Monday, March 19, 2007


A fairly obscure and self appointed philosopher* once said life is about trading the exuberance and energy of youth for Wisdom. Without debating exactly what constitutes "Wisdom," suffice it to say most would likely agree that it includes the ability to do simple arithmetic. My contribution to the mathematical arts is the inescapable calculation of 1500.
No, this isn't the mythical "42" of Douglas Adams fame, (The answer to "Life, the Universe and Everything”) or the "42" that is Jonathan Livingston Seagull's wingspan in inches. It is the result of my calculation of how much I have left in the tank. The equation goes something like this: I am in my mid 40's. With some reasonable healthcare and preventative maintenance, some good luck and fortune, it is reasonable to assume I can live to my mid 70s. That means, at approximately 50 weeks to the year (some rounding is necessary, since my Wisdom doesn't include the ability to do Really Complex Math) I've got 1500 Saturdays left. And then I'm going to be dead for a very, very long time.

Ergo, I parse out each of those 1500 Saturdays out very, very carefully.

JFK's will reportedly began with the preamble "Owing to the uncertainties in life…" Many uncertainties indeed, and in John's case, those tricky ballistics properties were chief among them. I have no idea if there is a bullet out there with my name on it. For that matter, there might already be a ticking time bomb somewhere in my genome. Who knows? About all that is certain is that the Saturdays will run out - I have a finite supply of them. My employer doesn't get them, and the cost to others is a highly negotiated provision.

What value do I place on these Saturdays? These are the times to feel uniquely human. I sense the universe about me with 5 senses. I want to involve them all. When I'm out on a bike, the sound of the wheels, the blur of the passing countryside, the quenched thirst from my sport drink bottle, the smell of trees, and the touch of my handlebars are so real, so varied, and so deep that I can't wait for the next mile, for the next sensation. My heart races, my blood pressure moves up, and I sweat. I listen to my legs, as I try to find a rhythm in pedaling efficiently. I try to heed the signals that I need fuel; need to eat or drink. I try to feel the subtle signals the bike is telling me about the road I am on, and I stay vigilant and safe, trying to be protective of those remaining 1500 Saturdays. A dog or car bolts out to remind me just how quickly that bullet can arrive or the time bomb go off, and yes, when I hit the pavement, I wonder just how close that trick of ballistics or protein trigger took me to those uncertainties. (Or that inevitable certainty, depending how you want to think about it.) A well-known and respected cyclist** once said he'd prefer to end his life after turning 100 years old - upon descending on a beautiful countryside, lie down in a field of French sunflowers, and peacefully expire. Much like life itself, being on the bike is about the journey, not the destination. I don't really need to know where the path is taking me; it is sufficient to know that I am on it.

But here's the thing: being on the bike isn't about Deep Thoughts(tm). There is an entire interconnected culture for humanity involving sport, transportation, interaction, competition, and economics. I want to leave all that behind when I'm on the bike. Those thoughts belong somewhere other than on one of my 1500 Saturdays. My 1500 Saturdays are about me, about what I feel right now, not what others are doing, what has been done to others, and any notion of right or wrong. I'll take that up on Monday. Mondays can belong to someone else. Mondays are when I can think about what the score is, how global warming is destroying humanity (and whether or not that is really a good or bad thing), what questions my students might have for me, who followed the rules, and when my credit card bill is due.

And there are only 1500 Mondays left too. That's something else I can be happy about on Saturday.

**Very much not Me. Think 7 Tours de France winner.

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