In Which TLRC Absorbs Significant Negative Misery With No Apparent Ill Effects

Back in “the day”, before the Unfortunate Events of 2008 (the ones involving a failed left shoulder SLAP surgery, and the subsequent repair, comprising a titanium rod with a stainless steel mushroom cap jammed into the upper end of The Logging Road Cyclist’s humerus),  TLRC was a pretty spiffy (if quaint) whitewater kayaker, and a mediocre (if enthusiastic) mountain biker. The latter activity thus resulted in lots of spills and thrills. The former, which TLRC had been pursing since the age of eighteen, was correspondingly more sedate, since, through long practice, he was in better control of himself.

UE2008 precipitated a major change in TLRC’s lifestyle. Orthopedic surgeons strongly hinted that if boating was to be done, it must be done in a sedate, stately  manner. TLRC was not a sedate and stately boater: his joy was to work the river for every ounce of fun to be had. Ultimately he decided just to quit. The prospect of further shoulder damage while not having a lot of fun was more than he could bear.  Mountain biking too, seemed a poor choice, given how TLRC took some pretty good tumbles trying various fall-line routes out in the forest, and some close calls trying to get past other trail obstacles. Poof! The Superlight was put on the auction block and quickly sold. The trusty DeSalvo came on line as the ride of choice. TLRC’s style of riding summarized by the website’s motto, “personalis augmentum per miseriam electiva“, became a substitute of sorts for the riverine adventures of earlier years.

In retrospect, this turn to logging road riding seems atavistic. In his far distant youth, TLRC’s parents chose to send him to Catholic school. TLRC is ambivalent about their decision. While the 3R’s were pounded into him by intimidating nuns, friendly yet calmly threatening clergy and God, with the parents rooting them all on from the sidelines, a lot of other residual “baggage,” as the pop-psy folks say, was left in the TLRC psyche as well. The 3R’s proved immensely useful in later life. The other stuff, well….

Consider personalis augmentum per miseriam electiva. How stupid is that, really? Does one really grow through misery? The fact is that every day during his impressionable early years, TLRC was told that any suffering at all should be “offered up for grace”, i.e. put into sort of a karma bank that could be called upon when the chips were down, like when you died unexpectedly without confessing your sins, or just in case you needed a leg up with old God up there for whatever reason. TLRC grew up being told by every adult in authority that, basically, to get ahead, you had to suffer. Why shouldn’t personalis augmentum per miseriam electiva be true?

Indulge TLRC in a heuristic analysis. Let M(t) be the amount of suffering, or misery one has accumulated during one’s life up to age t. Since we all die, there is some point (death) at which misery will stop being accumulated. Thus, we will say that M(t) is a number between 0 and 100%. Note that besides the usual amount of misery that accrues in any life, one is also as free as a bird to add as much misery to the total as desired. This assumes that M(0)=0, rather a tricky point, but for the purposes of this discussion we will assume that everyone gets baptized and this effectively starts “the clock” at 0 ( all you New Atheists out there just shut up, TLRC is trying to keep this simple).

Now the goal is, for the religious, to get to heaven, and for everyone else to attain Nibbanha , or at least be happy. TLRC will refer to either state as attaining enlightenment. The trick is to get qualified for heaven, or get to  Nibbanha (depending on your school of thought) before you die. So how can this happen?

According to the nuns et al. we might postulate a function E, the enlightenment function, that tells us how far towards enlightenment we are, given a present cumulative misery, M(t). They would tell us (and here is the critical assumption) that this function is monotonically increasing, that is, for each increment of misery, one creeps a little closer to enlightenment. Furthermore, TLRC would like to postulate that each individual has a specific function: E[M(t):I], where E and M are as before, and the parameter I indexes which specific individual is under consideration. We also demand that the range of E is the interval [0,1], where 0 is no enlightenment and 1 is enlightened, so we may refer to E as the fractional enlightenment. 

To clarify these concepts, consider the following figure:

Here, TLRC has plotted E[M;I]  for three individuals (for present purposes the dependence of M, and hence, E on t has been dropped). Look at Mr. Green. He labors away at life, each increment of suffering adding exactly  the same amount to his fractional enlightenment. He gets closer with each of life’s little disappointments, but he isn’t going to make it, is he? You see, here E is a linear function of M, E=aM, say, and the slope, a,  is just too small for Mr Green. He needs to do something to increase a, say quit drinking, smoking or gambling, maybe do something nice for someone or stop his criminal career, or he’s sunk.

Now look at Ms. Blue. She started out slow, didn’t she? Maybe a little wild in high school, or at OSU? But then something changed. Maybe she took a yoga class, or started working at REI and fell  in love with the out of doors. At any rate, as her life goes on, each little increment of misery adds more and more towards her enlightenment, faster and fast. She’s gonna make it, no doubt.

Finally, a sad case, Mr. Red. He started out gangbusters. Every time he was miserable he took a big leap forward, enlightenment-wise. Just look at how steep that curve is! But then something happened. Somewhere around halfway through his life’s quotient of misery, progress stopped. It seemed like no matter how much he suffered, nothing improved. He seems destined to accumulate the other half of the misery that is surely coming his way, and have to settle with 2/3 enlightenment. Even if Mr. Red massively increases the total misery in his life, say through engaging in elective misery, he’s stuck.

Readers often ask:”TLRC, what do you think about while you’re endlessly grinding away in freezing wet or blazing hot weather, always climbing and grinding away, only to get back to where you started?” TLRC has always thought this to be a very pertinent and perceptive question whose answer is: This kind of stuff. More to the point, why is it that TLRC, generally agreed to be a fairly sensible (not to say insightful) individual actually enjoys doing this sort of thing (ie. logging road cycling) anyway? He now feels near to understanding. TLRC was raised to enjoy making himself miserable. In this context, “enjoy” means “experiencing a spurious sensation of enjoyment  because TLRC is  actually miserable and that is good”, cf. the preceding analysis, and the monotonicity of E.

Another common question is:”TLRC, you seem to spend a lot of time doing rides whose whole point is, well, not to be unkind, mostly a lot of work, not to say electively miserable. Surely you must have experienced an awesome amount of personal growth by now?” This is a touchy point for TLRC. Certainly he has indulged himself in a massive amount of elective misery, recently and hitherto. Even so, TLRC, who is scrupulously honest with himself, has to admit that he isn’t as high on the fractional enlightenment  as might be wished, especially since he is “of a certain age” as they say, which TLRC generally interprets to mean the time when one has forgotten how long ago he started receiving those unsolicited AARP cards in the mail. He suspects he might be a Mr. Red, and no matter how much misery he adds, he won’t get much farther up the old y-axis.

On the other hand, there is a sort of freedom available to Mr. Reds that others don’t enjoy. Why suffer it it’s not going to get you anywhere? They never talked about that at St. Elizabeth’s or St. Rose’s, did they now? Might as well party down, eh?

Thus it is that these and related contemplations coincided with the Sugarloaf Mtn. and latest Prairie Mtn. rides. Not to disparage them, but slogging up a cleared off drainage in the rain, and clawing one’s way up 4 miles of loose, big rock, again in the rain, when it’s supposed to start being like summer, and this has been going on all winter (as usual)…, well, TLRC hates it when he starts to sound hysterical, but can’t something just be fun?

Well, as it happens, yes: A new El Mariachi on the Alpine Trail.

TLRC won’t add to the volumes online about this ride except to say one climbs about 3500′ in 15 miles or so (about 13 of which is road) and then bombs (mostly) down for about 12 miles of single track.  A couple of views:

Three Sisters and Bachelor from the climb up the 1910 Road.



Sourgrass Meadow.

Taking care of his various ailments, TLRC rode the single track slowly and cautiously, walking the tricky bits. He was so glad to be back that it didn’t even bother him when a 12-year old used a front wheelie to pivot around a hairpin turn that he (TLRC) had just stumped around! Happy happy!