I am no one and nothing. This is as much a statistical expression of my importance as it is an exercise in humility. One of roughly four billion of my species, alive for a picosecond of geologic time, my individual identity, diluted still further by a pseudonym and the ephemeral nature of this pixelated medium, is vague and fleeting to the point of comedy. The ‘I’ I refer to may not really exist, may just be a whorl of dust in infinity, is at the very most a product, a projection, of all those other whorls around me, all of us sheltering under an angry sky, capering across our lives in flight from predators both real and imagined.
I sometimes get all caught up in what people think of me, as if that matters, as if I know what they really think, and if I knew, as if I could change myself. I am, in no small measure, what I’ve been made by everyone else. Put me in a line of cyclists, and I will pedal. Put me in the grocery store, and I will shop.
Identity is a funny thing, how we perceive ourselves, how we define our “true selves.” I have mostly ceased to believe in such a thing. And while that may seem sad, the idea that there is no true me, nothing unique or special or abiding about my existence, it is also enormously freeing. It gives me less to maintain, less ego to coddle and stroke.
In looking at myself, I can break down almost completely what I am trying to express by putting on these shoes, this shirt, getting my hair cut just this way. It’s fun to paint that picture. It’s what we do, as humans. In fact, it may even be a reaction to our insignificance that we set so much store by our individual identities, tilting at the windmill of our comical sameness.
We love constructing identities so much that we even anthropomorphize objects. We name our cars, our bikes. We ascribe them genders and describe their personalities.
And while I’m not one to name my bikes, if I squint, I can just about see who they are. My road bike is a Frenchman, more of a swashbuckler than I am, a little more buttoned up, a little more confident. My mountain bike is a harried surgeon, very particular about his lines, very deliberate in all his decisions. I wish sometimes he’d let loose, but it’s not in his nature. I have another road bike who is clearly a college student with tastes which surpass his means. He’s that guy who will never properly grow up, but will wrinkle pre-maturely, maybe even color his hair and then pretend he hasn’t. He’s vain, with no real cause to be.
It is ridiculous to talk about bikes this way, but for me, it seems no more ridiculous than to talk about myself this way, and it’s more fun, less freighted, less (un)important.
This week’s Group Ride asks not who you are, but who is your bike? How did he/she/it get that way? Do bike identities change? How? Who do you wish your bike really was? I suspect my bike is better than me. Is yours better than you?