Bicycle Diaries: It's solved by rolling

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31.7.07

It's solved by rolling

solvitur volubilis

I thought I'd start today's post by brushing up on my high school Latin. I don't think any Roman or Catholic ever said this. My inspiration is a more famous Latin phrase that I've always loved: Solvitur Ambulando.

It is solved by walking was first said by Diogenes the Cynic. It's come to be an appeal to practical experience when confronting any problem. Diogenes believed that pragmatic reason rather than tradition is the only guide for living one's life. If folks don't use reason to guide their conduct it would be better to treat them like animals and lead them on a leash.

Diogenes was considered a royal- pain-in-the-ass by his fellow Greeks. His devotion to practical experience was an overt criticism of the herd mentality of conventional Greek society; so much so that Plato referred to him as a Socrates gone mad. Later, Diogenes Laertius, in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, described this approach to life:
Most people, he would say, are so nearly mad that a finger makes all the difference. For if you go along with your middle finger stretched out, some one will think you mad, but, if it’s the little finger, he will not think so.
It should come as no surprise then that I believe that Diogenes's words offer a good guide for rollers. I've been finding all kinds of examples of folks who have solved problems by rolling.

For example, between 1952 and 1953, Willem de Kooning, the Dutch Abstractionist, painted
Woman and Bicycle. Art critics generally agree that this painting is an attempt to come to terms with de Kooning's inner conflicts over women. Some even believe that the aggressively angular image of the woman sitting on a bicycle is inspired by Freud's dream theories of sexual repression.

Like de Kooning, Charles Wilson Peale, America's first preeminent artist and all around renaissance man, was fascinated by the possibilities of rolling. He invented his own velocipede, Latin for fast foot, "as a welcome diversion from his arduous painting projects". As David V. Herlihy's writes in his new book, Bicycle,
Whenever his back began to ache, he would take a few spins atop his velocipede in the salubrious air of his garden, and return to his easel thoroughly invigorated.
In our own century, many bikers have realized that it is solved by rolling. Setting out from his home in Nepal on 29 November 1998, Pushkar Shah circumnavigated the world over the next eleven years. Why? In 1990, the Nepalese government arrested him for participating in the country's democracy movement. When he was released, Shah decided to spread the message of peace and hope for his country and for the world. This mission was not about material gain or international fame. It was simply about spreading the message of peace.

Whether for peace or future opportunities or relaxation or psychological closure, solvitur volubilis recommends itself because the open road is where anyone can think and reflect on their life and times. Utility is certainly important. Many bike just for that. Nevertheless, it is solved by rolling opens us up to many amazing possibilities.

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