The Descent: What is life

When entertaining questions of an existential quality, it often helps to look inward. You see, I love mountain biking; It is a rough sport that is both thrilling and dangerous. It can be horrible: Getting caught in the rain on a windy afternoon, or climbing a hill in extreme heat. There is so much struggle in it: choosing your line, wondering what is to come, riding it out when it gets rough, making hard decisions, and committing even when you get scared. It can also be beautiful: The birds in the mountains, the wind in the treetops from a 100 mile vista, or the relief felt when reaching the top of the mountain and riding down in an exciting blaze.

There are a thousand tiny thoughts and little moments contained in a single mountain biking trip, all of which reflect the human spirit. In these many moments there emerges a state of mind, where you forget about everything that isnt the next rock, root, or bend. Joy and pain melt away into nothing. The focus is so intense, you forget where you are, what you are doing, or that you are even alive

This state had been described as “flow.” When the million little moments and thoughts melt together into one, singular experience. In mountain biking, it’s desirable; To temporarily forget our problems, obligations, and the many things constantly on our minds can be a relief. It is a vacation from ourselves. Yet when it ends, we get off the bike and move on to the next experience.

In life, when the ride ends, it ends.

In these moments of “flow,” it’s clear that life is not what we want to believe it is. It is not our feelings, worries, hopes, dreams, or whatever else. When we step outside our emotions, we see that we are simply an object moving through space, going from one place to the next. Plants do not have feelings, worries, hopes, or dreams. They are bound by this yoke, the inexorable journey toward death. Bound to the truth of objects moving through space.

Yet this is our gift, to be able to experience our passage through space and time. It is also our curse, and in life our concern with small day-to-day inconveniences, fears, anxieties, hopes, etc, are very similar to the flow of mountain biking. We forget that we are all on a ride down the hill. We move through space, until one day we will move no more.

So while the message of my story is rather tired, it is important to remember that life is a ride down a mountain. We can choose to remain caught in the mindless descent, worried about things to come. Or we can choose to have a moment of clarity, and appreciate our lives for what they are.

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