This happened a week or two ago now, but it's not something I was ready to share yet. I don't especially mind getting hurt, but there is something about a person insulting everything that you believe in and stand for that hurts far worse than physical pain. I want to share it.
I am also going to make some analogies to other aspects of life. My intent is not to offend or upset anyone, but I want people to know my feelings.
The last couple of weeks have been rough. I've been leaving the house at about 6 each morning and there have been many evenings I don't get home until well after 9 or 10 (11 on occasion). I was riding home one night and it was nearly 10. Of course it was dark, but I had my bright clothes on and my obnoxious flashing lights so I was seen. Actually I think I'm better seen at night with my blinkies than I am during the day with my bright colored clothes.
I was riding the same route I take every day and a big dually diesel pickup pulled up next to me. He saw me, he even moved a little into the next lane to avoid hitting me. Then he got up along side me, slowed down and nice and slowly pushed me off the side of the road with his diesel behemoth. It wasn't a big deal, the ride got a little bumpy over in the gravel and pot holes, but there was no harm done. Then he slowed a little more so that I was really close (and so that he could could accelerate more). He accelerated. When you accelerate in a behemoth diesel, it lets out a huge cloud of black smoke. It filled my face and lungs. His attempt to spray gravel at me was pretty weak, but the exhaust in my face and his (I'm assuming it was a guy) intentions really hurt.
As soon as I could breath again I gave chase to the pickup. I can often catch cars in the city when they have to stop at stoplights and such. We were on a little country road 3-4 miles to the next stoplight. I didn't catch him to get his plate number. I wonder if that is "assault with a deadly weapon"? It should be. He certainly assaulted me. And a vehicle is certainly a deadly weapon, although getting hit would cause death more quickly, exposure to ambient air pollution (mostly caused by cars) is also closely related to death.
The rest of the ride home I was mad and depressed. What had I done to him? Nothing, except there are many cyclists on the road that don't follow the rules and make drivers mad. He may have been retaliating for that (in which case the "cycling world" may have deserved it). But I personally had done nothing to this motorist. I was doing the exact thing he was doing, trying to get from point A to point B by a means that is faster than walking. Additionally I was trying to get exercise and save the planet from pollution by taking my bike rather than another form of transportation. I have dedicated my life to that goal. I am pursuing a doctoral degree in exercise science and focusing my research on city planning that will help people be more active and less polluting. Exercise and a clean environment are a central part of who I am trying to be. This driver violated everything that I stand for in a very big way. Although there was no physical injury, I have a hard time recalling times I have hurt worse than that night.
The ride home from there seemed to take forever. I thought a lot about that driver. Although his actions were intentional and aimed directly at me personally, there are how many people on the streets every day contributing the same deadly gases and particulate matter to the air I breath? Are they not also taking a direct stand against everything I stand for?
Here comes the analogy. It may seem like a big step, but it was one of the first things I thought of upon arriving at home. The feeling that I had of being completely violated by a person taking intentional steps against things that are a central part of who I am were quite similar to the feelings that I have every year at Christmas and other occasions throughout the year. I am trying to make the smallest impact as possible on the earth. I am trying to teach my children the value of nature and relationships and people rather than stuff. That is a difficult in a world where advertisements are nearly impossible to avoid.
This is hard to say because it is contrary to the beliefs of many of my family members and friends who are very important in my life, and whose generosity I appreciate immensely, but I have to say it so that they can better know who I am. Every Christmas I feel like I just got my face filled with diesel smoke. I stand for simplicity, yet we get packages from all over the country filled with stuff that we have successfully kept out of our home the rest of the year. We love the thought, we appreciate the generosity, we recognize it is "just" tradition, but it goes against those principles that we cherish most in our lives. It should be known that we don't have anything against gifts (although it wouldn't be the end of the world not to get gifts). It is "stuff" that we have a problem with. Plants for our home or garden, donations in our name to charitable organizations, or toys that the boys could go give to those in need would be gifts that really meant something to us.
I think that part of the problem is that we have two kids that are the only grand kids and great-grand kids for all but one set of great-grandparents. Around New Years, my wife and I contemplated sending a letter to all relatives saying that we were going to do a gift free year as a way of showing our kids that life isn't about material gifts. We didn't, in large part because our relatives are distant and gifts are ways that our kids can remember them and we think that's important. One of the big things that I struggle with is the fact that I don't get to buy my kids gifts. The Mugwump is at a point where I can see that he should have a certain toy that I enjoyed growing up. I know that he would enjoy it and it would be less than $10 for me to get it for him. It would be a meaningful gift given to fill a known void that would provide a means for us to play together. I won't buy it, for the same reason I have restrained from buying him a gift the last four years. He gets enough "stuff" from everyone else and he doesn't need any more. Besides that I know that we don't have anywhere to put it. I wish I could have that opportunity.
Besides my religion and my family, today I have written about those things that matter most to me in my life. I hope that nobody took offense. I would also be interested to know what others who try to live simply do to combat this problem.