Saturday, May 17, 2008

riding my motorsickle

this morning I thought I'd write a bit about the gasoline crisis. when I was thinking about the post, I remembered hearing that the chinese character for crisis is composed of two characters one meaning danger and the other meaning opportunity. wanting to confirm that my recollection is correct, I googled 'chinese character crisis' and learned that what we've heard is not quite accurate. one of the characters is indeed 'danger' but the other is 'crucial point.'
The use of the term gained momentum when John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Indianapolis on April 12, 1959:

"When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters.
One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity."

Kennedy employed this trope routinely in his speeches, and it was then appropriated by Richard M. Nixon and others... in 2007, Condoleezza Rice repeated the misunderstanding during Middle East peace talks, and Al Gore did so in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

There is an undeniable appeal to the misappropriation of weiji. It is dramatic in its compression; in two syllables it offers inherent proof of the opportunity hidden within every crisis. This presumed oriental wisdom is used to communicate the inspirational notion that a crisis should be a time of optimism by erroneously deconstructing weiji (crisis) as wei (danger) and ji (opportunity). However, we can question ourselves, is not the meaning of 'crucial point' and 'opportunity' somewhat similar?
well, now that I (with the assistance of google & wikipedia) have set this often used expression to rights, let me return to my point. oh yes, the point. well, my point is to say with the price of gas nearing or exceeding 4 bucks a gallon, perhaps fuelish americans will finally start changing their gas guzzling habits.

at my house, we are doing what we can. in april I celebrated my 2nd year of being car-free. when my much loved 1994 vw finally gasped it's last breath, I thought I'd see if I could survive without a car. I figured I live in house where I can walk to a grocery store, drugstores, three public libraries*, and the post office - not to mention numerous places to eat, drink and be merry; and I have decent access to public transportation which can carry me to downtown cleveland, the east side neighborhoods of university circle, cleveland heights and shaker heights in no time (and what time is involved is always put to good use reading a book, gazing out the window, or making conversation with some interesting character).

we have one vehicle in the household a small pick-up truck which f drives. it gets pretty decent gas mileage, but still.... and when we moved a few years back f reduced his commute from 24 miles to 6 miles. but still...... in december f received a motorcycle as a holiday gift, albeit it didn't work, but with some knowledgeable tender loving care, it would be just a matter of time. all winter the motorcycle sat dormant in the garage - but with the spring and warmer temperatures the motorcycle is being resurrected.

f's pretty good about fixing anything, but sometimes it's nice to have the assistance of someone who is actually trained! for the last week, a motorcycle 'doctor' has been making housecalls and last night the bike was purring like a kitten, well, it sounded more like a roaring lion (the mufflers still need work) - but you get the idea!

with the rising price of gasoline and the problem of global warming (yes, it's true! it exists!), I'm hoping more people will start turning to other methods of getting around - like walking, biking, and public transportation. I also expect we'll be seeing lots more motorcycles and scooters around.

arlo singing the motorcycle song (1975)

p.s. if anyone in the cleveland area reads this post and is interested in learning more about our motorcycle doctor post a comment with your email address and I'll get back to you.

*the libraries range from 1/2 mile to 2 miles from my house. to me anything within 2-3 miles is within walking distance! all the other 'necessities' (grocery store, p.o., drugstore) are within a mile's walk as if anyone really wants to know!


Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

I'd be glad if fewer people just stopped driving gas guzzling, road hogging SUVs. There are a glut of them here, and it's interesting to note, that more and more people are starting to sell them to buy smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Now we just have to get the government to do something about the hopeless state of public transport.

By the way, you've been tagged for a meme over at my place :-)

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

oh my four year)-old friend Luc would sing along with Arlo - and beg for a ride on your motorsickle. Think I'd better not tell him :-)

Prices are outrageous in France too where a lot of people ride scooters - or walk, sometimes great distances. Considering that most of them here in the Tarn live well into their nineties, I don't think we're the worst off for it. (but of course, cities have to be designed accordingly which is hardly the case in America)

Barbara said...

You are so good about going GREEN! Motorcycles scare me, though. Please be careful if you are riding it.

We are down to one working car and it is a good feeling!

tut-tut said...

You are in sync with Ched today, who posts about Arlo.

We had been a one car family until two years ago; now we have a teenaged driver too. Combine, combine, combine is our mantra when it comes to going out. What can we do to limit our trips?

Steve said...

It's so great that you're able to do so well without a car. A common misconception, even among New Yorkers, is that you can't be carless outside the Big Apple. (Well, maybe in Boston or Washington, but nowhere beyond that...) I'm glad to see that's not true!

I agree with Barbara on the safety thing, though. Motorcycles are a little scary.

TheElementary said...

When our car- a ten year old Honda- gives up, we'll not get another one. We'll somehow have to do without. We'll relocate and change our lives however we have to.
This is a very inspiring post, and also worrying- when are people going to realise life is going to change drastically?
It sounds like a super place you live in- that's what we're aiming for, a place where we can walk from one store to another like I did in Ireland, like they do in Europe.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

av - the people have to start pressuring the government to DO INVEST in public transport... unfortunately in the u.s. the auto and oil lobbies have a stranglehold on policy makers and unless we rise it will be 'business as usual'

lee - I've been having serious fantasies about how the fuel crisis might actually start getting people to start walking, improving their health and hey maybe get to 'live well into their nineties'

barb - kudos to you for striving ... it ain't easy....truthfully, motorcycles (or should I say people in cars) scare me and I won't be riding/driving one. but f is 'mr. health and safety - I'm sure he will always 'be aware'... when em was 3 f did buy a bike, but I coerced him to sell it as I was too scared to have 'the father of my child riding on a motorcycle' - e is 29 now, so my fear factor is much diminished.

tut - thanks for the head's up on ched. twilight zone music???? I thought tub would be on holiday this double thanks!
excellent mantra!! combine, combine!! and may the force be with you with teenage drivers in the family.....oh I remember those days, talk about being scared, but we won't go there as you definitely don't need to hear that!

steve - it just takes the will to unplug oneself from the pump and the willingness to not be in a hurry to get from point a to point b.... and yeah motorcycles are scary to me too, but faith is an amazing thing! grok?

te - being car-free is not the norm in the greater cleveland area...where one lives does help in embracing a car-free life. I am lucky that there is decent mass transit and I (choose) to live in an 'urban' area that has the necessities nearby...but there is a psychological factor - I have talked with many people who will NOT ride a bus or take mass transit.

I pray for the day the u.s. starts investing in public transport and rail transportation for long distance travel....but expecting the u.s. to join the rest of the
'civilized world'.....well what can one say....just consider the state of health care, health insurance, and family/parental leave....

oh I'm sorry about to go off on a rant!

but te I do believe just about any place can be 'super' if one sets out to make it so....

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I ran into someone recently with a son named Arlo. I also knew a family here in SF whose lumberjack son had a tradition of making the family listen to the entire "Alice's Restaurant" after consuming turkey, and then he rolled down to the Irish pub at the bottom of the hill to polish off Guinesses

Mouse said...

Sometimes I long to live in a city where I can walk to everything and home again. Boston or Seattle, Florence or Paris, I'm not fussy

lettuce said...

thats such a good idea, the motorcycle doctor... LG is worryingly keen on motorbikes, i'm just desperately hoping she grows out of it before she's old enough to drive one.

Petrol over here is over $9 a gallon. You can bet i'm glad we don't have a car.

lettuce said...

oh - and you'd be interested in this, there was a long piece in my newspaper last weekend about the growing practice in the UK of people using used/waste cooking oil to make their own petrol....

will see if i can find the article online
here it is:

not so good on the doing-without cars and walking more front, but good in terms of recycling

Michael Rawluk said...

I purchased a tiny splash of gasoline to power the evil motor driven lawnmower and it cost me over $6 (that is over $6.06 USAnian). And it is not my lawn mower or lawn. If it had been a good old fashioned mechanical mower, I could have saved money and burned some of these calories that I picked up somewhere.

dennis said...

Dennis says the reason many cats are slim & healthy is we walk (and sometimes prance) everywhere.