On Falling Down

When we’re kids we fall all the time. Sometimes even on purpose. I stacked it more times that I can count riding bikes, skateboarding, falling out of trees and other various shenanigans in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, running downhill on a trail, I caught my right toe on something and fully laid myself out at speed. My left shoulder took the most of it, then the left knee. Rocks. Roots. It happened instantly, without warning – yet paradoxically – I have the distinct memory of that time in the air thinking, “oh, shit.” That part seemed to take a long time. Or at least long enough for me to process it.

The first few moments after a fall like that are existential. Think about the last time you fell, hard. That’s the Universe in a single moment right there. That’s Enlightenment. There’s nothing else but that moment. I guarantee you are not thinking about anything else. You could sit a 1,000 hours of meditation and not get quite the same feeling as the instant when you collide with the ground unexpectedly and emphatically. It’s Gensa stubbing his toe x 100.

“But after a period of studying with Seppo, Gensa figured it was time to go meet some other teachers so that he could get a more well-rounded education. He packed his bags and started walking toward the temple gate.

Just then he stubbed his toe on a big rock. There was blood all over the place, and his toe hurt like nobody’s business. Gensa thought, “Some say the physical body doesn’t exist, so where, then, is this pain coming from?” He returned to the temple.

Seppo, his teacher, saw him and asked, “What’s up, Mr. Hard Practice?”

Gensa said, “My trouble is I can’t be fooled.”

Seppo said, “Who doesn’t know this deep down? But who else besides you can say it out loud?”

– Brad Warner, Don’t Be a Jerk: And other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master

The subsequent moments after hitting the ground were almost euphoric. “I didn’t die.” I made it. Elation. In a weird way it almost felt good to fall. For one, it told me where the limit was, but also it brought me immediately back to the present. All the thoughts that had been ruminating in my head prior to that moment as I careened out of control down a hill – thoughts that had nothing to do with what I was doing or where I was (part of the problem) – seemed suddenly foolish. Irrelevant.

SMACK. RIGHT HERE IS WHERE YOU ARE.

The Universe was telling me to slow the fuck down. “We’re gonna give you a pass on this one ‘cause we dig what you’re doing – but don’t be an idiot about it.” Noted.

It’s been awhile since I smacked the earth that hard. Is that the problem? Is it because as we get older we do it less therefore it’s a bigger deal when we do? Should we be falling more? Seems that’s a double-edged sword.

Sage Internet Philosopher of our times, Stevil, is perhaps onto something:

It would seem more accurately, we’re never too old to do anything – except fall down – that’s the part that becomes problematic. Please pass the ibuprofen.

In the final Universal twist of irony, Coach has me running same trail today on the training plan. Back on the horse as they say.

Passing a Note

I was reading the post Speak the Wild Words and it’s good, you should check it out. This stuck out to me:

Craftivism is a kind of anathema to slacktivism, which is the more common path of protest these days – yelling loudly into Facebook to try and effect change. Craftivism, is quieter and gentler, it generates art and artefacts, and is about creating a better world, note by note, stitch by stitch. It’s about putting something into the world that is more than just your rage or your despair – something that people can approach with curiosity, and engage with. 

– Lisa Richardson

One of the things that drove me off the social medias repeatedly on-and-off until I finally dumped ’em whenever-back-when was the constant stream of activism and advocacy posts – that were in many cases just “yelling loudly” into the void. Even if I agreed with whomever it was and whatever they were championing – it never really struck me as the most effective way to go about changing things – I think the comment threads attached often attested to that very point. Except for the very early days, I certainly never posted that kind of stuff, mostly because I didn’t particularly want to deal with the backlash and/or moderating other people’s bad behavior in my comments.

After getting off social media, I still felt strongly about certain things but increasingly felt that beating people over the head with those ideas was just not the way to go. Since then I’ve sort of been experimenting with and trying to find a ‘name’ for whatever it is that I’m trying to do those ends. Things like reading more, thinking more critically, trying to be present and do the ‘right thing’ – an often moving or seemingly mysterious target.

The above article’s discussion of ‘craftivism’ lit a bulb in my head. Though I’m not really creating anything tangible – no “art and artefacts,” what I am constructing is a life – the best one I’m able – and doing that seems the best way to champion what I think is important or feel strongly about. For me the concept has become one of ‘lived activism’ or ‘living advocacy’. Or ‘lived advocacy’ or ‘living activism’ or whatever. I’m realizing now that whatever it’s called really isn’t important at all. As my main man Brad Warner likes to say, “Buddhism is a philosophy of action.” So in one sense, it’s very much that.

My guess is someone already has created an academic term for this. In my case it’s mostly a mash up of Stoicism and Zen, with some Jocko Willink sprinkled in – no doubt there’s components of other things in there. Obviously, bikes.

In the simplest terms it boils down to ‘practice what you preach’, but in my case I’m leaving out the preaching and just practicing. In this way, I’m advocating to those I come into contact with – family, friends, strangers – all merely by example. That’s good enough for me. And I think it’s likely to have a deeper impact on one person I interact with than 40 people who read something on a social media post in a feed with 50 other peoples’ hollering – no matter how good the video I choose to embed is.

I know what you’re saying. “But my dude, you’re posting it here.” Yes. The difference is that posting it here is almost solely for the purposes of working it out in my own head. This is just my mental sandbox. I know that at any given point there’s probably only 5 people paying attention. I’m not “yelling loudly” into the void. If anything, this is the internet equivalent of going “Pssst…” and then passing someone a note.

It’s more about the real-world execution. My going for a snowshoe at lunch with my dog and then telling you about it in person via passing conversation is going to tell you everything you need to know about how I feel about the Environment, animals, and the importance of getting outdoors on one’s physical and mental health. Subtly, with less yelling – and less competing for your attention.


By way of shout-outs – I found the article I mentioned above via a platform I’ve lately rediscovered – ReadUp. They’re looking to change the way folks read and interact with others about what they read. Check ’em out if you’re so inclined.

The Inspiration for ‘Ride Action is Right Action’

It started with tattoo research, really. I was thinking about getting a tattoo of the Chinese characters (because those aren’t cliché at all, right?) for the Buddhist* Precept of either ‘Right Action’ or ‘Right Effort’ – so I was reading up on the difference between the two. The word action just sounded better than effort to me, even though it was a bit weird and specific. There’s tons of variations and translations out there of the Precepts but here is the one I found that seemed to encompass the general idea of most of them:

“RIGHT ACTION: Right action aims at promoting moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct. It admonishes us that we should abstain from destroying life, from stealing, from dishonest dealings, from illegitimate sexual intercourse, and that we should also help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.”

So uh, yeah – that’s all good – if not a bit strange. As it relates to the CABC I guess you could apply that to say we shouldn’t steal bikes or in any way have illegitimate sex on them, but really, if you can pull off sex on a bike, my hat’s off to you. What I took the most to heart was the last part that said “we should help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.” That was some action I thought we could apply here.

You could think of riding a bike as selfish or solitary endeavor, but let’s break down for a minute what happens on a lot of bike rides. You have your rhythmic spinning of the pedals and wheels. A floating sensation when coasting. Drifting to and fro as the terrain permits. It can be very meditative. Or maybe you’re out hammering – the singular focus of maintaining your target effort in the face of difficulty or suffering has the ability to focus your mind singularly.

Either way, you’re changing your mind. 

You’ll come out of the ride with a different – arguably improved – attitude. In improving your state of mind and attitude you are changing how you perceive and interact with others. That has the ripple effect. In simple terms, change yourself to change the world – we hear this all the time in various ways. Maybe the change today starts with a bike ride. And maybe, if you can improve your outlook, it will help your interaction with others, and in-turn inspire, inform or improve theirs. You can go for a bike ride for yourself and “help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.” Ride Action is Right Action.

Bruce Lee talked about this idea of self-improvement through action. In his book Striking Thoughts he comments, “Action is a highroad to self-confidence and esteem. Where it is open, all energies flow toward it. It comes readily to most people, and its rewards are tangible.” The rewards of a bike ride are tangible – for you as well as others.

I never decided on a tattoo. I couldn’t decide between Right Action and Right Effort. The visual geek in me got bogged down in how the characters looked and I started to loose the meaning behind them. Truth be told, from what I can understand, Right Effort is more internal – it’s about the efforts and energies you allow to arise within you. No doubt these are important as well, but when I’m riding bikes, that’s ACTION, baby. I’m DOING THE THING.

So get out there change yourself and change the World. It’s as easy as riding a bike.

*The CABC is entirely non-denominational. You do your thing and let the next person do their thing. Better yet, go on a bike ride with a bunch of people into different things than you and talk about things. I’ll bet you a CABC water bottle (which don’t exist yet) you learn something new.

Drinking Coffee, Looking at the River

I was sitting looking across this river yesterday morning from the exact same spot and it was so foggy I could barely see the riverbank nearest to me, yet today clear as a bell. One thought I had is that damn, the early settlers and indigenous folks who used to canoe across the river must have had a hell of a time on days like that when getting out into the middle of the river would mean not being able to see either side.

Whatever challenges I face today, I can take solace that paddling endlessly lost in the middle of a foggy river won’t be one of them. Then I realized everything is falling apart. I was reminded that everything is in a constant state of change. Even things I think of as ‘permanent’ and solid – rocks, steel, my coffee cup – it’s all disintegrating at various rates. Our bodies – even our thoughts and brain chemistry, all constantly changing. I’m collecting cosmic ‘stuff’ from everything around me. If everything is in a constant state of falling apart, where is substance? Where is truth – what is real?

As usual, my favorite punk rock buddhist monk, Brad Warner, saves the day on this one. “Life is just action in the present moment. […] The only real facts are those at the present moment. […] The world where we live is existence in the present moment.” That’s it. The only thing that is ‘real’ is this moment. Reality is THIS moment. And the next one, and so on.

Maybe you’re having a real shitty time right at this moment. Don’t worry, that’s gonna change, give yourself a moment. You don’t have to worry about it, there’s no stopping it, instead realize and accept what is. And while you’re doing that, Brad again points out “You are not just a thing that inhabits this moment. You ARE this moment.” In this moment, “There is one thing, the Universe” and “The truth of the Universe IS the Universe itself.”

You are a part of the whole process – the whole changing Universe – not separate from it. You are exchanging material with the rocks, the trees, the water, animals and even the garbage rotting in that can over there. So, uh, yeah. What do you guys think about when you’re sitting drinking coffee looking at the river?

Good Luck With Your Efforts

Surly Disc Trucker

I took a little break from the internet space for awhile. Did some things. A lot of sitting and reading. Quite a bit of just sitting. It occurred to me that The Walrus was right. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Read: we are all connected, we are all one.

My friend Amy – she of the mighty movement and art mojo – talks about movement as art. How we conduct ourselves through space is artistic expression. Walking. Lifting heavy objects. Waving hello. She spoke once of a bike ride being a piece of artwork. How you pick something up is art. How you pet your dog. We are all creating as we move through space and time.

I like that idea. That’s very nice, but I have a bit of bad news. The Universe doesn’t give a shit about you (or me) or our art. In the Grand Scheme of Things (not to be confused with the Internet of Things, which doesn’t care about you either, but just wants to know what you’re doing every waking moment for marketing purposes), you don’t matter. As a species en masse, we conduct ourselves daily as if we – individually and collectively – do matter. A considerable problem. If we don’t matter either collectively or individually, what does?

I’m here to say your effort. You are insignificant, but your effort isn’t. If we are all connected, our individual efforts all have impact on the whole. Good effort. Meaningful effort. Sincere effort. Compassionate effort. The Buddha called it Right Effort, but he doesn’t really matter either – his effort does.

What’s this got to do with me being back on the Internets? Well there’s quite a few folks on here who’s efforts I missed connecting with. And I also missed sharing some creations, some experiments, some art with other people, and this was a somewhat tolerable place to do that. I don’t wish to be ‘influenced’, I wish to be inspired. I want to share, but currently that word has been hijacked and sullied. It makes people cringe. People share ‘content’. Let’s say I want to enlighten. My friend Andrew said that I should. That it would be a good thing – that regardless of the outcome it would be an effort worth making. So here we are. Good luck with your efforts.