Thursday, October 27, 2011

What I Recall Is Not Much Like What I See

Last week I had the occasion to ride my old mountain bike around town for a while. It didn't feel anything like I had remembered. The gearing is substantially different from my current road bike, the saddle hits me differently, and the shifters function in now unfamiliar ways. Riding the mountain bike brought back some distant memories of when I rode that bike all the time, but the old and new bikes bear relatively little functional resemblance to one another.

Listening to the radio and reading about our current political culture gives me a similar feeling. What happened to the America that I used to know? As I listen, read, and observe, it appears that our current political and social climate seems only vaguely familiar. When did we become a country of entitlement? Where hard work is punished and degraded and where people expect to receive something of value for no other reason than the fact that someone else has more? When did we become a country that would even take notice of protesters who are calling for punitive taxation of those who have accumulated wealth because, in the protesters' views, the wealthy don't need what they have? We have always been a country that valued philanthropy, but "forced philanthropy" is nothing less than stealing.

Have the protesters considered the rational and logical extension of their calls for taxation reform? For those who are students, would they favor the school administrators taking a portion of their 3.8 GPA and redistributing those grade points to someone with a 2.7--just because a 3.8 is higher? In 2002, it was reported that 3 billion people on this planet live on less than $2.00 per day. Would the protesters be OK with most of their "wealth" being taken from them and sent to those 3 billion people? Would the protesters be happy with opening their homes to the homeless in their cities--under government compulsion--just because some people have no place to call home, or have sufficient, but smaller homes?

It is easy to gain support for the notion of "taxing the rich" because "the rich" are always someone else. The rich or the elites or the _________ (fill in your favorite target) are always someone distant and different. They are never our friends, or our family members, or ourselves. But have the current "Occupy" protesters considered that to someone else, they are the rich or the elite or some other target?

Instead of the current political and social focus on taking from those who have in order to redistribute to those who do not have, why not look at creating opportunities for those who do not have to improve their lot in life? Rather than the focus on taking from others, why not focus on improving ourselves? Taking someone else's wealth is not a long term solution to anyone's poverty (or the fact that someone else may have more than me).

Don't get me wrong, I am all for compassion and generosity. I believe that these are virtues that support our American social compact. But forced compassion and generosity are neither compassionate nor generous.

Pressing on,

P.S. As always, my views expressed in this blog are just that--my views. They do not necessarily represent the views of my firm, my clients, my friends, my church, or my family.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No Fireworks or Rainbows

After traveling last week and being away from the bike (for the most part), I was really looking forward to getting back into my daily riding routine this week. The past couple of days have felt very good--the bike is a wonderful place to be. But getting back into the routine has felt more like returning to the familiar than a fresh start of something new. I suppose that is exactly how it should feel. As much as I have ridden over the course of the summer, it would be silly of me to expect that getting back on the bike after just a few days away would be accompanied by fireworks. And there is nothing wrong with getting back into the routine of daily riding. Nothing about the daily-ness should diminish the enjoyment or benefit of my regular rides.

The thrill of a great ride or of finding a new route is a nice feeling from time to time, but if everything was a "mountaintop" there would be nothing special about mountaintops.

Reading through the Gospel of Mark over the past couple of weeks I was struck that not much of what Jesus and His disciples did is captured in those pages. Much of what they did and talked about over nearly three years of being together remains shrouded in the mists of history--never to see the light of day. I wonder if the disciples ever got used to walking and eating and talking with God? Every day? Sometimes I wonder why I seem to take walking and talking with God every day for granted? Is it because it is not all fireworks and rainbows? Because so much of our interaction is in the midst of the ordinary and the mundane? The parts not written in my gospel?

While I never want to be in a place of taking God for granted, if my time with Him feels like a comfortable and familiar place, that is probably OK. The mountaintops are nice, but I want to revel in the daily-ness.

Pressing On,

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Beautiful Day, But For the Wall

This has been a week to remember here in central Minnesota. Sunny days and temps in the 80's--and it is October! In anticipation of the upcoming long winter, my friend Jeff and I took Wednesday afternoon to ride. The Lake Wobegon Trail from Avon to Albany, then up the Holdingford spur was truly spectacular. The trail wove between farm fields and woodlots and the tree-lined tunnels glowed with golden leafy-ness. Despite the beauty of the day, a danger was lurking that later in the ride reared its ugly head--hitting the wall, or the bonk.

Bonking is a term for the time when your body exhausts its stores of glycogen and turns almost exclusively to using fat for fuel. For someone like me, I welcome the time when my body starts using fat for fuel, but the physiological reality is that the body has to work harder to use fat than to use glycogen. The way to address the situation is not complex--either replenish glycogen or reduce the exertion level so that the body can keep up with converting fat to energy.

I have bonked before--about three times that I can recall (if you cannot recall if you have, then you probably haven't). The other three times were toward the end of high-exertion races. This was just a pleasant, autumn afternoon ride. Granted we were hitting a good pace, but we weren't racing. I did not recognize the signs, so did not take the actions necessary to avoid the bonk. It should not have been a surprise, but it was because I wasn't being attentive to the signs that would have been apparent had I just been paying attention.

Life these days does not foster a posture of attentiveness. Economic concerns, political turmoil, world events, the press of caring for a family--these all take us away from being attentive to our souls. Yet, if we fail to pay attention to our souls, we can bonk in our spirits just as much as in our bodies.

The notion of Sabbath was designed, at least in part, to call us to be attentive to our souls. One day each week that is devoted not to the ordinary and the pressing, but to the eternal and the everlasting. A day not devoted to daily work, but to restoration. For those of us from religious traditions that do not have a strong connection with Sabbath, it is easy for Sunday to become just another day (just with church in the morning). If we could--or would--recapture a practice of Sabbath, I wonder how our faith and our work might be different.

I feel like I have fully recovered from Wednesday's experience, but it did knock me off of my game for a couple of days. I am also reminded of the value of remaining attentive--even when a ride seems like it should not be a big deal.

Pressing on,