Russian Roulette

     Spring in Vermont.
     It snowed last Saturday.
     On Easter Sunday it was 70 degrees.
     Tomorrow, the Vermont Public Radio weatherman says, we may be “pinged” by pea-sized hail.
     Sorry, Mr. Weatherman. When you’re riding a bicycle up a mountain in a hailstorm, you aren’t being “pinged.”
     You’re being hurt.
     I do not want to write about politics today, or about global climate change – if I can help it.
     I just want to write about riding a bicycle.
     But …
     The bicycle is man’s finest creation – with the possible exception of the saxophone and the piano – but not excepting the computer and the airplane, the electric dynamo, the steam engine, the blast furnace, the atomic bomb, the newspaper, the Internet, and all the art and religion and monuments men ever made or fought over.
     Do you know why?
     Because you can’t abuse a bicycle.
     You can’t use a bicycle for ill.
     You could leave it out in the rain, or forget to oil the chain, but what have you hurt by it?
     The bicycle.
     You haven’t hurt a human or an animal or a plant.
     You haven’t hurt anything that can feel, anything that was ever alive.
     No one ever assembled armies on bicycles and invaded other countries, murdering as they went.
     Or worshiped bicycles.
     Or used bicycles to mislead people, or take their money.
     The worst thing you could do with a bicycle, aside from leaving it out in the rain, is to ride it aimlessly around instead of doing chores.
     And that isn’t a bad thing to do.
     I ride a bicycle around aimlessly every day it doesn’t rain, if I can. I don’t hurt anyone by it, except myself. I ride up impossibly steep mountains. Then I look around and ride down.
     It’s the best thing I can possibly do, I think.
     Beethoven thought the best thing he could do every day was to walk in the woods around Vienna, with his shirt off in the summer, in the rain and snow in the winter. That’s when he did his composing. All he did indoors was to write it down.
     “If all else is denied to me, I can find comfort in nature and in my heavenly art, the only true divine gifts of Heaven,” the maestro wrote.
     And who would disagree with Beethoven?
     A little snow and rain and hail is no big deal, of course. Certainly not this week, when the biggest outbreak of tornadoes in half a century killed 250 people in the South and Midwest. These tornadoes, and other tornado clusters this month, may have nothing to do with global warming. They may have nothing to do with man’s voracious appetite for just about everything, especially oil and money.
     But I tell you what: I wouldn’t play Russian roulette, even with a pistol with 1,000 chambers, and if only one of them was loaded.
     Because the cost of the losing, no matter what the odds, outweighs anything I could possibly gain.
     That’s why I find the Republican Party, the world’s chief enemies of science, with the possible exception of the Taliban, so vile, so ignorant, dishonest and repellent: because they are playing Russian roulette with the planet.

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