Riding a Bicycle in Circles

Here are a couple of questions for you:

  • Are we fundamentally BAD people?
  • Are we fundamentally GOOD people ?

 This bicycle has been raising those questions for me recently and I wonder what you think?

Read on for some context:

priority-bicycle

Imagine a 9-year-old girl riding her bicycle around and around a circular driveway in front of her school every day instead of going to class. 

According to A. S. Neill, that happened at the unique private school he started called Summerhill. Unlike other schools, Summerhill doesn’t have rules that say you have to be in class at a certain time or that you have to study the alphabet in first grade and biology in 10th grade. You could follow your passions and the students there are surprisingly successful in life. 

The girl on the bike had come from a more traditional school with strict, top-down rules.  She had heard that Summerhill was different so, on the first day of school, she got on her bike and rode it instead of going to class. She did that day after day for a couple of months and then one day, she didn’t get on her bike. She went to class instead.

I read Neill’s book many years ago. I had a hard time imagining a school like that.  I went to a school where the principal and the teachers made the rules and the kids obeyed them. We operated on a strict schedule controlled by the clock and bells. If it was 10:15, I was to be sitting in my seat in Mrs. Barber’s Geometry class or else.

I carried this discipline to college and graduate school and into my adult life. It was useful and it made me useful. It also oriented me. I always knew when it was Tuesday morning because I had a  meeting every Monday night.

One of the things that terrified me about retirement was that it has no structure and no rules. I feared that if I didn’t have some kind of discipline imposed by external obligations, I would start drinking Jack Daniels for breakfast, become addicted to “Days of Our Lives”, and play solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51.

So, shortly after I retired, I started a blog called “The Second Half”. It got its name from this quotation from Carl Jung:

“Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life. . . . we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.

Apparently, I did not read my own blog.

We bought bicycles a few weeks ago, and I admit that I’ve been riding my bicycle instead of writing a blog; feeling guilty at first, and then  . . .not so much.

Oddly, I’ve gone back to writing in the past few days. Not sure how often I will be publishing  posts to The Second Half, but I’m knocking out a lot of words for some other projects.

The purpose of this is not to fill you in on  exciting developments in my glamorous lifestyle. It’s to raise deeper questions about human nature.

Do you need disciplines imposed from the outside so that your inner urges and impulses don’t make you run amuck? 

Do you have an inner compass that points toward “true north” that  gets knocked off course by the magnetic attraction of trying to please others or when those more powerful than you are take the wheel of your life? 

What is your experience?