Pouring Out Scattered Thoughts

Thoughts swirling in the head tend to take up precious mental bandwidth, and consume emotional and psychic energy. Here's pouring them out, and writing my way into clarity and freedom of mind.

Some scattered thoughts on TINA, on the danger of success, on difficult questions for consultants, on two types of work worth doing, and on giving more than money.

1. There is no alternative. TINA.

Capitalism, because there is no alternative. Status quo, because there is no alternative. In fact, there is no deficit in possible worlds, but there is a deficit in the ability to dream, to disclose, and to create new worlds.


The Courage To Be Good & Unity of Spirit and Material, Self and World

1. The courage to be good

A recent conversation with friend woke me up to a surprising realization: I seem to have regained the courage to be good, after years of hiding behind the cover of evil.

We are born with both good and evil in us. We grow up breathing both, unconsciously. Around middle school, when I started to differentiate between good and evil, a few forces pushed me to intentionally renounce good and embrace evil.


Reflections on Free Flowers, Good Work, and Root Cause

Autumn, a season of harvest, in the field, and in the heart. Here are some recent reflections.

1. Would you like a free flower?

On Friday afternoon, a colleague was giving away her vase of fresh flower that would otherwise die over the weekend in the empty office. Another colleague joked, someone should take it on the bus and hand it to people.

What a great idea! So I took the flowers after work, and walked along the Embarcadero and handed them to strangers. “Would you like a free flower?” I asked whoever was passing by.


The Journey Continues -- Bike Stolen and Returned

There is no final destination, only occasional milestones.

The journey has taken many serendipitous turns since the traveler arrived in San Francisco, more than a month ago.

Did I proclaim that I didn't lock my bike once going across country, and nothing happened? Well, three weeks into the city life, the bike was promptly stolen, while locked. It didn't end there: two days later, the bike, the beloved KR White Dragon Horse, was returned. Here is the heartwarming story.


Three-Thousand-Mile Reflections

What used to seem overwhelming, now seems not even a challenge. That's when you know you have grown. At least, now I can proudly say that I know how to use a can-opener, or to cook pasta.

Less than three months ago, I was finding grocery shopping more challenging than speech writing, and was wondering how to navigate my way even to the next town.

The learning and reflections from this 3,000-mile bike journey goes beyond canned tuna and angel-hair pasta. The lessons will continue to sink in and ferment in my heart. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity, made by possible by nothing less than all the people whose paths crossed mine. Their curiosity, encouragement, generosity, trust, and good wishes matter more than the prevailing wind. Thank you, comrades.

Here are some fun facts from the trip.


From Deserts to Mountains, and to the Ocean

The journey never ends, just as it hasn't yet begun.

After over 3,000 miles, 74 days, 7 flat tires, and not even the slightest bodily injury, the traveler was deposited in the Pacific coast metropolis of San Francisco -- also known as the "Old Gold Mountain" in Chinese, on August 21st, 2013.

After a few days of eating and sleeping, looking back on the journey, it almost fells like a different time in life. Let the time travel machine bring the memory back to August 12th, leaving Salt Lake City, heading onto US Route 50, the "Loneliest Highway in America."


From Mountains to Deserts

Reporting to you from the beautiful Salt Lake City. I arrived in Salt Lake on the evening of August 8th, safe and sound, but hungry and tired. After eating and sleeping in large doses for four days, the traveler can't wait to head into the hot and majestic Utah-Nevada deserts.

It seems that the first two thousand miles of biking has been the training for the past 500 miles of mountains and deserts.

On July 30th, forced myself out of the house and back on the road. It's so tempting to relax and settle. But the heart knows where the destiny lies. A short day of 25 miles, but the climb started immediately. Two thousand feet of elevation gain. Stayed with the kind and wise grandparents of the Denver friend. Rocky Mountains, I knock on your door.


From the (Eastern) Foothill of the Mighty Rockies

Reporting to you from the Mile High City of Denver, CO, on the Eastern foothill of the mighty Rockies.

Crossed the second thousand-mile mark. The first thousand miles, from Hampshire College, MA, to Chicago, took 25 days. The second thousand miles took 17 days.

On July 18th, after resting for three days in Omaha, the KR White Dragon Horse continued trotting west. Arrived in the town of Wahoo, after biking for a few hours in upper 90 degree heat. How could you miss out on a town with such a good name.


On Privileges, Wind, and Inner Cultivation

The past five hundred miles in the Midwest has been a solitary journey. You are by yourself, listening to the Bible, battling the elements: sun, wind, humidity, gravity, and sit-bone pain. What a great time to turn the gaze inward, and do some reflection. Here are a few thoughts.

1. Privileges

For 1,500 hundred miles so far, people have been most welcoming and generous. Every evening, some one would let me camp in their yard. Over half of the times, they let me sleep inside, often on a comfortable couch or even a bed. About a third of the times, they would feed me, and send me on my way with snacks. Always, they would most generously share their life stories, dreams, believes, and would take great interests to hear my story.


Five Hundred Miles of Midwest: Thoughts on Politics and Religion

Enjoyed 500 miles of Midwest over the past seven days, and arrived in Omaha on July, 15th.

Very sorry for the delayed updates! Between the 70+ miles riding days and the lack of reliable internet access, I've only been writing notes in the small journal, waiting for an all-inclusive update.


Thousand-Mile Reflections

It's been one thousand miles. Almost one third of the journey. In the good Hampshire College tradition of "mid-semester self evaluation," here are some observations and reflections from the first 1,000 miles.

1. Lawn mowing

After passing by hundreds of American homes, there are two activities that stand out as truly, uniquely American: lawn mowing, and yard sale.


Multiple Universes, In One World

Each day, the journey brings the traveler through multiple universes. Within hours, you can go from the murder capital of the US (Gary, Indiana), to the polluting and monstrous BP refinery, to the heavenly world of Lake Shore trail, where healthy, affluent urbanites are jogging and biking, listening to their iPods. People living in these parallel universes seem to be unaware of the existence of the other reality. Or they are too busy surviving/excelling in their own world to bother with the other worlds. But if you are biking through all them within a day, with their respective odors pressed upon your skin, then these multiple universes would stuck with you for a longer time.


Flat Ocean of Corn & The Real America

"If I rest, I rust." That was the motto on a key.

After biking for 19 consecutive days with only one rest day (forced upon by the rain storm), I took a day off on Friday, June 28th, in Bowling Green, Ohio. Once you relax, you seem to need a lot more relaxation.

Stayed with the wonderful new friend Karen and Bill, both were Christian ministers, among many other inspiring works. They showed me around town -- very much a college town, and brought me to the coffee shop where young students and the liberals gather. "If you blow up that coffee shop, you would kill all the progressives in town." In that coffee shop, I could imagine myself to be back in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA. People even have the same stickers on their water bottle.


The Police Asked, "Are You on Facebook?"

Reporting to you from a family backyard in Painesville, Ohio!

Painesville is not only painless, but has a good sense of humor. I arrived in this little down outside of Cleveland, along Lake Erie, having biked a solid 60 miles in scorching heat. Knocked on a few doors to ask for permission to camp, and one alert neighbor called the police.


Operation Sisyphus and Ivory Tower

As of 6/15, I have been on the road for an entire week. Now, I am in the comfortable and welcoming home of a college friend in Ithaca, NY.

The parents treated me so kindly: they even made real rice, cooked the right way! Such thoughtful and cultured people. You can always tell by the way people cook rice. They offered me the guest room, with a king-sized bed and its own bathroom. Haven't slept on a bed for a week. Didn't want to get up. The mother Wendy showed me around Cornell, and the town of Ithaca. What a different world compared to its surrounding area!


Oneonta, New York

Showered, sheltered and fed!

Yesterday, 6/13, was pouring rain in the Catskill Mountains. The Wood family kindly let me stay in their house for another day, and sleep on their couch. They took me grocery shopping, and showed me the town, and the damage that a hurricane did two years ago. 

Today, biked a solid 60 miles, with lots of hill climbing. Like this one -- I had to push my bike up a continuous hill for more than a mile. But the butt appreciates a break from the seat.


From the Rolling Hills of Catskill Mountains

You are getting the report from the rolling hills of the Catskill Mountains, New York State.

I thought I was done climbing after the Berkshires. Well, beyond mountains there are mountains, as the Chinese saying goes.

Here are some photo updates:


First Three Days

You are getting the report from Hudson, NY!

Today, after biking 45 miles in the rain, half of the time uphill, and asking six places for permission to camp, including the county sheriff (I asked if the prison has an extra bed. They warned me that I might get what I wish for.), I am finally settled down at the back yard of a very generous family in Hudson. I used a garden hose to wash off, in my bike shorts. Don't know what the neighbors thought about the half naked young man showering with a garden hose. 

The past few days has spared no internet or cell signal for updates. So here is a quick report back!


Being a Beginner & Rehabilitation

It it great to be a beginner. It brings us back to the ground. It reminds us that there are always things we don't know, no matter how good we have become at some other things.

It gives me more headache to plan and shop for food than to write a paper or give a speech. I am more clueless in the supermarket than at a professional conference or a board room. Now I understand why Mao sent the "intellectual youths" to the countryside to be "re-educated." This bike trip, even before the first mile, has been a sobering re-education.

It is embarrassing to admit, but here are a few "first" for me in the past few days:


Getting On The Road

It's been two weeks since graduation. Life seems to have gotten busier, with back-to-back travels (LA, San Fran, NYC, Boston), moving, and trying to hit the road soon.

I am now across the street from Hampshire College, making final preparations for the bike trip heading west to San Francisco. Only now has the enormity of the challenge sunk in. It is a similar feeling as when I first arrived in the US four years ago: starting all over, again. Nothing from the past matters here, because it is a different game.

I didn't really know what I was signing up for when I decided to bike across the country by myself. And this is part of the fun. I know I must get on the road, because one could spend the entire summer doing research and practice, and still feel under-prepared. Things will work itself out.


A Not-Yet-Permanent Damage

Looking through the courses I've taken over the past few years, suddenly, I feel a deep worry. It is as if something is missing, but I couldn't locate the source. But, well, what could go wrong? Indeed, I've learn so much from diverse disciplines, in politics, economics, history, philosophy, logic, law, anthropology, biology, geology, and physics.

Until these words in Darwin’s autobiography reminded me of what is missing: