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Piecemeal Pilfering Somebody Else's Good Life

It is hard to believe that only a month from now I will be in southern Arizona, paying rent (gasp!), and riding a road bicycle with a large club. How strange it is that some of my "fellow" cyclist-snowbirds have already been in that furnace since the first of October. How could doing the same five rides/routes for seven months of the year be the Good Life? Isn't Dry Heat something you'd wish on your worst enemy? But they enjoy the shoulder seasons there, somehow.  And they agree with me on the cycling, something that is rare amongst gasoline-besotted Americans.

It is probably common to expect less and less of other people as we grow older. But the situation is different when somebody, who you thought had something in common with you, shatters your comfortable expectations of compatibility. This might be the sharpest kind of loneliness.

Be it a sports club, a church, or a political cause, you can befriend each other easily when you appear to have a bit in common. Later, you are unpleasantly surprised to learn that the other person's motivation is different than yours, and that your commonality was only superficial or based on practical circumstances.

For instance, I've been involved with bicycling most of my adult life because the activity makes me feel better than anything else I do. That sounds like simple common sense, does it not? But in fact, it is rather uncommon. Many "fellow" cyclists are motivated by athletic ego, the bike as an expensive status symbol, losing weight, or even a wish to meet their other half.

We could all give many such examples. Let's restrict the discussion to other people's sense of the Good Life. I can see how people would gravitate to living on a boat, long-term backpacking over the Pacific Crest Trail, and long-distance bicycle touring. I haven't done any of this because there are aspects of each of these lifestyles that do not appeal to me, or that seem impractical or too expensive. But they seem good in principle.

Other types of the Good Life seem absurd in Theory and Practice. For instance, urban boondocking seems perverse to me as a model of the Good Life; so does playing Ten Questions with Fred and Mildred at potluck or happy hour, in a standard RV park; or consider Slabs City, BLM long-term-visitor-areas, and as the lowest possible step, Escapee Park living.

It is probably innocuous and obvious to argue for the principle of breaking-down other people's Good Life into its main components, and stealing what seems good -- regardless of your overall assessment of their Good Life. But how different it is when you actually apply this to a real person! You have the opportunity to do this when you camp in small groups. 

Actually it feels quite liberating and empowering to say, "In general, Charlie is a horse's ass. And his views about This-or-That suck to high heaven. But when it comes to X, he is surprisingly clever and effective."

For instance I have usually exercised 3-4 times per week, because that seemed to be the point of diminishing returns. The appetite for exercise came back, naturally, after a day of rest. That always seemed more desirable than using self-discipline alone. As a result I had little reason to expect to gain much in this department by borrowing ideas and habits from somebody else.

Shadow of a rising hot air balloon rises over camp.

My fellow campers have influenced me to exercise 5 times per week. This is only a part of their lifestyle, and the rest I am leaving to them, at least for now.  But I see a genuine improvement in something that was difficult to improve.


XXXXX said…
I personally don't think the flaw comes with the specific choices made but rather with the concept of the "Good Life." You say it's probably common to expect less and less of people as one grows older. That's worthy of at least an entire blog to explain. Is that a good thing or a bad thing in your eyes?
I agree with that statement but I think of it as a very good thing. When I was young, now I can see it as I look back, what I desired from other people was wrapped around me, my feelings, etc. I was looking for them to fulfill these desires. But now that I'm older, I'm not so driven to fulfill my selfishness any longer and my life is much better accordingly.
Same thing is true about the "Good Life." Most things in life are fleeting. They are beautiful or fulfilling in the moment and then, after a while, they are only a memory. I realized a long time ago that a memory created in this fashion ultimately isn't much different than a memory that was created by reading a book and living it vicariously or even watching a movie that grips my soul. It can become a wild goose chase to think that seeking out these moments that are so fleeting by their very nature is the "Good Life."
It can fill one's days and perhaps for many people they die happy with the memories. Who am I to judge? I just know it isn't enough for me. I can't see myself being satisfied with a bunch of photographs of the Good Old Days as I sit in my wheelchair.
The answer to the "Good Life" question is parallel to your comment about what one expects from other people as we age. It's great to seek out all these different things you describe as defining the "Good Life", but when we can no longer engage in them due to aging, is the Good Life over? It will be if we are dependent upon the activities for happiness. But just as one learns to expect less from other people, we have to learn to expect less from our physical abilities as well. For many people, the journey is more an inner journey and the individual choices on the outside are just the specific vehicle chosen for the travel.
edlfrey said…
It is probably common to expect less and less of other people as we grow older. But the situation is different when somebody, who you thought had something in common with you, shatters your comfortable expectations of compatibility. This might be the sharpest kind of loneliness. Other types of the Good Life seem absurd in Theory and Practice... and as the lowest possible step, Escapee Park living.

Boonie, please say it isn't so. Has my 'temporary living' at Escapee Parks shattered the compatibility that I thought we had. In my defense I do not claim that is the Good Life, does this help?
I have given up on searching for the Good Life, I'm rather happy with just living a Better Life and the one that I have lived these past few years has been better.
Oh geesh Ed, you weren't supposed to take this seriously! I forgot how you get hurt feelings if I badmouth Escapees park. (grin)
"what I desired from other people was wrapped around me, my feelings, etc. I was looking for them to fulfill these desires..." That's a pregnant sentence, George! A person needs to go off on a mesa somewhere and think about that one.
John V said…
Paying rent in AZ? I guess that means an extra boondocking spot will be open for us in AZ this winter. One good thing about those Escapees parks is the $5 dry camping. They make a nice temporary stop in a pinch for local exploring, a water tank refill, and a quick tank dump.
Jim and Gayle said…
In general I would have to say we share your feelings about the camping lifestyle. We did enjoy the Jojoba Hills SKP park in California but you just don't want to bicycle around there so we ruled it out.

It is a rare occurrence to find other people that you can be open and honest with and still remain friends. But it is a great experience when you do.

XXXXX said…
Best not give directions. That mesa might get way too crowded.
Yes, John V, I've sold out to the Establishment by paying rent for 3 months. I hope the bicycle club members are honored by this selfless act of noble, voluntary suffering.
Who are you? and what have you done with the real Boonster? We need to form a posse, folks...there's a curmudgeon out there that needs our help!
I really like when you expose your softer side...
Speaking of open and honest, when are you going to open up with any progress you've made on mountain bike shopping. (grin)
Jim and Gayle said…
Not much luck in the MTB due to moving around too much. However, I have talked with some shops in Utah and will look at rentals they have for sale assuming that they aren't gone when we get there.

Gayle says that she has to get one if I do and we aren't going to keep the road bikes. So we will see.

Hooray for Gail! That is blockbuster news.
Allison said…
Call me nosey, call me excessively curious, but would you mind sharing with whom you will be riding in Southern Arizona? Inquiring minds really wonder which group would induce you to pay rent for 3 months.
The Yuma Foothills Bicycle Club:

Unfortunately most of the Yuma Foothills have been sticked and bricked, so it is harder to find gravel lots to rent. But it's still possible. This is a superb road cycling club, full of geezers in great shape.
Allison said…
We spent a month in Yuma in 2008, it was the first year we had an RV. We rode with the Yuma Foothills people when we were there. They were a good group. We didn't enjoy Yuma so much, so after 30 days we decamped to Tucson. You're right about being there in the shoulder season, that place is just hotter than hot.
I agree about Yuma not being interesting from an RVing or sightseeing angle. Actually when I am there, I am taking a 3 month vacation from traveling.