Yes, we all experience terrible things… I like to see it as this is our species-wide endeavor. How do we change what happened to us into how to live better. That’s the great great conundrum. –Ocean Vuong on PBS
Every year I read the MacArthur Foundation awards. The writer Ocean Vuong was amongst the class of 2019 MacArthur Fellows. Over a series of a few days I watched the two or three minute summary videos posted for each fellow. Ocean’s stood out to me, but it wasn’t until a few months later when I came back to it, and found more interviews with him that I started to understand why his work resonated with me. There were parallels to the way he was trying to write about a new way of being in the world to what I have been trying to do here, write about cycling as a way to live that is powerful and vibrant.
Ocean’s novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, is a lot of things, but a central theme has to be American masculinity. What does it mean to be a man? On the bicycle I discovered I had strengths I didn’t recognize before, and one of those was a loving heart. The heart literally drives your motion on the bicycle. This is so powerful to let your light shine this way but somehow rather than celebrating it universally our society can sometimes be critical of those who ride bicycles.
Writing helped me understand, that although you can technically be a victim…whether you live in victimhood is up to you. We can’t change what happens to us. But we can change how we live in order to have a successful life. I think one of the great powers of writing is when you can take your story and present an alternate future of where it is headed, you can take control of your life. —Ocean Vuong
There is a wisdom to accepting what happened is beyond your control.–Ocean Vuong
What I learned from these refuge women is you don’t have to talk it out. That is the great western myth. That you got to talk it out, get a therapist, lay it all out. –Ocean Vuong
A lot of the times I ride it out, and work it out by using that energy to try and understand where people are coming from. One of the great gifts of cycling is it helps cultivate self-empathy if you let it. And starting with self-compassion, you can expand your awareness more to what is going on with others, who are unique, and also not so different from us.
What they can do is say regardless of what happened, I care for you, and I’m going to find a way to keep caring for you. —Ocean Vuong
Recently my mother told me to keep riding my bike. This kind of verbal encouragement and acceptance of what I do, of who I am, means a lot to me. It starts here, creating that culture of encouragement between our loved ones, within our families.
Rage and anger are energies. They are raw energies ready to be recycled and reused. But if we use them, anger is a force that extinguishes the wielder as well as the world. I’m more interested in using the energy of compassion and understanding. I’m at my best when I say, I’m angry about this, but I need to know why you are doing it to me. —Ocean Vuong
It is true we are all alone in this world, but equally true we couldn’t do anything by ourselves. Vuong gives ‘the ten books he needed to write my novel’ here at Literary Hub. I’ve tried to document my sources of inspiration here on this blog, including the first hand experience that I am having on my everyday rides with my friends in our community. The really beautiful and exceptional thing about cycling is everyone can embody this identity and experience the world in this way. That’s why I keep inviting people to join the fun fun fun. We can actually do what Thoreau urges us to do, and experience the world through each other’s eyes, like what literature does. Hope to see your light shining on a ride!
What a man leaves behind is what a man is. –Toni Morrison, “A Mercy”, quoted in The Sun Magazine, March 2020
Further Reading: A previous post on Comprehensive Planning as a tool for humanity’s development: https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/planning-for-a-healthy-legacy/