The Good Wolf
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “my son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one that you feed.”
I am given to understand that our brains get covered in plaque when we don’t exercise. That sounds terrible, a plaque-covered brain; if I needed another reason to ride, that one would be first in line.
I already ride for many reasons; the freedom, the harmony, the sense of flying over the ground. The feeling of strength in my muscles as I force tempo and near my threshold. I love feeling fit, I love how my muscles feel when I touch them, the fibers are there just below the skin.
But I can’t always ride as much as I want or need to, and I can feel my mental state start to deteriorate. Self-doubt creeps in, unnoticed, and when that happens, I find satisfaction in climbing on my bike and going into the red just to prove I can still make myself hurt simply because I want to. It rebuilds the trust I have in myself that I can do whatever needs to be done in life.
Other times, I’ll find myself in an unexplained and unsolicited foul mood that needs an exorcism. I recently had such a day after a short spell off the bike. I knew what I needed to do: go meet the Man with the Hammer. Just going for a ride doesn’t flush the system the way I need it to; I find I need to run it on fumes in order to reboot the system. Five hours into the ride, I was still riding well and still in a dark mood. The policy is to keep turning onto a road that leads farther from home until the lights go out; only then am I permitted to ride home.
The ride through the total exhaustion is where the magic happens; the sensation of hopelessness at the daunting ride ahead slowly melts into certainty that I can override the messages coming from my body and keep chipping away at the task at hand. Eventually, a heavy kind of dull strength returns to my muscles when the Body finally gives in and decides to collaborate in the Mind’s mission to overcome. By the time I get home, drained, I am reborn.
I don’t always need to ride in order to be a complete person, but generally I am a better man when I find the time to turn the legs around. Winter is coming, and the shorter days will make it harder to get out, but I am resolved to continue to feed the Good Wolf.
Vive la Vie Velominatus.