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December 6, 2012

Of bikes, fishing rods and philosophy

Cooperstown Crier

---- — Every time I go to the garage, either to get something or start up the car, I am reminded of at least two activities that I thought I might get to at some point, even in earnest. Intentionality is something philosophers give some thought to. I suspect I would be an ideal case study. My numerous unrealized intentions, always heartfelt at the moment, are usually announced to my wife, Sandy, prior to her downing her first cup of morning coffee. Her response is always the same: “Why do you enjoy making me crazy?”

The road to the underworld is paved with good intentions. Looking at things from a philosophical perspective, I am certain I would be more than welcome, given my penchant for grandiose schemes that peter out as soon as the wind swallows up my words. On the up side, however, I continue to believe that while so much of what I have intended to do I have not done, the reasons are perfectly valid. Clinging again to a philosophical perch, I think each of us needs stuff to choose from in the conduct of our daily lives. I also am convinced that my inclination to believe that I can do some of these things makes me more, not less, human. A great poet writes that “ to err is human, to forgive is divine.” I am all for that.

Since I believe that each of us has within us what R.W. Emerson characterizes as “a spark of the divine,” then I feel well within my rights to forgive myself my many human foibles. The good news is that I habitually do those things I seem most comfortable with and competent to do.

If I am not careful when heading to the garage from the house I might bump my head against the handle bar of the bike I bought several years ago. It hangs upside down just to the right of the door. I bought it on a whim one morning thinking it would be a worthy alternative to running. I think I was energized by watching the Tour de France the previous week. Frankly, while I admire the skill and physical endurance of the riders, it all seems pretty wacky to me. I also would never be caught dead in any of those garishly colorful outfits they wear, regardless of their utility. I did take the bike out for a 15-minute spin one morning. Actually, I rode for about 10 minutes. The last five I walked the bike up our driveway, thankful to once again have my feet planted on terra firma. Aside from absolutely hating shifting gears, which I bungled right from the start, my ample posterior celebrated its freedom from bondage. Bikes are for slim, bird-boned types.

I wish I could recoup the bucks I spent a month or so ago on having the bike tuned up. I may just stick it under the tree come Christmas with this note: Free! Philosophically speaking, it is blessed to give and share one’s bounty. The money would have been better spent on a new pair of hiking shoes.

And then there is the never used LL Bean fishing rod, resting comfortably in its red carrying case, hanging off the end of a shelf in the garage, which is where it has been since the day it arrived. In his book, A River Runs Through it, Norman McClain writes that in his family fishing was more than a pleasant recreational activity, it was a religion. I loved the book and the movie. I have red several fishing classics and loved them all. The writing is often excellent. For many anglers it is indeed a very spiritual experience. Perhaps that is the attraction. Despite the allure, I have never quite been able to get myself to do it. Besides, a man cannot spread himself too thin. I hike, bird, write, read, garden, and mess around with botanical and horticultural interests. Add in family and the necessity for solitude. These are the soul nourishing things I do.

Sandy has a Rube Goldberg vision every once in a while. She sees me on my bike, fishing rod in hand, heading down the hill towards Red Creek. Oh, and I might just be flipping through the pages of my second book while whizzing down Fish Road. I suspect the only part of this image that might come true is the book. We’ll see.