Friday, May 6, 2016

#127 / The Bicycle Principle

I assume that most people connected to the Internet have my experience. We all get a lot of free and inspiring advice on how to run our lives. We get a lot of "self-help" suggestions intended to prod us into action, like the Facebook post that tells us: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life!" 

Such advisories certainly don't hurt, and I always read them before I delete them. I usually discover an echo of what my parents used to tell me, when I was young, and they were still alive. My favorite, from my Dad, has always been: "If you don't have a dream, you can't have a dream come true."

This advice has served me well. And another one from my parents: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."

Anyway, on April 27th, I received a bulletin of this kind from Upworthy. Its advisory was titled, "How to get unstuck in life by simply making a next move — any next move." This advisory promoted what it called the bicycle principle:

It's easier to make changes in life once you’re moving. Just as with riding a bike, you can steer more easily the faster you’re going. And conversely, if you’re not moving and you try to steer, you’ll probably fall down.

The observation at the center of this "bicycle principle" is undeniable. You can't steer if you are not moving. I want to make an additional observation, however, because most of us definitely feel lots of "movement," and that we're moving rather "faster" than is comfortable. Few of us believe that the speed of change we are experiencing lets us "steer more easily." Quite the opposite, in fact.

What's missing from the "bicycle principle?" Well, looking at things from a collective perspective, the momentum of change seems to be sweeping us along to destinations unknown, and destinations that are probably disastrous. 

The "bicycle principle" is something that applies in the arena of individual action, and in our individual lives, and I think its advice is correct. We do need to get ourselves underway, individually, if we want to steer our lives in a new direction. That means we need to pedal!

However, the "bicycle principle" fails to account for the fact that we are not only individuals. We are part of a greater community, as well, and we can't steer towards a collective destination by pedaling along as individuals. We need to act together. That's where the "bicycle principle," as articulated by Upworthy, doesn't really help us very much.

Pedaling together is called "politics." That's how we create the world in which we most immediately live. So, here's my advisory: Don't think you can get to any worthwhile destination by your individual efforts alone. No matter how fast you pedal, you're not going to get to anywhere good by your individual decisions on where to steer yourself.

Let's get where we want to go together. We won't get there any other way!

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