It's a series....over the next few days I'll be posting an article I've written for Burning Man on their '03 theme "Beyond Belief". Consider this peicemeal release as a gift. (or trial balloon on my part). It'll probably take me several days to get it out there..I'll try and paste in some stuff once or twice a day to keep in interesting. It starts out in story form but will appear to have more relevance as it unfolds. Maybe.
1975 / Rural North Dakota
The June sun beats down on my burr-haircut as flies buzz with anticipation of impending doom. I stand straddling my bike at the top of a ramp tenuously formed by a wide plank and two concrete blocks, peering over the handlebars into the abyss. Describing it as an abyss could be a little misleading, but when you’re looking at making your first serious jump on a bicycle, a line of three old car tires do indeed appear abysmal.
I have never encountered a moment of danger in my eight long years. Loving parents, convinced that little boys had a self-destruct gene, were always watching over me, keeping me from the sort of harm that finds little boys when they go their own way. This jump is my big Danger Debut, and I am giddy thinking of the hero status I will be awarded by my peers. Younger cousins sit in the dirt grandstands on either side of the landing area, chanting “Go, go, go!” I am about to become their pedaling, vicarious experience.
It seems like a hundred feet from the end of the ramp to the far end of the tire pile. In truth, it can’t be more then eight, but in moments of pondering the unknown, our perspective is always skewed…distances are greater, shouts are louder, and dangers are exaggerated.
I walk my bike up to the top of the hill and point it towards the ramp. Getting on, I wipe the sweat from my brow and push off…pedaling for all I’m worth. Approaching the ramp at warp speed…now I’m at the point of no return; I must launch out into the unknown or veer into the crowd. Either way, someone is likely to get stitches.
I believe I can jump the tires, but there is a chasm between belief and what lies beyond. The tires look even larger when approached at high speed. From one stroke of the pedals to the next, I vacillate…jump, don’t jump, jump, don’t jump. It seems I am becoming a bicycling version of a man mentioned in the New Testament, who, in begging Jesus to come touch his sick child, struggles with his own doubt, blurting out the definitive paradox of faith: “Jesus, I do believe…help me overcome my unbelief!” I mutter “Me too, Jesus…me too...”