Introduction: Riding the Triple Gem
When speaking of climbing Mt. Everest, mountaineer and blogger Alan Arnette said: "There are a thousand reasons to turn around and only one to keep going. You really have to focus on the one reason that's most important and unique to you" This is true of any adventure that we think we want to do, but in reality would rather not do. We dream of, and sign ourselves up for adventures, and then find a multitude of reasons for backing out. As a cyclist, one of the great lessons I have learned is that there comes a point in any ride where the pull of the couch is almost overwhelming. I would be so much more comfortable and pleasant to do nothing, but then how would we grow? How would we ever expand beyond the lazy, comfort seeking being that lounges around in the womb of ease?And so we go.
Yeet, why we make this chice, following this one reason, is difficult to understand. Climbing Mt. Everest is an extreme, possibly the most extreme venture known to man. Most of us face an Everest of smaller degree, and still face the same thousand to one odds of finishing. Most of my experiences have been in bike races/rides. Some I have finished, and some have virtually destroyed me mentally and psychologically. And certainly the case could be made, you might say, that if this is the case, perhaps you care too much about a "bike race." I agree. Still, it is often this kind of endeavor that defines the character of the being we call self.
At one point in my so-called cycling career, I had made a year long plan to do a 1200 kilometer ride that required increasingly long qualifying rides. I finished the 200 and 300 km rides, and moved on to the 400 km ride starting in Enumclaw Washington. This was a big loop around Mt. Rainier with three major climbs, at the time the most daunting ride I had ever attempted by far. I was naive about the importance of equipment, and the variance in quality of tires. About forty miles in, I had my first flat. And then another, and then another. I some how got 130 miles in, and over the top of White Pass, but was just worn down physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. I patched the offending tire several times, even changed both switching front to back, and as a last ditch effort booted the tire with a Clif Bar wrapper, this final episode taking place in the woods in one of the most desolate places I have been, the downside of White Pass. I was beaten. This was easily one of the most bitter and disappointing moments in my life. I had run out of reasons to go on. And while I have never repeated these mistakes, I still regret this experience.
I have to make a qualifying statement here. I am singing the praises of going on when there is just that one final reason, and yet there are also times when we do go on, times when we really should quit. There are many who have injured themseves or worse by going on. I am thinking of the great cyclist Tom Simpson who died on Mt. Ventoux in the Tour de France, with amphetamines in his pocket, as well as in his blood. He wouldn't quit. He fell once, and told spectators to put him back on his bike. The next time he fell, he did not get back up. You have to know the difference.
One other subject that I should touch on is this "self" that I suggested was defined by the kind of events I am talking about. The Buddhists would say that there is no such thing as a self. In fact, they would say there is no "I" here. This is the concept of emptiness, a complicated subject that I will touch on later. Some have misquoted the Buddha as saying that "all is illusion." He did not say that.