From my letter to my dear friend and biking pal, Smorg, who you can find here on blogspot.com in the Smorg Zone:
What a good time we had biking to University Heights!
For one thing, Angela made the Park Avenue hill to Balboa with no problems! She's gotten the hang of the gears and pacing; I know she was looking forward to beating that hill in one go!
Thanks for putting up with my British accents! I couldn't shut up! But singing and pedaling have given me a stronger diaphragm this summer so it's like training for two events in one!
I loved seeing how easily we could bike through North Park and U. Heights; I've been meaning to spend more time up there.
The best part, of course, was crossing Hillcrest after dinner and zipping through those massive dirt road hills beside the Girl Scout headquarters! I always think I'm going to fly over the handlebars on the way down! I thought we did pretty good on the paved hills, too, considering they were a 19% grade.
The huge hill on the way to Vermont Ave. was the crowning touch. You go so fast on the way down, it shoots you all the way to the top!! And hey, I didn't run into Angela...unbroken record for safety!
I do believe we all got into the moment and never once took a photograph today! I know we all remember what we will need for our pleasure in days ahead. See, Angela's reading about drinking tea: the author wishes to live in the present, not be stranded, in the relative past, away from the future. Drinking tea, doing things mindfully, body awareness. I seriously think we would enjoy sharing some tea on our rides, once we get the logistics of the cups and thermos situated. To ride hell bent for leather, or at least with vigor and enthusiasm, to some place, then sit and enjoy the tea and our surroundings and sensations, sounds like a nice addition to our terrific recreational time.
Also: the idea of meditation as observation...not to create a war between good and bad in one's mind, and not to use techniques to repress feelings and thoughts, however distasteful they may be at times. The joy of any activity is present when we do it, even if not when we THINK about doing it! Even sad thoughts I did not wish to remain alone with should not be evicted, nor will our humanity abide even a well-intended effort not to dwell upon things. This observation becomes the lesson, the liberation from ignorance, and the content of what is said and thought during this time, however its personal values relate, need not be the same for the situation to apply to many people with various content.
In my case, I would not and was not shown too closely what my old friends' problems were, and now am sorrowful for what I know, where before I simply had the positive energy I wished to shine, without judging the uncertainity and sensitivity I might detect in our awkward moments of communication. But, in embracing the sadness of what they suffer, that compassion becomes fulfilled, and maybe one day it will be easily, readily shared. Until that moment, I need it for myself, if I am not allowed to share that kindness directly as I once did. I still have it---I still want them to have it---even if they are apparently not good friends for me to have. Frankly, it need not involve me, then, at all: if that kindness would come to them from any source---if ignorance were removed, as we all must remove ignorance of some thing as a root must push aside the soil---then the goodness is achieved. I have never been in a situation where the encouragement and company I had to offer was resented so much, and I would gently let them be. I would like to believe in their ability to resolve their attitudes----to think of themselves more like I have thought of them---as someone whose feelings do not need to be dissolved in drunkenness.
Personally, I think I enjoyed talking about consciousness more; I was pleased to hear you say "even a snail can have consciousness...just maybe not one we know how to measure!" It felt wonderful to cut loose and mention how any of a variety of chemical, astronomically-referenced, or energy-based forms besides our featherless biped form we know and love so well could hold a form of consciousness...how the vast cosmos could hold a dizzying variety of forms of life? While you're at it...have a home fry in barbecue sauce!
How appropriate I went back into KFC to wash my hands after messing with the bike and heard "Sad Songs (Say So Much)"!! The look on the older gentleman's face nearby when I cheerfully declared Elton John "the most enduring and popular male gay icon" amuses me still.
Remember your joke about going straight on Utah St? Or Angela talking about neat things to re-incarnate as, and me blabbing about bodhisatva, and your reply about coming back as a sea gull? Remember how we asked why you would sing in Heaven, when singing is something you need in your body to pick you up? Remember Angela asking why Heaven would be so materialistic in substance? (I think Revelations is a set of codes and metaphors I'd like to explore afresh one day!) Remember how we wondered what you would do in a place where want and challenge are removed...how that could never be "heaven"? Is it true the heaven we can find here on Earth is already worth our gratitude? Remember laughing over how MAYBE some of these notions are not so well thought out...and that's why you need the complimentary scary place? Do you think any sort of after life could involve entirely different states of energy or dimensions yet beyond our ken? If we're thinking about it already...isn't that existence already part of this one?
But what of the present? As I prepare to go shower off the sweat of an afternoon of riding, I remember the fun of coming to your house---to any friend's house---the first time, the novelty of being welcomed into one's private quarters. The conversation about the need for jet-pack safety, and the yearning for absolute freedom---the robotic nature, as you said, of people who can move without thought for their own safety---leads neatly back into Awareness. I think there's a science fiction story there about using technology to stand in for what people need to develop from their inside, from their own personal potential and resources.
Remembering wondering aloud where consciousness resides---and how it is that, were one to be a ghost, so many determinants of personality were related to one's physical state---and so, how could a spirit retain the same personality as one who is, say, afflicted with terrible arthritis? As Angela pointed out, a person can be shaped by their pain...even while some decide that their pain is not relatively so terrible as that of some others, and so they behave with kindness and compassion. I don't think we're done with the subject of ghosts, or the continuation of existence beyond the grave, either!
Part of why we can continue that discussion is that even scientists, as you pointed out, are human beings. For this reason, there are paradoxes with which we make our peace: the factual and reasonable on one hand, and the reasonable adjustment of living with poetry, with metaphor, with association, with reminders of those who have passed in things that happen, things left behind, comforting presences...with the art of that which cannot be proven to another, yet may be totally convincing...and maybe necessary to the well-being of the person who observes and believes!
WE had some fun speculating on the afterlife, as well. Is Heaven particularly well thought out? Is this one reason for the necessity of Hell as a concept? And how many forms of consciousness may exist in energies and matter so different from our carbon-based featherless biped forms as to be beyond recognition of the five sense ---or at least preconceptions?
One thing I DID come back to fill in: after coasting down Sixth Avenue off Banker's Hill, which is a pretty grand launch pad, we made it to the Baltic without wrecking and hugged and started talking about how to measure the work of the bike rides. The Marc suggests totaling the miles of all the roads, and I mention the hills, how if one were a stickler, it's possible to measure the inclines and multiply them by the familiar force of gravity across the topographical changes, height by distance times mass in order to measure, in essence, the joules or calories burned by the work. So as we get increasingly technical, prodded on by the presence of our mathematically gifted friend and biking gang leader, what does Smorg do but quip: "I would measure my ride by the hamburgers I eat afterwards! This ride was about two hamburgers!"
What a wonderful time: I hope to practice meditation in each thing I do, and not lose time trying to summon the energy to do it. I think I could write twice as much as this, and may have to do just that! But that's one for the blog....and it's time for a shower now!
There's gotta be a sequel to this, I guess, so much more in-depth stuff...with research and networking, there's just not been time...okay, talking to four of my favorite people DID take up a lot of the time, as it does, oh, almost every day (different people, for the most part!)
Not to mention the many other bike rides...I would love to have written about them, each and every one...but hey, might be a good time to reflect on the summer I actually spent out LIVING!!!