Birthday greetings!

by Raymond Parker on April 5, 2012

in Autobiography, Cycling, Health, History

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“Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

“When you get to the summit of the mountain, keep climbing.” ~ Tibetan proverb.

If you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, it’s my birthday.

I don’t know what I’m looking for—congratulations, solace?—I usually wouldn’t mention it, but it’s my 60th.

You read that right. Looking at the numerical representation gives me the willies. How did this happen?

Well, I might answer myself by saying: Not without a fight.

My fifties began with a visit from the dreaded crab, in the form of a tumor on my right tonsil. I beat that with the help of the great people at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, and returned to cycling, setting my sights on the 2007 edition of Paris-Brest Paris. As told in my “Long Road to PBP,” I’d battle a return of same disease to get there.

So, despite an inauspicious beginning, halfway through my fifth decade I realized one of my greatest cycling ambitions, even if in the end I failed to complete the ride. Nonetheless, I took away great lessons from the attempt, along with the disappointment.

What were those lessons?

Let me begin by paraphrasing the great Italian climber Giusto Gervasutti, who said “it’s not the summit of the mountain that’s important, but the climb towards it.”

Too often, we spend our days looking backwards or forwards, with nostalgia, regret, or hope. The dictum “Be here now” (popularized by 70s guru Ram Das) may seem trite, but it really is in my estimation the most fundamental of all spiritual, or psychological teachings.

I’ve come closest to that ideal on the bike, or in the mountains, where carefree (or scared shitless!) the shining moment banishes chattering delusions.

I’ll not pretend it’s easy to transcend fear or pain, to embrace the present; escape into fantasy is often easier. But, it seems to me (and I have an essay in progress on this), that we live in a culture of distraction—television, newspapers, the Internet—that leaves very little time for introspection.

It’s been quite a ride from the place illustrated in the opening photo on the home page of this site (and recently added to VeloWeb’s Facebook page). This “milestone” in my life certainly has me scanning back and forth, pondering Gauguin’s existential question “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

In my case, the answer, at least to the latter query, has most often been “Somewhere on a bike,” and I believe in large part I have that to thank for getting me here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Conor Ahern April 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Happy Birthday Ray!!

I will have my wife make a death by chocolate cake in your honour, which I will eat and describe to on these very pages. You can’t do better than that??

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lee kenney April 7, 2012 at 7:15 am

I recently celebrated a birthday , ate chocolate quinoa cake with cream cheese icing and transferred components to a new to me L.H.T. frame . I too thank the bike for getting me to this moment . Speaking of D. by C., try putting a little chili in it, Picante by Lindt is an example . P.S Age and cunning= more time for chocolate.

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Conor Ahern April 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Chocolate. The real “Vitamin C”.

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Vik April 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Happy Birthday!

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Raymond Parker April 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for the greetings all. I have consumed a cacao tree whole.

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Ryan April 11, 2012 at 2:53 am

Happy (belated) Birthday! Nice to see another ‘April birthday’ 😉

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