Friday, October 3, 2014

Some Displacements of the Bicycle

After the most intense recent storm, the canal water was brown and roiled up. A displacement medium.

In "Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur", author Pamela Slim wrote about the idea of displacement. In urging people trying to start up new businesses to focus carefully of specific targets, she warns that time spent trying to do everything displaces opportunity time for doing what is necessary to nurture a growing venture. She explains that with limited resources, specifically time, it's crucial to focus on accomplishing what's important rather than trying to do too much. Otherwise, you face the possibility of not completing the important thing, at the critical time, needed to build and sustain a young business venture. The less important thing displaces the important thing in the time slot that you should have been working on the important thing, and then the moment is lost, the market opportunity has passed, business conditions have changed, or your target customers are lost and have moved on.

But, if you think of it, either way it's displacement. Instead of doing the important thing "A" for your young business venture, or even doing "B" the less important thing, you could in fact do anything during that same stretch of time, like "C" sit in front of the television watching season premiers, or even "D", write in your bicycle blog. A can displace B, or C can displace B, or D can displace's all about what choice you make to displace the other possible actions in that time. 

Which certainly, rapidly maps to life itself: our choices of what displaces what define much if not all of life's flow. Instead of doing the necessary thing, A, we chose to displace A and do the unnecessary thing B, or C, or D, and those unnecessary things B+C+D suddenly one day add up to A being no longer possible due to being displaced by a stack of unnecessary things.

Foam trash tumbled in the waves displaces much with its bulk, arrived here in this place via human choice

Time as water, water as time (This is Water), displaced by choices with one action which happens rather than another. I always think of the image of the legend of Archimedes discovering displacement in his bath tub and then running naked (you know he had to be a jolly fat man to observe the displacement phenomenon readily) into the streets of Syracuse, Sicily, yelling "Eureka! Eureka!"  

What we chose to do with the limited time we have displaces the other things we might do within that same finite stretch of time. That's true for all of us, everywhere. It's true for the next five minutes. It also holds for a lifetime. Because of that, it makes sense to analyze, refine, and improve our methods of selecting displaceable actions. In that respect, the time I spend commuting to and from work will add up to a substantial chunk of displaceable actions.

For years I made the default choice: commute by automobile. Sitting in traffic for hours each week made me miserable, hit me with occasional fits of rage, frequent frustration, stress from extended hypervigilance, along with annoying OCD about maintenance and fuel costs, and overall costs. And aggravated back pain to boot. When I arrived at work I was already stressed, and when I got home I was wiped out.

Then I displaced car commuting with bike commuting. I find it renewing and refreshing. The opposite of aggravating. Often peaceful, sometimes inspiring. The transport mode we choose displaces the other methods we might choose, and the choice has effects for which we are responsible, both personal and environmental. Over a lifetime of work, these displacements will add up, one way or the other. I also displace less space on the road, leaving more room for others to commute.

Space displacement variables: cars, SUVs, moms pushing strollers while walking dogs. All displaceable by choices.

I cannot think of an instance where the possible activities which were displaced by an actual bicycle ride were in retrospect more important or worthwhile, in sum, in the long run. The effects of cycling both personal and in a wider sense are very positive. Their sum is favorable. That conclusion here probably does not come as a surprise. 

But what it leads me to consider is time as a finite resource that will, in the end, have been filled up one particular way by choices which lead to a sum of a lifetime-long string specific actions that displaced others and removed them from the story. That's the crux of this displacement filter: asking what might be or become, and what else might be or become, and deciding consciously which of those ought to displace the other as a occupier, a consumer, a tyrant of this limited stretch of time. Hopefully the choice is not only good, each one in its specific circumstances and value, but inspiring to the extent that you want to run out into the street shouting Eureka! Eureka! Or perhaps slightly less shockingly, to go for a long bike ride and listen to the eureka-like sound the chain makes, the wheels sing, and the wind sounds.



  1. Life is filled with choices, unique to each person, each space of time. As adults, we always have that choice to live the best way we know how. Thanks for your lovely thoughts.

    1. In this next moment, what shall we choose? The necessary choice we know, is the answer we keep coming up with. But sometimes that's still not what we choose. Often I suppose. Somehow in that perhaps we are not unique, but in fact one.


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