Day 50 Sunday, August 28 Eureka to Austin, NV 70 miles
I had sort of an empty and mindless day of riding today. As I sit here on an overly soft bed (not complaining!) I can think of very little that I thought about or of any significant events while riding. I have had so many momentous days that it was kind of refreshing for my mind to largely go blank for awhile. I hear this is one of the goals of Buddhist meditation. I clearly have a long ways to go.
I spent a leisurely morning taking a few pictures of downtown Eureka after having an exceptionally good breakfast at the Owl Cafe across from the motel. I wasn’t anticipating a difficult day of riding as the first 40+ miles were expected to be fairly flat. I knew that the ride was going to end with a false summit climb of 1600 feet followed by another 500 feet after a short descent.
The descent was much steeper than I had expected and although it wasn’t especially long (about 11 miles) I had to dig deep. By the time I arrived in Austin 90 minutes later my stomach didn’t feel right. I recognized the feeling. It’s the same feeling an athlete gets when running wind sprints going into the anaerobic mode and exceeding your oxygen intake. It took most of the evening to recover and get my stomach settled back down again.
The real energy of the day took place at the restaurant where I consumed a small tasty pizza loaded with vegetables. I ended up in three separate conversations about religion, rituals, knowledge, gnosticsism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, absolute truth, and belief. I talked with Bonnie who worked in the restaurant. She described herself as an agnostic and shared with me that some of her best conversations come with her friend, the minister. Then Mikey had stopped in with his friend on the way to Burning Man and we talked about the need for rituals and rites of passages in our lives. I asked him about Burning Man and he described what it is that attracts him to this growing annual community ceremony.
The last of these three conversations was with Eric and Kent where we talked the evening away on the open deck in front of the restaurant. Kent is an emergency room doctor who also teaches science of the mind and philosophy at the University of Colorado. Eric runs a dog walking business in San Francisco and lives near family in Austin, TX. The three of us explored a number of topics and really honed in for a time on the decline of institutional Christianity and the new questions and realities facing today’s people and culture.
I cannot share all that was shared in the three conversations, but I can share the message I am hearing in meeting with people all along my route. The message is clear: “It’s all about conversation and dialogue right now!” This is where the energy is. What I find is that people are wary of certainty and aren’t even looking for it. I am not finding people looking for the “one right answer”. There is more a spirit of exploring, reflecting, contemplating, sharing and questioning.
I am finding that when I share that I am out listening for the story of the shift from institutional religion to personal spirituality, people start to share their story, their background, and their values and beliefs. I cannot tell you what is happening or what all of this means. What I can tell you is that there is energy in just allowing for and engaging in the conversation. Eastninster, where I serve as pastor, has as its unofficial motto these days, “Follow the energy”. I am convinced that the future of Christian spiritual community will not be in getting the answers right, but in providing a safe, nurturing place for people explore the questions together in community.