He is heavy but he’s still my brother.

1969.  Bobby Scott and Bob Russell penned and recorded the popular ballad “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (I was always told “Ain’t”  ain’t a word and ya ain’t supposed to say it. I suppose song lyrics are exempt from this long standing law of grammar and so the grammar police have kept their distance).  For a long time I never understood this phrase.  What does that mean – He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother?  That just doesn’t make any sense.  So, I set about finding out what it meant.  I liked the explanation best found in Wikipedia:

“It was also reported through the media of the time that the song was written by a Vietnam veteran. He and his company were approaching a town after it had been bombed. A little boy was carrying the dead body of a younger boy away from the burning village. One of the soldiers asked the boy if the dead child was heavy. The child responded, ‘He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.'”

Since the above did not have a citation, its veracity is questionable.  I still like it.  The origin of the title is varied and interesting.  Check it out on Wikipedia if you want to know more (and for the record, I did donate to the Wikipedia foundation during the last fundraiser.  You should as well.  Seriously.  Shut up and do it.)

1969 was also the year my brother was born.  If fact, it was on the eave of the Summer of 69′.   Those who know the song that bears that title, know it was recorded by Brian Adams in 1984 (if not, you do now).  1984 was a very significant year for me in many ways and remains so today.  However, my point here is that 1969 was the year my bother was born. Summer of 69  (and some say it was the summer of love but technically it was not – that was 67) was recorded in 1984.  1984 is also a famous and brilliant novel by author George Orwell.  DO YOU SEE HOW THINGS ARE CONNECTED!  AMAZING!

amaaaazing

(Yes I am a fan of Archer.  Thank you FX, writers, actors, and animators for putting together some the most side splitting funny on TV.  If there was ever a time I was granted to sit in on a writing or reading session of Archer, my life would be complete)  Many decades later my brother decided he wanted to change his life.  He wanted to be a better person.  He wanted to gain a perspective on life he hadn’t before. (If my brother is reading this, please know this is the limited perspective I have on it.  I could be wrong and he may very well tell you different).  He enrolled himself in a program to this end.  It is called Great Life.  Many have gone before him and raved how “great” it was.  I’ve never taken it before but I understand it provides an “awakening” of sorts within you through some intense workshops that last all day long.  I had a friend tell me the other day this sounded like a “come to Jesus” meeting reminiscent of a tent revival.  I wouldn’t go that far and besides I don’t think religion had any part of the workshops.  Still, I understand his misgivings.  I didn’t know my brother was doing this until he showed up one morning proclaiming he was completing a phase of this workshop that evening.  He said it changed his life.  He learned things about himself he did not know were there.  He also asked me, “How did you figure all this out on your own?”  I have no answer to that other than “I just did”.  Perhaps I was forced to or secretly wanted an understanding more than I realized.  I also feel I did not do it on my own.  I had a lot of help, just not the help my brother had.  I asked him if he would like support that evening because…well…it sucks to be alone.  I was welcome to join and ended up bringing his son and daughter along as well.

That evening we entered the room when prompted to do so.  The “graduates” were dressed in formal attire and lined the walls.  Their eyes shut tight.  I will admit it was odd to be standing (staring) in front of my brother with his eyes closed.  It was like watching him sleep.  When he opened his eyes he proclaimed something about himself and expressed his love for each of us. The words are personal so I will not publish them.  The words though, were words I never expected my brother to say.  They nearly moved me to tears.  It felt genuine.  He was “awake”.  The rest of the program was filled with a few things the students wanted to share.  A song.  A poem.  Things that I’m sure took a hefty dose of courage for them to pull off in front of complete strangers.  I’ve sung a solo in front of several hundred people before.  It’s nervous business.  I applaud their efforts.

There was a lot of love in the room that night.  Genuine love.  It was beautiful.  My brother had changed and he felt awake.  He looked “awake”.  At its core, is love.  I believe it really is as simple as love.  I had an experience several years ago that changed my life as well.  At the core was love.  It really is as simple as that.  What is complex, however, is maintaining that love the rest of your life.  It takes work and a firm resolve to live in such a way that you have a surplus of love not only for yourself but for others.  I’m thrilled when people “Get it”.  I’m even more thrilled if they maintain it.  I have two brothers and I love them both.  They are so very different from each other as I am from them.

My brother.  He is heavy and I can’t carry him (He can’t carry me either – let’s be realistic folks).  He’s still my brother and that’s OK.  I love him (Disclaimer: I may still fight with my brothers and they with me.  It could happen.  We are, after all, brothers.  That’s what brothers do.)

He's my brother.

He’s my brother.

(I struggled whether this post really belonged here. This blog is about professional and personal pursuits.  This would be filed under a personal pursuit.  It falls under the quest of being a better person, living an authentic life and pursing what that really means.  I haven’t the slightest idea if my other brother reads this, but if he does he should know that I am planning one about him. Of course I’ll get his permission first.  BTW – he looks nothing like the brother you see in the picture to the left.  Should be fun.)

Biking is life.

If you know “about” this blog then you know I love cycling. If you didn’t then go click the page above for “ABOUT THIS BLOG”. I haven’t been on a bike since Thanksgiving and if there was such a thing as cabin fever for bikes (or in this case, not being on one) I have it. I have a threshold of 45F before I put my butt in a saddle and start riding again. It’s been that cold for that long. I’m not happy about it and I know my bikes aren’t either. When I can’t ride, I swim (indoors of course unless I am somewhere warm enough to swim outdoors). However, I am happiest on a bike. Mountain bike, road bike, or cruiser. It doesn’t matter. I love being on two wheels.

I think if you devote enough time to a sport or activity you can start to draw analogies of it to life. I find this especially true with cycling.  Specifically mountain biking (MTBing) because…well, read on. First, I choose MTBing because that is where my heart is. I didn’t start riding a MTB

The Trusty Steed

The Trusty Steed – my current ride

when I learned to ride. My first official bike was your typical 10 speed up until the late 80s. I bought my first MTB in 1987.  A Diamond Back Ascent. It was yellow, rigid (no suspension), and by today’s weight as heavy as a cast iron Chevy. Perhaps a slight exaggeration but it sure feels like it now.  I rode this bike for years and I rode it HARD. We had some great times the Ascent and I…and friends. I rode it so hard that I broke the fork at one point. Forks are warranted for life so I had it replaced at no charge. I was quite proud for riding it so hard. It means I was pushing it and getting my money worth. I was happy and I’m sure my steed was happy. MTBs are meant to be riden hard. That’s what they are built for.

With MTBing, you pick a line, ride it, pick a line, ride it, repeat…often in the dirt and on a trail no wider than two feet (we call this single track and it’s what we live for).  It requires a surprising degree of concentration to prevent a trip to the first-aid kit or the hospital. In fact, there is more multi-tasking with cycling than any known sport in existence.  If there is, feel free to shout out.  In MTBing there will most certainly be stretches of ascending and descending. Sometimes an easy climb and sometimes a steep climb. Times when you are coasting or flying downhill.  As in life, there are these times as well.  Ascents can be thought of as trials or goals.  Some are more difficult than others but when that end is achieved you are rewarded with an awesome view or a downhill stretch of adrenaline charged fun.  Sometimes the reward is just pain, but it’s a good pain.  It’s the satisfaction that you made it.  Be happy, your body will recover for the next time and then you’ll find it easier.  Congratulations, you’ve grown, you’ve progressed.  You are moving forward!  I really cannot find a sport more analogous to life than cycling and this is why biking is life.

Bike until you're dead.

Bike until you’re dead.

Excuse me. Mr. Balboa, sir?

I’ve been thinking about inspiration lately.  Wait, I think about it a great deal of the time.  I think about it when I don’t think I’m thinking about it.  Does that even make sense?  Well, if you think about it, it does.   Whoa, I just lobbed a meta-think bomb there.  INCOMING!!! Doesn’t that blow your mind?

(Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of Tim and Eric, but I do like that clip)  I keep things around that once inspired me or continue to do so.  Every once in a while I go back and revisit them.  I believe we all need those reminders.  In an old office I used to spend most of my time, I had a few things adorning the wall to help me get through the day or to that next milestone.  One of them stated the following:

Believe in yourself –
in the power you have
to control your own life, day by day,
Believe in the strength
that you have deep inside,
and your faith will help
show you the way.
Believe in tomorrow
and what it will bring –
let a hopeful heart carry you through,
For the things will work out
if you trust and believe
there’s no limit
to what you can do.


-Emily Matthews

Great isn’t it?  Well, it is.  Really.  There is however, one slight problem with the above.  It reeks with idealism.

idealism

Now, idealism isn’t a bad thing in and of itself but I choose to be a realist.  Idealism is OK in manageable doses.  I heard Emily’s song from childhood thru exiting college (If you were lucky enough to go to college and exit with a degree.  Awesome!  You did it!!!).  I sang this song to my children as well.  Why?  I want them to believe in themselves.  I want them to better me.  I want them to have hope where there doesn’t seem to be any hope.  I want them to LIVE.  I don’t want to send them out in the world though without being prepared for the very real world it is.  There’s that word “real”.  This is where the realist in me comes out.  Let’s revisit that song again…

Elder – You can be anything you want to be!

Youth – I’m going to be an astronaut!

Elder – Son, your (insert anything that would prevent that here) isn’t quite good enough.

Youth – I’m going to sail around the world!

Elder – You threw-up 8 times in 2 hours the last time you where out on the ocean.

Youth – I’m going to be a ride at Disneyland!

Elder – Whoa, …whoa, …that’s just absurd.

POP!  POP! POP!  Did you hear that?  That was the sound of Hope bubbles exploding.  I am not advocating just going around and popping Hope bubbles.  My parents did not do this with me (I know that’s what you thinking from the above dialog…not true) and I did not do this to my children.  Well, not with such cold hearted tactlessness. (my children might tell you a different story.  God forbid they read this).  Emily’s song is appropriate for youth because it builds a dream of hope our children so desperately need.  Sometimes it even works and  their dreams become reality.

For myself, inspiration was found in music, nature, art, and leaders of thought.  That’s where I pull my strength from.  I know this isn’t anything unusual.  In fact, it’s quite common.  What might not be as common, is finding it even from the most mundane and normal.  It’s about looking beyond the surface and seeing what’s underneath.  It’s about trying to find beauty, where on the surface it obviously isn’t.  Inspiration.  Motivation.  Inspirivation.  Whatever you want to call it, is needed to feed the soul like a body needs water.

There was another quote that hung on the wall of that office.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

-Rocky Balboa

Excuse me.  Mr. Balboa, sir?  That’s how surviving is done.  Never.  Ever.  Quit.