Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Wheels Go Round and Round

I first heard the lyrics when my daughters were involved with swimming lessons, "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round." Fun, simple lyrics to distract attention from the new surroundings and possibly frightening aspects of deeper water. 

Resistance Knob
The branding and marketing department of Peloton appear to know their craft. The name and logo are everywhere on their equipment, their live and on-demand classes, and their merchandise. The circular resistance knob which increases or decreases resistance on the wheel (depending upon which way it is turned) also serves as a brake when it is pushed down is emblazoned with their logo. You can see the "p", as well as the crank arms for a bicycle. Push and pull on the cranks via the pedals and the wheel goes round and round, round and round.

I am using and learning many things about the bike, the online options for various workouts, and the instructors. Oh yes, I am also learning about myself and my discipline or lack thereof. This bike will serve a wide variety of fitness needs for years to come. The humorous yet ironic part of this bike is no matter how long or how fast I crank the pedals, no matter how many revolutions the wheel makes (the wheel on the Peloton goes round and round, round and round, round and round) I never physically move. I remain in the same corner of the basement even when the number on the screen indicates I have traveled 18.37 miles. The wheel spins, but nothing changes. 

The Hebrew wisdom found in Ecclesiastes reads, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." (1.9  NRSV)  The world, as well as my life goes round and round. I experience new things. I travel to unique places. Technology opens new arenas for exploration, education, and entertainment. How can the ancient author proclaim there is nothing new under the sun?

Looking upon the chaos and mayhem exhibited last week in Washington, DC is something the majority of us have never seen. Violence, destruction, angry mobs, and death all covered from various vantage points. Words flowing from politicians and news media alike stating, "This is not the way Americans act." "This is domestic terrorism."  Unique to current generations, yes. Unique to human emotions and behaviors stirred by others in order to garner personal gain, NO! Their are rafts of stories throughout human history describing the distressing realities of our actions toward one another. These actions are nothing new.

As a pastor (almost 4 decades), I have served within a couple of denominations (Lutheran and United Church of Christ). The national entities have sang the chorus, "We can change the world." numerous times over those years. I understand the sentiment and emphasis to motivate people to act in ways that diminish "isms." Yet there are always underlying agendas motivating the chorus: bureaucratic, numerical growth, contributions to sustain business, and political power. I also believe their are altruistic motivations. These campaigns and slogans have a mixture of incentives. I am not opposed to encouragement nor developing fuller ways of responding to our situations. 

The Prime Directive in the mission of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), in Star Trek, General Order #1, says that the personnel and craft is prohibited from interfering with the internal and natural development of alien civilizations. It prevents the crew from using their superior technology to impose their own values and ideals upon others. In other words, they are to go, discover, experience, and understand "strange new worlds" with a personal and emotional detachment. This allows other cultures and beings to evolve at their own pace. According to one source, Captain James T. Kirk violated General Order #1, with some regularity. There is nothing new under the sun even when the suns are in other galaxies reached through warp speed. 

I find that making the wheel go round and round to be insightful. It provides physical challenge and fitness, as well as stimulating internal perspectives and consciousness. Instead of being fatalistic, I find Ecclesiastes' wisdom producing a deep sense of calm in the midst of contemporary changes. Frustrations over not making progress, not changing the world, and not becoming more advanced as a society are lessened as I realize this is natural, human behavior. This is creation I cannot change. What is new? What is invigorating? What keeps my mind active and my spirit inspired?  It is the opportunity to gain perspective on my internal life and appreciation for the world around me. The foundational pillars of Stoic philosophy (courage, justice, moderation, and wisdom) are used as a daily guide. I live and respond to that which I have control, my own self. 

The grey, foggy days recently experienced in the Red River Valley of the North, allowed for rime or hoarfrost to cover many rough objects. The breezes which carried the water droplets created unique displays. While exercising along a rural, minimum maintenance road I was distracted by these beautiful sights. This form of creation was new to me on such a close and personal level. I did not need to change it, recreate it, or preserve it. I was gifted to observe it. The phone photos do not capture the splendor of the scene. I became the benefactor of awe and serenity in an overcast, damp, and cold day. 

My life goes round and round, round and round. There is always beauty even when progress is not perceived!


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