is what life means, and this is what life is for.”

                                                          -George Mallory

I believe that within each of us there exists a life force.  Under the normal twentieth-century American routine this life force is a small, imperceptible, pilot light, but discomfort splashes gasoline on that hidden flame causing it to burn hot and bright.   Only in discomfort can we feel truly alive.

Looking back over the past one hundred years it seems as though the United States has had one unifying goal: make like easier.  I fear that the easier life becomes the less we feel truly alive – truly conscious of being a living breathing soul-possessing inhabitant of mother earth.  I am convinced that affluence and comfort quenches the joy of being alive.

I enjoy the company of endurance athletes and artists. Both groups actively seek out and embrace the uncomfortable.  Performing live on stage is every bit as uncomfortable as an Iron Man.  The life force is strong and evident in those who seek out discomfort and routinely push at the boundaries of what they think is possible.

Feeling alive is not the same as an adrenaline rush.  The adrenaline rush is a product of confusion, chaos and disorientation: jumping out of an airplane is an adrenaline rush, but it’s during the flight to altitude that you feel alive. 

After I do something big and stupid, typically on a bicycle, I usually get one of two responses: (a) why did you do that, or (b) tell me about what you did.  The people who inherently understand the connection between life force and discomfort get it, there is no need to ask why. 

I worry that as we become increasingly affluent and comfortable we will lose the self-knowledge and confidence that comes from routinely placing one’s self in uncomfortable situations.  I worry that the shallow stimulus of social media and commercialism will replace the deeper, more aware, knowledge that you are stronger and more capable than you are led to believe.

Instead of saying “no I can’t do that,” we should strive to say “sure let’s try and see what happens.”

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