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Becoming More Optimistic Around Motorheads

I've been putting it off: mountain biking up the famous high passes in Colorado's San Juan mountains. Remember that the main tourist draw here is the "adventure" of driving your noisy vehicle over the passes, and then dropping into the boutique towns of Ouray, Telluride, or Silverton in order to eat fudge, ice cream, or pizza. 

If I wanted to share the road with motor vehicles, I would be a "roadie" instead of a mountain biker.

Ahh but...the tourist season seems to be in a little lull right now, with most of the country busy with sending their urchins back to school. The hazy and smokey skies detract from the postcard scenery. So the timing seemed right for mountain biking up to Engineer Pass from Lake City.

There are tricks of the trade when visiting tourist areas. You always win when you start your day early. Tourists are on vacation -- that means sleeping late. Besides, most motorsport-people are exposed to the air much more than in a regular car, and they don't want to get too chilly. So I got started early enough to have cold hands and feet, and that ain't easy when you are climbing.

"Expectations engineering" is the most important trick of the trade. I resigned myself to bumper-to-bumper motorsport traffic up to the pass. Naturally I was relieved when only a half dozen of them passed me on the way up, and 15 on the way down.

People can be so effective in allaying prejudice when they offer a little friendliness. I had a nice conversation at the top with an ATVing couple. In addition, most motorheads slowed down when they passed me, so I didn't get coated with dust.

Remarkably I only had to push the bike for the last two miles. The air quality was better than I expected, and it was fun to get the viewscape of the Ouray area at the top. But I didn't bother with the camera, except for a closer view on the way down.

As an added treat, I got my first close look at a porcupine. Thankfully my dog, Coffee Girl, did not respond to it.


XXXXX said…
So what are you learning in your current read. "The Social Contract" written in 1762?
I learned that when the only internet commenter, worthy of his own PayPal donation box, stops making comments on my blog, he is violating the Social Contract. Seriously, George, welcome back.

The book is turning out to be difficult to read: abstractions, vague magical words that mean anything, inconsistencies.

The book is confirming what I have always thought: that a political theorist is less trustworthy than a theologian or holy prophet. No wonder the French Revolution was such a disaster, if this book was its Bible.

But I will keep trying to get through it.
XXXXX said…
It would have to be evaluated according to the times in was written for and apparently it brought necessary attention to the fact that "God" wasn't really running things. (I'm cheating though and just reading second hand accounts. Primarily the net and a book I have here called "The Social Contract" by Robert Ardrey.)
This was a novel idea about God and threatened those in power who liked to think God worked through them. It was a powerful idea for the uneducated masses who wouldn't mess with that as they would likely burn forever for it. Rousseau apparently looked to nature for the answers and this was 100 years before Darwin shook the world with the idea of evolution and not creation, etc.
In regard to your comment about the French Revolution....I know it was terribly bloody and surely awful for those who lived through it but have you ever wondered if sometimes things like this are just necessary? I know England had its civil wars but I don't think they were as bloody as the French Revolution. Or as long and messy. England succeeded in evolving into a reasonable system though it still retains its soap opera royalty but perhaps that is because of what happened in France. They didn't need to repeat the lesson. The French Revolution inspired us as well, as you know, and we benefited from that. Good old George Washington might have become King otherwise. Perhaps.
1. So far, Rousseau hasn't said much about God, king, country, and the priesthood. We'll see. I believe it was d'Holbach who was on the anti-God jihad, not Rousseau.

2."Rousseau looked to nature"... yes, he does mention 'nature' a lot in this book, but his nature was unscientific. There was no science of anthropology in his era, and if he wanted to envision our species as starting in a state of solitude, that was nothing more than a wild guess on his part. Modern anthropologists don't believe such a fable.

3. 'terribly blood but just necessary'... Oh dear, George, that is one step away from ye olde cliche, "You can't make an omelot without breaking a few eggs."

I believe we are prone to making excuses for the butchery of the French Revolution, the American so-called Civil War, and the Great War because we have been brainwashed by the educational system and professional historians to visualize history deterministically. They have a vested interest in believing that historical determinism is a new Deity, and they are the credentialed priesthood. Everything that is, must be.

Therefore their "science" is an exact science, as prestigious as the physical sciences and mathematics.

Essentially the historical priesthood is as corrupt as the Catholic priesthood prior to the French Revolution.

XXXXX said…
Yes you are correct, he didn't talk about God and that's the point. This is a quote from the book I mentioned...."He mistrusted democracy yet bequeathed to the world the principle that government is the servant of the governed. No atheist, still he dethroned God and placed human destiny in the hands of society; both Catholic and Protestant churches responded with equal savagery. No man to be cowed, he spoke against tyranny and for the sovereignty of the individual as none other in his century. "

If I'm not mistaken, didn't the kingships at that time generally consider themselves acting in God's stead on earth and thus could do no wrong. That's a dangerous position to take right before the French Revolution.

Ardrey dedicated his book to Rousseau (and takes his title) yet he gets only about 15 pages in the 400 page book. Ardrey's book is about the history of the social contract. According to him, Rousseau's major contribution is that he brought the natural sciences into man's attempt to understand himself. The idea of man evolving rather than being created by God had not been born yet, yet there he was looking to nature and natural law for explanations. (And, as you say, without a lot of facts.)

As far as war goes, I don't think anybody wants it but an awful lot of people engage in it and always have. I think it's in our DNA and I'm not sure we as a species are even capable of getting along and solving problems without it. I don't think anyone makes excuses for the butchery...who are you referring to? And when I used the word "necessary" it was not spoken lightly but with a sadness instead, referring to this instinct to war that we seem to have within us as a species. You must look at the things happening which led up to the's hubris and exploitation of others and justification of such things and dogged determination that they continue at any cost. How do you fight that?

Historical priesthood? Or just an expression of opinion?

Ed said…
"The French Revolution inspired us as well, as you know, and we benefited from that. Good old George Washington might have become King otherwise."

I'm not so sure that the French Revolution inspired the new American Republic nor kept Good old George Washington from becoming King. I think it was Good old George that kept him from becoming King.

The American Revolution took place between 1765 and 1783 and Washington was president from 1789 to 1797. He reluctantly served a second term and refused to run for a third, establishing the tradition of a maximum of two terms for a president. A tradition not to be broken until King FDR was crowned some 150 years later.

The French Revolution was an influential period of social and political upheaval in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799.
XXXXX said…
It's really the Age of Enlightenment that we are talking about here and Rousseau was a part of the political component of this movement. Wikipedia cites 1620 as the beginning and lots of people and events contributed to this shift.
From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Although there is no consensus about the exact span of time that corresponds to the American Enlightenment, it is safe to say that it occurred during the eighteenth century among thinkers in British North America and the early United States and was inspired by the ideas of the British and French Enlightenments. Based on the metaphor of bringing light to the Dark Age, the Age of the Enlightenment (Siècle des lumières in French and Aufklärung in German) shifted allegiances away from absolute authority, whether religious or political, to more skeptical and optimistic attitudes about human nature, religion and politics. In the American context, thinkers such as Thomas Paine, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin invented and adopted revolutionary ideas about scientific rationality, religious toleration and experimental political organization—ideas that would have far-reaching effects on the development of the fledgling nation. Some coupled science and religion in the notion of deism; others asserted the natural rights of man in the anti-authoritarian doctrine of liberalism; and still others touted the importance of cultivating virtue, enlightened leadership and community in early forms of republican thinking. At least six ideas came to punctuate American Enlightenment thinking: deism, liberalism, republicanism, conservatism, toleration and scientific progress. Many of these were shared with European Enlightenment thinkers, but in some instances took a uniquely American form.