“I don’t ride in snow. Period.”
This is something I have said countless times. It’s been a rather nasty winter this year, and those who know me also know about my almost religious attachment to my bicycle riding. So they will often ask me whether I am going to hop onto my two wheels when the days turn f-ugly.
Now, my familiar refrain would be to tell them that no matter how cold it is, I will ride. Temperature isn’t something that will cause me to wipe out. “Cold” doesn’t need shovelling or plowing. Cold is a state of mind, and if my state of mind is right, I can ride through sub-Arctic climates. When my mind is not right, a random draft of wind on a summer’s eve might send me off shivering.
For years I dared not traverse tra-la-la in the wet and white stuff because you know…well, just because. Apparently one could wipe out. Fall under a bus. Have the vehicle smite me from this earthly plane. It’s happened before. Not a situation I could cite, but in my mind I am just sure that it’s happened. Must be on the interweb somewhere. My mind knows even when it doesn’t, capisce? That is how the ego and the justification / rationalization of my mushy mind rolls. But the fact remains is that I have no direct experience in riding in snow. Never really have. So why the mental block?
I lived much of my life under the default position of “I can’t do that”. No matter what it was, how difficult or easy it may have been, it would seem that I was genetically incapable of giving anything an honest college try. Unless it involved me getting more drinks in me, then sure. Self-seeking is a gas. Same thing with opinions – I venerated my own opinions regardless of annoying roadblocks like facts, experience or evidence. There seems to have been a hard line set in the embryonic stage of my (under) development. A border that had Stormtroopers all over it, falling prey to Jedi mind tricks. Even when things were possible, the line remained firm. Berlin wall type firm.
Because when I set my mind to something, it’s as good as gold. Regardless of the veracity of the thought, it sets and sits like concrete in my mind. “Knitting’s for dames”, “Rock climbing is dangerous”, “Blind Melon sucks” (they do suck…oops, I mean their unique blend of rock and endearing psychedelic folk music isn’t for me) . Blanket statements fall from me like ticket taper on a Super Bowl winner’s parade. While some of what I think and feel is borne out of true direct and indirect experience, much of what sticks to me has no basis on any sort of proof. Sounds a bit, you know, presumptuous, eh?
In the 12-step basic text, there is a quote that is attributed to Herbert Spencer, but is really from William Paley (if you’re keeping score) and it reads:
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Contempt prior to investigation. I’ve written about it before. Will probably write about it again. And again. It sums it all up, for me. All the negativity, the naysaying, the self-righteousness, the terminal uniqueness, the utter fears and the isolating…so much of that comes from the place that I know better without actually taking the time and effort to see otherwise. In other words, keeping a closed mind. And a closed mind, like a small room with a paint-shut window, remains stale and bereft of light.
Contempt prior to investigation keeps me barricaded against the Creator’s plan for me. It keeps me crushed under the stone of ego. It keeps me in the ref’s chair above the tennis match of life, with a blindfold on, yet still judging wildly. It darkens the areas of my life which require light to survive. And it can be the small things like “I don’t like Mexican food” to the bigger “I hate all foreign cars” to even “I will never get sober – guys like me were meant to die young”. In all these cases, it’s a matter of answering back “Says you”. Huh? Have you tried every single Mexican dish, or are you basing that statement on a bad burrito from Taco Bell, which is about as Mexican as a Smurf is a Space Shuttle? have you driven every Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, etc. on the planet? Have you ever tried a recovery program with complete honesty and willingness?
And those are the kind of things that pass through me all the time. “Says you” is my way of telling my self (my ego self, my closed-minded self, my contemptuous self) that it’s just an opinion that is based on nothing but fear, laziness or the unwillingness to reach out and just try something new. “Says you” is that husky voice that demands me to delve in a bit deeper and substantiate my claim. No ticket, no ride, buster. Get into the back of the line and try again to get on the Pile Driver Water Slide.
This ties into so many things – it’s inextricable from so much within. When I make blanket statements that really may not be true, I am being dishonest now, aren’t I? I am being judgemental, yes? I am being selfish, fearful at times too. Sounds a bit like an inventory session, if you ask me. And I do ask me. Not that having an opinion is wrong. We have opinions. Opinions can be strong, mild and plain – just like chicken wing sauces. Nothing wrong with opinions. I just have to ask myself where they come from and are they authentic to me.
And when I am not authentic, I get fuzzy in the mind. Crusty in the soul. Twisted up mentally and spiritually. I am not really centered. I am a bit…off. I have had my share of off, thank you very much, so I will do my best to stay centered. Contempt prior to investigation cuts me off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. It dulls the mind. It tells me that the gates are closing and the moat is overflowing. You shall not pass, Frodo.
So what I try to do is keep my opinions on the up and up. Keep exaggeration and hyperbole kept low or non-existent. Fly straight. Minimize the boastful and prideful. Stay open to other opinions (that’s the tough one!) Leave room after my meal for the dessert of appeal and discourse. Prepare to be wrong about a LOT of things. I mean, a LOT. Do some investigating before flapping my gums or striking keys on the board. Invoke empathy. All these things are intertwined into the whole plane of serenity, for me.
When I keep an open mind, I am keeping open the endless possibilities of not only being wrong, but of the growth that comes with that. I am keeping open the chances to find new passions and loves. I am keeping open the chances of getting deeper into something. I am keeping open the avenues of exploration, fun, balance and excitement. I am giving myself a chance to live in a new now, a new normal, a new playground. I get to see that being right does not mean being happy.
It’s all about personal myth-busting. With a rocket launcher.
And as for my not riding in snow? Ever? I took a chance during our storm the other day. Sought out a new mental pathway. And a new snowy pathway too. Slogged around The Big Smoke like a boss. And I never once flew ass-over-teakettle, I might add.
I guess I do ride in snow now, after all.