It’s the principle of the matter

Mountain biking is an incredible sport. It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding and I love every minute of it. Best of all, it’s something you can do with friends.

It is a highly technical sport, demanding balance, strength, agility, alertness and cardiovascular fitness. It is also a highly artistic sport, requiring finesse, creativity and individual flair. That said, there are certain fundamentals or underlying principles that I have learned cannot be ignored without consequence.

One of the more important principles in this sport relates to the simple yet elusive matter of balance. Though I am only a beginner, I’ve repeatedly taken note of the value of having “heavy” feet and “light” hands. This principle may be familiar to those of you who ride horses, though your feet are clipped to pedals instead of suspended in stirrups. The temptation is to muscle your way around using your hands and arms (abusing the handlebar or the reins), but that causes unhelpful tension throughout the rest of your body and displaces your center of gravity.

Another key point is the principle of relaxation. Racing through the woods on two wheels is exhilarating and if you’re not mindful you’ll reflexively hold your breath during the trickier moments, say in a particularly challenging downhill or on a switchback. Your body naturally tenses up when you hold your breath and tension on a bicycle, as on a horse or even in life, is your enemy.

If you are contemplating or in the middle of trying something new, take the time necessary to familiarize yourself with the basic principles governing that activity as best you can given your limited knowledge and experience. It will shorten your learning curve and improve your chances for a safe and positive outcome.

Side Effects

Various systems of medicine have developed around the world and each possesses its own unique character, emphasis and approach. The overall “shape” of each system reflects in many ways the dominant cultural, political, economic and philosophical forces at work in its country of birth, and it is thus that we have the so-called “Eastern” and “Western” systems of medicine.

These geographic blocks can be broken down further, into systems that can be differentiated largely by the time of their birth, though those lines are blurred to the degree that the older systems maintain relevance and continue to be used in later eras.

Medical interventions either have an effect on the channels which allow for the flow of the vital force through man or they are of no effect. With pharmaceutical drug based interventions there is often talk of “side effects, but to me there is no such thing. Effects, whether desired, unwanted or unintended, are effects. If there are unwanted effects, the intervention is not sufficiently targeted.

That said, the perfect or most judicious and rational intervention may not resolve the disease condition. It may instead remove a layer of the imbalance, causing the body to adopt a new adaptive response. If the physician is sufficiently understanding of the individual case of disease, as revealed through the totality of its symptoms, such shifts are not cause for alarm, instead, they may be a signal from the body that progress is being made toward restored health.

Individual Initiative

The future of the world hangs upon the initiative of the individual. As with our physical bodies, individuals cluster and coordinate into groups of individuals and groups of individuals organize into larger systems, but the health of the body of humanity depends upon the health of its individual members, just as the health of a man depends upon the health of the cells which combine to form his body.

Every individual counts. Just as leukemia, a cancer of the blood, is characterized by a proliferation of abnormal white blood cells, an errant individual has an effect on the body of humanity to the degree that his influence disturbs other balances. Health is a delicate balance, the result of an incredibly complex array of processes and interactions. It is easy to upset that balance, but fortunately for us the human body and the human race have both proven to be remarkably resilient.

Nature has a way of restoring balance, but her ways are impartial to a fault. If we allow balance to be set by default, we as a race may eventually find ourselves holding the short stick. If, on the contrary, we employ our individual initiative to care for the body of which we are a a part, we have the opportunity to rise above the default outcome and to live as responsible stewards of the world that is so clearly in our hands.

Individual initiative allows us to raise the bar, to operate well above the lowest common denominator. Individual initiative got us into this mess. Individual initiative is strong enough to get us out of it.

If we don’t, something else will. And the answer may not be to our liking.



Moving On

If you’ve lived any amount of time on earth, you’ve been hurt by another. Whether the injury was caused by someone near and dear or relatively unknown, the pain is real when hearts are broken, trust is violated or feelings are hurt. Feeling this pain is normal and to be expected.

That said, you must be careful never to wallow in this state for long. You mustn’t linger. Employing ignoble tactics such as revenge, self-pity or any one of the various forms of hatred that are commonly put to work at such times may give temporary relief from the pain, but they do not possess the curative power necessary to making a full recovery. You have to find a dignified way to move on.

When you have a hard time letting go your cup slowly but surely begins to spill over, not with joy but with suffering. Other areas of your life begin to be affected, or “infected” by this debilitating state of being. Your relationships at home and at work, your physical and mental health and your ability to handle future challenges are all eventually compromised. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “when.”

The ability to let go honorably is one of the hallmarks of one who lives impeccably. It is not always the easiest route, but it is the most certain.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ~ Winston Churchill

The Elegant Solution

Having been moving through one of the most layered and complex “cold/flu” bugs I’ve ever come across over the course of the last week, I cannot help but give thought and credit to one of the greatest marvels of creation: the immune system.

The immune system is one of the most complex and interesting systems of the body. Without it, you cannot live for long on earth. When it is compromised, so too is your health. When it is healthy and functioning as it was designed, you can interact with the world around you with relative impunity.

Current thinking on the immune system breaks it down into three primary components: innate, acquired and passive. Your cough reflex, tears, skin, mucus, enzymes in tears and skin oils as well as the wide variety of innate humoral immunity (e.g. interferon and interleukin-1 which causes fever), are all part of your innate immune system. Your acquired immune system is immunity that develops when you are exposed to various antigens. And your passive immune system includes certain types of white blood cells, blood chemicals and proteins and it plays a dual role of directly attacking xenobiotics and complementing the other forms of immunity.

Proper nutrition goes a long way to building a healthy immune system, but so too does letting your immune system do its job. We’ve learned a lot about nutrition over the last few decades and my impression is that we are on the verge of another series of important discoveries that will come as a result of the growing body of scientific research in this area. We’ve also come to learn the importance of the proper balance of rest and exertion, though few in the industrialized nations manage to arrange their lives in a way that allows for rest. Modern society seems to demand constant stimulation.

What we’ve failed to recognize as a society, however, is the enormous power of the acquired immune system. We are trained now from a very young age to suppress the very system that is learning its way around the constantly changing environment. Have a fever? Take an aspirin. Sore throat? Whip out the z-pack. Mucus congestion? Take an expectorant. Troublesome cough? Reach for the ol’ syrup. But at what cost?

Remember that the acquired immune system depends on its exposure to and successful handling of viruses and bacteria that are foreign to the body for it to learn and grow stronger. If you arbitrarily short-circuit that process because of the discomfort, inconvenience or fear of it getting worse, you not only limit your acquired immunity you also prevent your body from dealing with the antigen in the most elegant, efficient and safe manner it knows how. You may address what you thought was the problem (runny nose, fever, etc.) but in so doing you are stripping the body of its most elegant solution to handling the invader.

One of the central challenges we face in health care – one that has significant implications for our future ability as a race to deal with the environment – is that of restoring balance in the way we work with our acquired immune systems. This is obviously a complex subject, but my impression is that the “suppress now, rest later” mentality we’ve come to accept over time is not always the best approach.

Life is Trusteeship

Trusteeship is one of the great words of life because it concentrates in a single expression the essence of all true living. It inspires man with the revelation of his constant relation to himself, to all others and to the Infinite. It gives a royal dignity to life, making man, not a mere isolated individual, but interblended with other lives and an indispensable factor in the whole scheme of living.

The moment you realize that you are naught but a steward for all that comes your way in the living of life, you are free to begin living as you were born to live. You realize that you are no longer alone, that you are an integral part of the body of humanity.
My hope in this blog is to find the words to describe the means by which you can become a responsible and capable trustee in every aspect of your life. As a trustee, you administer in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Who are your beneficiaries? In some cases you can name them. In others, those who benefit from your decisions and actions shall remain anonymous. In either case, someone will benefit to the degree that you uplift, refine and improve all that comes your way.