Missing the moment

My recent fad of riding a bike has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I get to wear lycra. What’s more, my shorts are basic black and not the multicoloured display that certain politicians seem to prefer in what is clearly a part of a mating ritual. Cycling is certainly easier on the joints and you get to see more than when jogging: that is if you’re not gasping too much for breath to take any notice. This brings me nicely to the point of this week’s column.

A couple of days ago I was taking a more leisurely ride along a joint cycle and pedestrian track at Hervey Bay. Intuitively you’d think that this concept makes sense: actually it would be safer for either party to mix it with the Queensland traffic on the road! As I approached walkers and joggers I dutifully rang my bell to let them know that the Lycra Lad was near. Mostly it worked. But then there were those who not only didn’t move, they did crazy things like veer across me forcing some evasive action or a testing of the brakes. My reflexes are not what they used to be and it was lucky that we didn’t have a pile up and a section on the front page of the local paper.

Then of course came jogger rage. But it made no difference at all that I pointed out that I had rung my bell and the reason they couldn’t hear me was because they had one of those ipoddie things stuck in their ears with the volume turned up in the red zone.

I’ve noticed that lots of people wear these things now when exercising, commuting (particularly in the city), shopping, everywhere. What is it about them that they want to dissociate themselves from what is going on, particularly from other people? If jogging is that bad that you need to disappear into your head completely, then why put yourself through the pain? And it just seems plain dangerous not to be in touch with one’s surroundings.

I was cooking tea the other night on the barbecue at a caravan park. The cooking area was next to the kids’ playground. Two little girls of about 3 and 4 were playing and supervised by dad. For the good half an hour we were there, dad was talking on a mobile: disengaged from the kids. They kept running to him and calling out for him to ‘give them a push’ or a twirl but he was intent on the phone call. Incidentally, the call was social, not that it should matter. It seemed to me to be an opportunity lost.

Increasingly we seem to be disengaged with the present: there but not there. Apart from the obvious risk of a nasty accident, I wonder if we miss out in lots of ways by not being fully in the moment. Certainly people who, in their thoughts, live in the past or the future are less likely to enjoy the present. Is this true for people who are not present in their behaviour too?

In any case make sure the volume is not turned up too loud so that you can hear the tinkle of the bike bell behind you: the Lycra Lad may be looming close.

Dr Stewart Hase is an Adjunct Fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.


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