Friday, January 29, 2016

Riding Into The Sublime

It's been a while since I last posted about someone who had done something so delightfully odd that it gives me hope for humanity.
  • The guy who rode cross-country on his Torro mower;
  • The guy who tied enough helium balloons to his lawn chair that he was able to fly on it for nearly 200 miles;
  • The guy who only managed to fly ten miles on his lawn chair ... but at a height of three miles (an airline pilot spoted him and reported seeing a man on a flying lawn chair!);
  • The guy who made a lifesize statue of the crucifixion ... entirely out of chocolate.
These people inspire me because they've done something so outrageous that it puts my everyday life into an odd kind of perspective.  Sure, I may be caught up in the myriad of things that make up the day of a husband/father/clergyperson, but I inhavit the same world as people who are flying on lawnchairs!  In his book The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine wrote,
The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately.  One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again.
My new hero of the ridiculously sublime is Heinz Stücke.  In 1962 Mr. Stücke was 22 years old and working in a factory, something he didn't particularly enjoy doing and most certainly didn't enjoy imagining himself doing for any length of time.  He'd always liked bicycling long distances, though, so he decided to get on his bicycle and ride it around the world.  (Who hasn't, right?)  He figured it would take him a few years, and that alone puts him in my pantheon of peculiar people who remind me how remarkable we humans can be.  But, in the words of reporter Ron Gluckman, "He simply forgot to stop."

Stücke continued riding until he'd ridden through 193 countries.  (The fall of the Soviet Union was apparently particularly exciting for him because of all the "new" countries he could now add to his list!)  He rode his bike for approximately 138,000 miles, which is something like ten times around the globe.  But all good things must come to an end, of course, and, so, Heinz Stücke finally stopped his ride ... three years ago!

Let that sink in.

Heinz Stücke rode his three-speed bicycle for 50 years!  He was 72 when he decided it was finally time to settle down!  Like I said, let that sink in for a moment.   I was born just two months before Stücke began his odyssey.  He has quite literally riding his bicycle for more entire life.

In Gluckman's article, "Bikeman's Amazing Adventure," there's this wonderful passage:
Stucke scoffs both at the critics who cannot see the purpose of his pedaling and the admirers who romanticize it. "I just do what I do. As to happiness, you can never just be happy. One moment you are, and the next you're not. There's happiness and sadness as you go. 
"Why?" he ponders. "Why not? Every human endeavor is irrelevant in some ways. It's up to each individual to achieve their own objectives. I got into this and don't want to stop."
Wire walker Philipe Pettit, when asked why he had walked between the World Trade Towers, is reorted to have said, "Why?  There is no why."  All those who worked with him to make that walk possible apparentl felt the same way.  Why?  Why not.  Why not do the improbable, the impossible, the inceonceivable?  Why not do what can't be done?

Heinze Stücke said, "I just do what I do."

And I am so glad he has.  So may we all.

Pax tecum,


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