Monday, June 21, 2010

Paint and the Battle for my Soul

Given the fact that I often refer to bicycle related road markings as "bike paint", one might imagine that this post is about my love/hate relationship with bike lanes, or, as Kevin was kind enough to make me aware of, the new sharrows that have appeared on Dufferin (on Ridout too, I've now noticed) here in London:

I guess I don't mind a painted reminder that I may co-exist on the roadway with cars, but I don't really need them. Anyway, the real reason for this post has nothing to do with "official" paint, but rather spray painted advice left by unknown philosophers and theologians!

I mentioned this philosophically loaded ride over a week ago, and this is the post that describes the battle for my soul that ensued while I rode it. That particular Friday I had booked the day off and decided to go for a ride, taking the paths leading North that I never take because they have nothing to do with my commute. I avoid these particular paths after work and in the early morning because they are stuffed full of joggers; in general I like joggers because they understand how the path works, but big groups of them slow me down an awful lot despite this fact. On this day, however, I was riding on a weekday, around 9 AM. All those kooky joggers were back at home or arrived at work. Perfect.

As I headed north out of my neighbourhood, I thought I would stop and take a peek at some path/bridge construction that is affecting lots of path riders near downtown:

As you can see I was treated to a pretty cool looking view of some interesting construction in full swing. I could watch this kind of thing all day, and if it weren't for the fact that pudgy middle-aged men wearing spandex aren't among preferred gawkers, I might have. The bridge being worked on is the one featured in this post, which is a big favourite of mine. No stick music until it is back, I guess. As I checked out the scene, I saw the graffiti (highlighted by WAH? above) that would turn my bike ride into a philosophical journey:

Most "Try" statements you read finish with "our new ____" or "Me!" But this "Try" message was so much deeper... Try Nihilism! Wow. I found the fact that the message prompting me to try it was painted on a girder that even under-bridge dwelling weirdos would have trouble finding or seeing if it weren't for the construction very interesting. The fact that I had stumbled upon this message despite its bizarre location made me want to honour it, follow it. I resolved to be a Nihilist until I decided not to be one any more.

What is Nihilism? Although I have a pretty good idea, I'm smart enough not to answer that question without some consultation to protect me from looking like a total moron if I'm wrong... Let's ask Wikipedia!

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived.

Now, I ain't no big thinky-man, but it seems to me that a Nihilist thinks that nothing really matters, including being good or nice. That sounds pretty liberating, don't you think? Always open to new ideas and ready to follow the spray painted advice of strangers, I rode on with a new way of perceiving things, starting with stuff that gets in my way; when being good or nice doesn't matter...

Nihilism was proving not only liberating, but fascinating! Geese respond to it. Old Ladies ignore it. Woah. What could that mean? Well, let's think now... Old Ladies go to Church. Geese do not. Was it a God thing? Nietzsche, a big name in the Nihilism game, was famous for the phrase "God is Dead" and St. Peter's Seminary was on my route...

At this point I was thinking Nihilism kind of sucks and involves random acts of construction. But what to do? Now that I was a Nihilist, how would I manage to care enough to change my modus operandi? Nothing really matters, man, and if I am out of luck in the whole philosophy thing, who cares? Another spray paint theologian, that's who!

So there you have it. Birds prefer Love over Nihilism. Also, love of your fellow humans clears Multi-Use Pathways better than a deep sense of meaninglessness. Go and figure! What a ride. I was spiritually bushed, let me tell you. I might show more caution in following the teachings of the spray paint crowd in future... it can wear a person out.

Watch for the Signs, Man.
PS - As much as this was a post-ride mental construction, the painted messages, places and events of this post are from a single ride and are in their real chronological order, if you believe in that whole "reality" thing.


Steve A said...

Hmm, if the old ladies turn out to be Nihilists, none of the rest makes sense...

cafiend said...

None of the comments I've tried to write seem to mean anything.

Alexwarrior said...

I wonder what true nihilists would feel about the "How's my driving?" sign

RANTWICK said...

Steve - Don't stress test my fragile philosophy experiment... it will collapse upon itself and then explode.

Cafiend - What does that mean? I can't really tell.

Alexwarrior - I think I could hazard a guess, but I keep it clean here (mostly).

John Romeo Alpha said...

I sometimes suffer from kneehillism, is that close?

RANTWICK said...

JRA - Totally close! When your knee(s) make you wonder if anything matters, you're there.

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