A Perspective on Perspective
In the late-Fall of 1982 I had reached the near mid-way point of a three week solo bicycle tour of Scotland. I had pedaled out of London, rode the rail to the south of Edinburgh, and got back to cycling due north along the eastern shoreline of Scotland for a week or so before getting to one of my most anticipated sections of the journey: The Orkney and Shetland Isles.
I took an early-morning ferry from John ‘o Groats to Stromness in hopes of pedaling to my bed ‘n breakfast in Earl’s Palace on the West Mainland Isle by the late afternoon or early evening timeframe. Having ridden a bike for many thousands of miles over my life, I have a very particular (some might say prefer the word “peculiar”) perspective about cycling: I love everything about it. And this year I’m celebrating my 40th year of cycling—racing, touring, repairing (The Spoke, Denver), all-season mountain biking… I love it all!
Well, on this section of my glorious pedal around most of the coast of Scotland, there was one thing that I was the most excited about. It’s probably the one thing most people wouldn’t anticipate: the wind.
The wind throughout the entirety of Scotland is a well known characteristic of the Isle. But in the farthest reaches of the western and northern parts of Scotland the winds rarely get below forty miles per hour and are considered pretty normal at a fifty to sixty mile per hour clip, or “Force”. Trees (like the inset picture of a thousand year-old pine… when the wind wasn’t blowing…), shrubs, rocks, homes, and even the people grow up with a very certain wind-induced slant to their demeanor due to how the constancy of wind shapes everything!
As I battened down the sixty or so pounds of gear on my bicycle to begin the pedal from the seaport at Stromness to about fifty miles north to Mrs. McDonald’s B&B in Earl’s Palace, I tried to gauge what sort of tailwind I might enjoy to push me along.
Well, suffice it to say that I finished the approximately fifty mile or so section in a wee bit over an hour—and I never had more fun in all my life! The strong and constant northerly winds very powerfully and “lovingly” pushed me up the coast line as if I were a sailboat without a care in the world.
I didn’t see an auto, herd of sheep, or lone housewife on a bike with a large pack and loaf of bread the entire ride so I could use all of the typically narrow road when a particularly strong gust nearing seventy-plus miles per hour would push me one way or the other. And since my trustworthy Masi bicycle was secured with a good deal of ballast, I was like a fast-moving mini-van glommed onto the road!
The winds pushed so hard that there was no way I could spin fast enough to keep up with the cadence. So I sang, laughed, hooped and hollered for most of the ride into an early-evening pinkish glow of clouds to the north. Like every one of my other B&B or farmyard camping hosts, Mrs. McDonald greeted me with much warmth, interest, and hospitality upon arriving in Earl’s Palace.
“A Wee Bit of a Blow”? It’s a Matter of Perspective!
I woke early the next morning with two things on my mind: the great “sailing adventure” the day before and a deep sense of foreboding about the day’s seventy-plus mile ride back south and against the wind that was my dear friend just the day before. I was very excited about the probable challenges that lay ahead, but my perspective about the wind had changed entirely!
As I sat enjoying the pre-Atkins diet of ham, bacon, sausage, several eggs cooked in the fat of the same, and a half-loaf of white bread, I blithely asked Mrs. McDonald what the weather might be this fine day. She casually glanced out the window next to the kitchen stove and said, “Well, it looks as though there’s a wee bit of a blow.”
“Huh…”, I said to myself. “A wee bit of a blow, eh? Great! It should be a perfect day for a pedal, right?”, I inquired of Mrs. McDonald. At this question she gave me one of those “RCA Dog looks” with her head turned slightly askew along with inquiring eyes. “Well, it depends on which way you’ll be goin’ actually!”
I laughed-off the remark as obvious as I walked up the narrow spiral staircase to get my gear ready. But, I also got a glance of the same backyard perspective Mrs. McDonald had as she surmised the day’s weather conditions: There, standing in the backyard, was one large brown and white cow along with five seagulls on the other side of the small yard. The five seagulls were like every Scottish Seagull: webbed feet grasping firmly to the heather below, legs bent, low profile, pointing into the wind… way into the wind. But this time was different. I could sense the seagulls were actually too frightened to move. Really?
Suddenly, something outside my view spooked the gulls into “flight”. Actually, “flight” might be overstating the activity I witnessed: The group of gulls rose only slightly off the ground before four of the five feathered flailers slammed into the side of the cow on the other side of the yard. Each “cow-smeared gull” flapped wildly as it was peeled off the top of the unimpressed bovine by the extremely forceful winds and sent a quarter-mile downwind doing air somersaults and back-flips while trying to recover and take flight in a more respectable way!
I laughed out loud. “A wee bit of a blow!? Oh my God!” Mrs. McDonald obviously has an entirely different perspective on the winds up here! “Lordy mandy…”, I said to myself. “It’s going to be a very long day.” And it was. The seventy-plus mile pedal back to the seaport at Stromness for my return trip ferry took me over seven hours.
But, I had my Scottish tunes, my shortbread, apple and water, my camera and my wind gear carefully prepared for just this sort of condition. No gales, gulls, or guile about the incredibly arduous ride could destroy my perspective of what a great place I was a part of that day! The wild winds simply added to the beauty, mood, and strong Scottish verve of my ride.
Regardless of which way the wind blows, dear friends, our perspective reflects a belief system, inner compass, and the instinctive core motivations for everything we do in life, and in death.
In a busy-sick and frighteningly shallow world, things invisible and instinctual go along unchecked and pushed about in the incessant winds of to-do lists, “ought’s”, obligations… all masked in the untenable myth of multi-tasking. But, on the “road-ride of life” it’s not until times of greatest prosperity and/or privation that our perspective of life is tested—and either found wanting or sufficient for the test.
Did you know that your belief system is directly connected to your core values; and your core values have direct influence over your everyday, itsy-bitsy, mid-sized, and hunormous behaviors? We all need to look far more closely at how our belief systems (our life perspective) hold sway over our little and big challenges and successes in life, don’t we? We all need to go much, much deeper.
What’s your perspective on life? On God… or gods? On faith—everyone has faith in something? On being human? A man? A woman? A child? On being married? On being single? On the stewardship of your time, talents, and treasure? On raising children? On your vocation? On being a mom? A dad? A friend? Brother? Sister? On community? On helping the less-fortunate? On protecting, or not, the unborn? On death—that nasty inevitability we can so thoroughly deny?
It’s very easy… sort of… to create a house-of-cards life in order to ignore the details of what our perspective really is on all of life. And what’s the price of ignoring this most basic call to know ourselves much better than we do… each day? Good heavens! It’s like a bunch of Sea Gulls plastered across the backside of a cow whenever life blows you or me away, dear friends! It’s no way for an Image Bearer of God to live. Living at the behest of life’s circumstantial winds, whims, and whimsy’s is not only a very bad course, but it will eventually drive human being mad. Ergo, if you’re not convinced, grab a glimpse of the network news, and tell me we’re doing just F.I.N.E.
Take flight today! Get to know yourself and upon what belief system, what worldview, what core values, what origins, eschatology, and every day purpose your perspective is built upon. It will make all the difference in the universe.
Living an intentional life is all about making the invisible visible, and thereby actionable. But this truism is countercultural in many ways… Not the least of which is that it’s hard work, involves a faith in God, lots of tears many times, and an unvarnished commitment to community.
Please, please spend the time you and the ones around you deserve to more DEEPLY and THOROUGHLY consider your perspective about the deeply important things of life; the winds of change in your life; as well as the culture, community that you live your life as an active participant of… “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8).
Thank you for your interest and investment in The Training Table. Respectfully speaking, I hope the content acts as a catalyst to continually challenge you to come to terms with your faith, your existing philosophical, personal and / or business presuppositions as means of remembering, revitalizing, rejoining, and renewing in your life… as you run the Godly, good, and generous… race!
All of this is devoted to fulfilling the vision of Feast of the Heart, “Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered reformation, revival, and constructive revolution so that God will be glorified and people blessed.”
Blessing to you and yours, JohnDoz