“Humans are really squishy, messy, complicated, and contradictory. That’s what makes life interesting.”
Veggie Grill is damn delicious, but it’s hard to talk and eat at the same time. I’m usually trying to shovel my Santa Fe Chickin’ sandwich into my face as hard as possible. Today, though, there was a screw-up, and I didn’t get my food for a while. So I talked instead.
“Do you know anything about Hegelian dialectics?”
My friends are the best. Most people don’t put up with rambling, half-formed ideas, but mine generally entertain them, even though they haven’t read the books I’m talking about. I’m really grateful for this, as describing things really helps me sort them out in my head. The blank look and continued chewing meant that this was once again one of those times. Whatever.
“Basically, dialectics are a method of finding the truth in a threefold process: First, a ‘thesis’ is presented, which makes some sort of statement about the world. Then, the ‘antithesis’ contradicts it in some fashion. Finally, a ‘synthesis’ is found which resolves the tension between the two opposing sides. It’s a really interesting way of looking at the world; I’ve found it’s way easier to find things that totally contradict each other than I thought. Synthesis is really hard, though. Think about a trial, for example: the story of the plaintiff is told, then the story of the defendant, then the jury figures out what actually happened. There’s three sides to every story.”
Last week, I flipped over the handlebars of a bike. I was pumping as hard as I could, trying to make the light before it turned red, and the chain couldn’t take the tension any longer. It popped off, went between the back wheel and the frame, and stopped it cold. A few seconds later my eyebrows were scraping across the pavement. Lots of blood, but no serious injuries. I’m going to have a few sweet scars, though…
“Anyway, we were talking about feelings and ways people act before, but it’s true of physical bodies as well. Sometimes, accidents happen, and before you can even react, you’re dead. Other times, you escape with very little damage. We’re simultaneously incredibly vulnerable and almost impervious. Some people get in a bike accident and their life is forever changed. Other times, like me last week, you get away with a few scrapes. Once I fell about 8 feet onto my knees. Landed right on some pavement. I walked away 5 minutes later, didn’t even have bruises. I still have no idea what the fuck happened there.
I still haven’t found the synthesis yet.”
After lunch, it’s time to bike home. It’s about 15 miles, which I can do pretty much at the drop of a hat nowadays. I really enjoy biking up Santa Monica Boulevard, but I hate it, too. It’s nice and broad, with two lanes, a bunch of green in the middle, and some bike lanes. Of course, it isn’t all like this, but much of it is. Especially on a day like today, around noon, it’s really pretty in places.
So I’m about 8 miles into my trip, and the next thing I know, I’m on the ground. Here’s the basic problem:
Yeah. Bike lanes don’t help if someone wants to turn right. When alongside cars, it’s very, very important to keep alert for two things: Open doors from parked cars, and drivers who don’t use their turn signals. A few weeks ago, I almost got hit by someone in this same exact way, just a few blocks down the street. I was paying close attention, and actually guessed that they were going to turn before they did. Free driver psychoanalysis done here! But more seriously, this was in the middle of the block. This guy saw that there was a space at this parking garage, hit his breaks and turned right without looking.
“YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER! WATCH WHERE THE FUCK YOU’RE GOING, YOU’RE GOING TO FUCKING KILL SOMEONE! JESUS!”
I ran a systems diagnostic check, and I was good, but enraged. Some pedestrians were screaming, and one ran over and asked if I was okay. “I said, yes, thank you, at least until this guy fucking kills me or someone else,” got back on my bike, and drove off.
At least my handlebars gave him a big long scratch the whole way up his car. Fucker.
There’s also something else interesting in this story as well: Generally, in a car/human interaction, I am the squishy one, and the car is the tank. Yet, in this particular interaction, I basically escaped unscathed, while the car took some damage. Once again, life is surprising, producing an inversion of the expected circumstances.
Anyway, if you drive a car, please, please, please watch what you’re doing. Pedestrians and cyclists don’t have thousands of pounds of metal surrounding them. Cyclists, please stay safe; it’s a jungle out there.
Ultimately, life is made out of these little incidents. Each moment to the next, you have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s exciting, scary, and sloppy. But that’s what makes it interesting. And you also don’t know when it’s going to end.
I still haven’t found that synthesis…