The Benefits of Insignificance
The Rambling Man looks at the big picture and rationalizes that in comparison to the scope of the universe, any and all motorcycle-related conundrums can be reevaluated to appear trivial in no time.
As if my job, place in the sociological hierarchy, and financial situation aren't enough, I have found a method of purposely stomping what little ego I should have developed by now. You see, lately I've been studying a wonderful book called The Definitive Visual Guide to the Universe
(edited by Martin Rees) as a very helpful means of feeling insignificant. And by insignificant, I do not mean me as an individual so much but rather in terms of humanity in its entirety.
This book was given to me as a gift from my girlfriend and while absolutely stunning to behold, I tend to tuck it away for long periods of time. It comes out every now and again almost as a form of forgotten therapy; one of those sacred tools intended to re-familiarize ourselves with concepts as mind boggling as infinity when the minute problems of daily life start to appear staggeringly large. Taking a moment to really let some of the information contained within is akin to entering into some tripped-out, surreal state of mind that forces the reader to reassess just about every concept of scope they've held dear since birth. In fact I suspect distributing this book to college dormitories all across the nation could put an immediate end to campus drug use. Hippies everywhere would be missing the Phish concert to reread chapter one. Yeah, it's that powerful.
The book is filled with factual gems including images from the Hubble telescope of galaxies as distant as 8.8 billion light years away from earth. Yes, that's right, even traveling at the speed of light, it would take just shy of ten billion years to arrive there. Even more strange is that the picture itself is of a galaxy as it looked 8.8 billion years ago. If it's anything there like it is around here, that's a lot of time for change. Maybe enough to where their version of Harley-Davidson is producing only liquid-cooled bikes.
Since I fall a little shy of the traditional definition of astrophysicist, I will confess that many of the concepts presented in this book zing right on past without my understanding. Take for example the presence of dark matter and dark energy, the effects of special relativity, and space's ability to stretch the concept of time as we know it. Fortunately, super-intelligence is not required to use some of the book's lessons in direct relation to some of the slightly less-magnificent troubles we as motorcyclists face here on earth. The following five entries have served me well, may they do the same for you.
Bummed out because you want to ride and there's a little rain outside? Gear up and get out! If you were on Jupiter, you'd have to contend with The Red Spot, a storm bigger than our planet with wind speeds estimated at over 1,000 mph.
Gloomy spring day, rain clouds rolling in, slight breeze. You're bummed out on account of the fact that the weather isn't cooperating for a nice lengthy ride.
Fact to consider: Jupiter has a hurricane raging on its surface that is larger than our entire planet. Wind speeds within are estimated at well over 1,000 mph and this storm is believed to have been first spotted from earth over 340 years ago.
Conclusion: Hey, we overpaid for these factory-logo stenciled rain suits for a reason, let's roll. Besides, that storm on Jupiter has been going on since the dark ages and it's still showing no sign of letting up.
Despite the fact that the calendar assures us that it is spring, the high of the day is just a little above freezing. You regret not living in the tropics.
Fact to consider: Even in the summer, Uranus has a high temperature of -353 degrees F.
Conclusion: Bundle up and go for it. Also, will jokes about this planet's name ever stop being funny?
You picked up the bike you've been lusting after and, despite falling in love at first ride, discover that the five years worth of coupons in your payment book has you feeling a little down.
Fact to consider: It takes Neptune 164.8 of our years to complete one revolution around the sun.
Conclusion: We'll all be long gone and forgotten in less than one Neptunian year. Perhaps it's not too late to return to the dealership to pick up the other bike you've been dreaming about.
It happens to be a rare scorcher and thought of putting on the leather jacket and boots is making you break out in a sweat.
Fact to consider: The sun is boiling away with a surface temperature between 10,000 and 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit with a core temperature of 27 million.
Conclusion: Get out there and sweat. Oh and don't forget your sunglasses.
You just so happened to have recently celebrated a turning point birthday. What's a turning point birthday you ask? It's a birthday that allows you to race in the class you were laughing at the day before when you were still too young to be eligible. It's only natural to feel a little depressed.
You don't see Duke and Hutch crying because an unexpected hailstorm dumped on them. Luckily, they're not on Uranus with a high temp of -353 degrees F.
Fact to consider: Time and space are not absolute but can be stretched or bent through speed and relative viewpoint.
Conclusion: Would it be possible to ride so fast that you return younger than when you set out?
And the list goes on and on. Feeling a little reluctant to take your shiny bike through a patch of sticky road tar? Remember, the surface of the sun is molten plasma some 60 miles deep. Feeling down because your bike can't keep up with your buddies? Remind yourself that even when standing perfectly still, we're all zinging through space at 62,000 mph. Upset that you got demoted at work? Hey, Pluto got demoted right out of our solar system. Feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get ahead on that restoration project? Be thankful your garage isn't on Mercury; the poor planet is so close to the sun that it experiences only three days in two of its years. Worried about night-riding on account of pot holes? Just be grateful the black holes in the center of our own galaxy haven't swallowed us whole yet.
Trust me on this one, when compared to the scope of the universe, any and all motorcycle-related conundrums can be reevaluated to appear trivial in no time. Just don't start taking it all too seriously because insignificance can actually have the opposite effect if overused. Remember, all we're trying to do here is lessen our troubles, not make it so we have no reason to get out of bed in the morning.
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