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The sum of all paths

Back from my ride

I like to think that it is just a coincidence of the calendar that has me out riding my bike in early January. I imagine that some of the cars that drive past me in such improbable conditions regard this as another person with a new years resolutions that soon shall fade. However, my riding has no root in any new years resolution. It is simply time to get back on the bike. Time to start another season.

I took November and December off this year after logging 5,300 miles in 2009. Now, this is not a huge number for you riders out there, but it is not a slight number either. I can post this number without shame or bravado. It is a good figure. I did in fact get out on my bike in 2009.

I have goals for 2010 – not resolutions, simply goals. I would like to move that milage figure closer to 10,000 miles, I would like to ride a double century, I would like to commute to work almost daily – even in the winter, which brings me to today. Fifteen degrees and breezy. The wind chill on some of the downhill sections is well below zero.

Today was my third shakedown cruise on my cross bike that is fit out for winter. If you are not a bike geek, a cross bike is like a regular street bicycle except it has room for wide tires compared to a street bike. The nickname ‘cross’ bike comes from cyclocross, a sport where certifiable crazy people race these across roads, mud, up stairs and over logs and jumps. Wildly popular in parts of europe, it is becoming more so in this country. My cross bike is my all around commuter ride and an escape vehicle for appropriate single and double track dirt roads and trails. I have it built up with front and rear racks, fenders and now with studded snow tires. I commuted to my ‘new’ job now and again last summer and fall, but winter is a different story.

The thing that makes winter special for me is it’s stark nature – so many things turn black and white come winter. The color seems to evaporate from the landscape and while lines become blurred between horizon and sky, other lines become razor sharp. The lines between comfort and pain, pleasant and punishing, life and death all become more distinct, more defined. It is why we have the expression ‘In the dead of winter’. I don’t think I have ever heard someone refer to summer quite the same way.

It is strange to me the duality of winter – In literature and legacy it is the season of death while in January so many people begin a ritual of renewal – in the heart of winter – This is also where I begin next seasons journey. Time to get back on the bike, get back into shape, quickly shed those ten pounds that snuck on during the break – time to push, time to punish.

This is all still rather new to me. I am a somewhat typical guy of advancing years. I was more active in my youth, and have been a serious cyclist for many years. There was a break though, a period of some fifteen years where I was not as dedicated to the task of fitness as I am now, and in retrospect, I understand that this is the first time in my life where I can say I have become dedicated to the task of fitness. When younger, being active and alive was enough – there was no need for a chart, a log or any form of regiment to be fit. You could put whatever you wanted to in your mouth and it did not seem to matter – At that age, you felt like this is all there is to it and you were going to live forever, aches and pains were the cornered domains of old people and you were young. Forever.

I went a few years, before the change, with subtle hints from my spouse and with the nagging notion that she was right. I needed change. I was overweight by some thirty pounds, my BMI was north of bad and my LDL HDL ratio was no where near good. I was in the death spiral. It was the entry in to a slow spiral, but one with an inevitable conclusion – misery in my later years followed by death. Melodramatic? perhaps – but I fear not.

The place between where you are now, and where you truly want to be is a road, or a path. Stepping onto that path is an action of belief and conviction. Staying on that path is a result of dedication and perseverance. I feel as if the path possesses the qualities of a river, there are currents and eddies that tempt you, try to pull you away from the path to someplace where you spin in circles like a leaf in an eddy of a mountain stream – suspended on its journey. These currents and temptations are where the conviction of purpose are tested. You will get pulled in then swirled around and disoriented from your original direction – the question is, are you continuing to try and pull your self out? to break the grip of idleness and inaction? It would be easy to let go and spin idly for a while. Inaction is easy.

I also have become aware of some other qualities of my path – While it begins as a construction connecting two points, there is in fact no destination. Point ‘B’ does not exist in the successful model. You NEVER arrive. Thats important. Movement along the path IS life. There is only journey. Those two points are about the QUALITY of the journey. Also, the path is not single focused. I think understanding this is the hardest. You don’t have a path about loosing weight, another about getting in shape, or quitting smoking, or being a better spouse, or writing that novel –

In quantum mechanics, a photon – a little piece of light going from point a to point b – travels there on the sum of all possible paths. Every possibility, all at once. (want to go down that rabbit hole? read up on Richard Feynman or click to http://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath320/kmath320.htm ) And point b? not the stopping point – travel continues.

For there to be light, the photon must travel. It’s journey is from the place it is, to the place it needs to be – and it gets there by traveling along the sum of all paths. Forever.


  1. “The woods are beautiful, dark and deep but I have miles to go before I sleep.. I just love that poem.. thats what comes to mind when reading your Sum of all paths.

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