Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cycling Through Hard Times

Hard times, like everything else, come in cycles. For instance, the end of daylight savings time and the cycle into darkness comes round this time of year as dependably as the death and taxes. This dark side of the sun cycle is tough on bicyclists. We have to go out again and buy a new head lamp which must be the world’s most popular target of theft. Then we have to check the rain gear to make sure its waterproofing survived the last cycle through the washing machine. For me the darkness cycle is pretty tough. I think I have what they call seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In summer I’m the happiest person on the planet. In winter I verge upon clinical depression-—except, of course, when I’m on my bike. It is impossible to depress while riding a bike. In fact, it’s hard to ride a bike without a smile on your face.

But sun and mood cycles are benevolent compared with the really hard ones, namely economic cycles. I was born in 1939 as the world was slowly cycling out of the Great Depression,and from the terrifying economic news these days, it looks like we might be cycling into another one. Judging from the length of the last Great Depression, my life cycle might be up before the hard times are over.

Throughout out my lifetime, there have been minor economic cycles of boom and bust, regulation and deregulation that unfettered the robber barons who then barreled right over the rest of us. Closely related to economic cycles are election cycles. As the Republicans cycled in and the Democrats cycled out, the ideology of deregulation and laissez faire capitalism usually rises while the social safety net tumbles. Maybe in a few days the Dems will cycle back in and clamp the breaks on today’s robber barons. I can at least hope.

But there are tougher cycles yet. Whole civilizations come and go as the major energy resources upon which they depend are depleted. Petroleum geologists believe our civilization is at the peak of its major energy source which will begin to decline. My children may live to see the fall of civilization as we know it. Those will be hard times indeed. Luckily my offspring are cyclists so not as petroleum dependant as many. Still no matter how hard times get on the down cycles, we humans seem to cycle right on through. We have our familial cycles of grandparents, parents and children. We have our friends, our communities, our love and faith in one another. We have our bicycles.