Bike to End Division Supports West Town Bikes
- Which Side of the Tracks Do You Come From?by John Poplett
A fundraising goal of $12,000 was a stretch goal (contributes are still welcome and coming in though!) but one could argue that the other goal, biking to end division, was even stretchier. I mean, when I purchased the domain name, biketoenddivison.org, it sounded a little grandiose, almost pompous.
This is a country that is no stranger to division, more precisely bifurcation:
- Yankees / Dodgers
- The Mason-Dixon line
- Democrat / Republican
- Boxers / Briefs
- Ali / Frazier
- Pro-choice / Pro-life
- Good / Evil
- Wolverines / Buckeyes
- Haves / Have nots
- Heaven / Hell
- Physical health / Mental health
- Mind / Body
- East of the Mississippi / West of the Mississippi
- Blue states / Red states
- Winners / Losers
- Cowboys / Indians
- Guilty / Not-guilty
- Believers / Non-believers
- Vaxxer / Anti-vaxxer
- Racist / Anti-racist
This is the land of the binary. Small towns usually have two sides to the track, a right side and a wrong side. We even frame violently non-binary conditions in binary terms:
- Binary / Non-binary
- On-the-spectrum / Not-on-the-spectrum
- Bi-partisan / Everybody else
Yet, almost nothing in nature is so adamantly, persistently “binary”. Computers are binary. Nature is analog.
The expression “false dichotomy” is redundant; all dichotomies are false.
Whether a pernicious insistence on framing everything in binary terms is an unusually American trait, I cannot say. One wonders though.
We all know that, when a politician calls for an “end to division”, he’s blowing some serious smoke.
So, who am I, a random dude on a bike, to think I can put a dent in it?
Division is a political problem. It is not a spiritual problem. The spiritual life is antithetical to it. People who want to change the world in politics inevitably fail. People who choose to change the world in a spiritual sense have every chance of success. It’s a condition of mind.
That’s one thing I learned on this bike ride. The German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, begins his most famous book with the words “The world is my idea”. That sounds grandiose, self-absorbed, but he knew it was true not just for himself but for all persons. There is no binary condition where there is the world over here and your idea of it over there. They are hopelessly rather, we should say, delightfully co-mingled. To change the world, all you or I have to do is change our idea of it.
We created a little world around a modest fundraising campaign. In this world, there was no division. We put our shoulders behind something that made us feel good and we knew implicitly to be good. We sacrificed a tiny bit and felt good about it.
A man came to my house to quote me on a new hot water heater. I told him about the ride and he handed me $100 in cash. I pulled up along another cyclist on the Robert McClory bike path on my way to Kenosha, told him my story, he reached into his wallet and handed me $10. Later the same day, a woman outside the Harborside Common Grounds Cafe gave me 20. Generous souls. Plenty of friends, families and neighbors found out about what I was doing and pitched in with dollars and equally valued encouragement. Former work colleagues reached with offers to put me up for the night in their homes. It was a wonderful ad-hoc community.
There was no division.
This little experiment can be repeated over and over again. By each of us, all the time. Division only exists with our permission. We can live without it. Division ends when conversation begins. Conversation is a division killer. A more spiritual person would tell you, I suspect, you can only live without it. We need not—to borrow from John Lewis—define ourselves by our differences. That’s a choice. The solution is right there at our feet. We’re all Dorothys with little red slippers on. Each and every one of us can end division, today, right now. All we have to do is click our heels together.