Bikepacking and the Way of Aloneness.

Have to say I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the upcoming bikepacking trip. Not sure why, I’ve done many thousands of kilometres in the past, maybe it’s a feeling of it being pointless, like I have nothing further to prove with regard to ability to do long distances and so it’s no longer a challenge. Maybe doing the Nullarbor would be, but that’s just a question of planning and being able to do 200 kilometres a day, which on the flat is not as difficult as it sounds. Decidedly on the list.

Maybe the point of long-distance bike riding is in the fact that it’s meaningless. You start somewhere at some point in time and from there you move towards your destination, which could be where you started; A to A can involve a long bicycle ride around a continent or even the planet. Day to day you cannot know what challenges you will face, flat tyres, mechanical failures, steep climbs that appear endless, bad road surface, heat and rain, nowhere to camp, a very sore backside… But there are also those good moments such as stopping to admire a glorious landscape, people you meet, fun downhills, the sense of total freedom, and noticeable improvements to your body, and your mental state.

It’s without ‘meaning’, just like life where your point of departure is a maternity ward, if you’re lucky enough, and your destination is death. In between is existing day by day with all its pain and joy, the purpose is to live for others and as perfectly as possible for a being that is as good as it is bad, but has the freewill to decide between the two, and can expect to make a wrong choice, in some small way at least, everyday. On a bicycle you keep peddling, not looking up searching for the top of that hill you are climbing, you are entirely in the present moment, pain is part of the experience, but not suffering because that is a choice.

Alone on the road, you can reflect and maybe find something in Miyamoto Musashi’s (1584 – 1645) “Dokkodo” or “The Way of Aloneness” that speaks to you in 2022.

1. Accept everything just the way it is.

2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.

3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.

4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.

5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.

6. Do not regret what you have done.

7. Never be jealous.

8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.

9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.

10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.

11. In all things have no preferences.

12. Be indifferent to where you live.

13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.

14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.

15. Do not act following customary beliefs.

16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.

17. Do not fear death.

18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.

19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.

20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.

21. Never stray from the way.

From Wikipedia – portrait samurai and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi.

Trash the book.

It’s not something that was easy to let go, but I felt I had to delete the near-completed book I had been working on for the past four years. What originally I thought would be a fairly straight forward telling of my experience as a street boy in London’s Piccadilly Circus in the early seventies, became a major undertaking when I realized the impact it had on later life. Writing about what happened, as a few have done already, is I feel useless if it doesn’t address the how and why of a teenager going in a relatively short space of time from average schoolboy to something that struggles to live when returned to mainstream society. There are many other aspects I feel are worth discussing including that not all those we called ‘punters’, were bad men. As a boy, you often would see their inner struggle play out on their faces, but to discuss that there would be a need to describe, as far as would be necessary for clarity and understanding, the interaction between young person and adult. This is where problems could arise with Australian ‘child abuse material’ legislation which eager to close all possible loopholes, and signal to the electorate their superior moral virtue, politicians have made such a minefield that any discussion that deviates from an infantile generalized statement of ‘absolute good on one side and absolute evil on the other’ is impossible. Small children are mostly incapable of understanding grey areas such as there are times when stealing food is admissible.

The solution could be to edit out anything possibly problematic but the legislation is such that even a specialist solicitor with whom I discussed the book was unable to categorically say whether some situations as I intended to describe them, and including ones not involving actual sexual activity, would not be in breach. I can’t even be sure that giving a few examples of how ridiculous the legislation is would not result in an early morning visit by agents of the executive branch. Robert Louis Stevenson in his ‘Essays in the Art of Writing’ wrote that worse than a lie is being loose with the truth. Deliberately editing out important information.

There are two things I could do, (1) finish the work and keeping it as best I can withing the boundaries of legislation, and hope for the best should it land me in court, or (2) delete the whole thing and to hell with it. I chose the second option because whereas in 1895 the presiding judge in Oscar Wilde’s trial instructed the jury to disregard what the mob thought about the accused and what was printed in the media, the situation now is reversed. The mob and the rags that feed its outrage and hate, will determine the verdict.

Maybe there will be a time when I’m in place where freedom of thought and speech still exist, and what could be a socially useful work can be published without risking jail.

In the mean time, bring on the peace and beauty of the wild.