Small Wonders: The uphill cycle of life can get you down

July 12, 2013|By Patrick Caneday

When you are 1,000 feet up on a tightrope or hanging from a cliff, "don't look down" is great advice. But honestly, how often are any of us in that position? And if we are, we put ourselves there.

Don't look up, I would argue, is better advice for the rest of us.

Oftentimes when I have a big decision to make, I ride. Hop on my road bike and head someplace free of stoplights and intersections — which is hard to find in greater L.A. — so I can cruise without fear of becoming a hood ornament. Long and straight enough to get into that state of meditation where mind departs body, freed from human stain and able to see things clearly.

The L.A. River is good for this. But lately I've been liking La Tuna Canyon, starting just north of Burbank and ending atop Glendale. I shouldn't say I like it, though. I don't. I hate it.


It is an uphill battle every time — literally and figuratively — and one that I've won only once, the first time I rode it. Each time thereafter, I haven't been able to make it up the 5-mile slope without stopping to collapse from exhaustion and watch cyclists younger, older and more hearty than I, streaming past.

It starts easy enough, with a barely discernible grade, then a few uphill bursts followed by level stretches for relief and rejuvenation.

But higher up, the landscape changes. It always does. Things get steeper, and all you see ahead is hill and curve.

The last few times I've wondered why I haven't been able to make it up without stopping — besides the obvious fact that I am woefully out of shape. Why was I able to make it up the first time without stopping, but failed every time since?

I haven't been to church much lately. So occasionally I listen to a sermon on podcast while I ride. It's not exactly church, but the scenery is better. And on my last ride, the sermon was about the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," the one Adam and Eve so carelessly ate from sentencing the rest of us to a lifetime of serious yard work, shameful body imagery and labor pains.

The point of the sermon was very simple: there are just some things we are not meant to know, things that we are better off not knowing.

Too much knowledge leads to things like human cloning, Internet porn and Jar Jar Binks. There is a reason we don't need to know everything. It might kill us.

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