This blog post is about my friend Scott, but it’s really more about the exquisite nuances of life that we have shared. I use the word “shared” but it was mostly Scott doing the sharing with me. He’s that kid in the sandbox who finds a cool toy buried somewhere and let’s you play with it while he keeps digging for more treasures. Soon you find yourself digging too. And then you wonder- what could possibly be outside the box!
Scott and I met after college at a cheap diner in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Both extremely naive about life, we thought we could change the world with our youth ministry skills. We partnered together for about five years, uniting our youth groups to form a misfit crew of 20 students and 2 youth guys. The unity became official when we jointly officiated a wedding between one of his former students and one of mine. A turtle carried the wedding rings down the aisle. Longest wedding ever. Just kidding, the turtle was carried down the aisle.
We couldn’t think of anything to top that, so we ventured outside corrupting young people’s minds to having children of our own. We raised them all wrong so that we could tell people it was totally God that they turned out so well. Scott embraced his GenXness, deconstructing church, american politics, and eventually the corporate world while I ambitiously set out to change the world by myself. Oh, so, when that didn’t work out, I came back home and got back back into my sandbox. There we were again, Scott and I, boxed in again, just doing life.
It’s now that I really appreciate Scott and being in a sandbox with him because he makes this place so enjoyable. He brings the nuance. I would like to add that Scott never became the typical GenXer by doing extreme sports, because Scott “is the extreme,” to quote one of our favorite quotable movies. Whatever Scott does, he does it to the extreme. Whether that’s in drinking coffee or in the music he listens to, Scott is extreme about nuance. He keeps finding those treasures in the sand and sharing them with me.
Scott introduced me to Lord of the Rings, treasure enough for a life-time. Over the years Scott shared his love of coffee, beer, and table top gaming with me. The latter has changed the course of my life quite a bit. I’m five years in creating and publishing a board game, now working on my second game. Although I cannot appreciate these treasures on the level that Scott does, I have a richer experience of them because of him. He is a maven who “geeks out” about his hobbies and interests, exuding a feverish and contagious passion for nuance in life. And we are only in our 40’s. What’s next? How about cycling?
I think Scott enjoyed biking as a kid but when he met some cycling enthusiasts at his church, he took it to the next level. Within a year, Scott had purchased two, we’ll call them bikes, though we would be missing the trees for the forest. Scott wears a t-shirt with, such a bike, pictured on the front. There are about 20 some labels making the different parts of a bike, and Scott enjoys them all.
It looked like Scott was leaving our sandbox and, well, I couldn’t sit there all alone. It was time to explore. One thousand dollars later, I was outfitted and ready to hit the trails. With any new expensive hobby, I have “an out” when my wife asks what the heck I’m doing. I just say, “It’s Scott’s fault.” He uses a similar line to blame me for getting home late on Wednesday nights- our game night- telling his wife when she calls wondering where the heck he is, “It’s Rob’s turn. He has analysis paralysis.” Somehow this makes sense and redirects our wives’ angst, getting us off the hook (somewhat). Needless to say, I have a few hundred dollars invested in games too. Back to cycling- the investment is paying off. I have over 500 miles logged on my bike and it looks like I might hit 1000 before the end of the year- living outdoors, outside the box.
I’ve ridden my bike a few times with Scott and I wouldn’t be able to keep up if he didn’t change his cadence to share time with me. Of course, it’s not enough to cycle with Scott; there is an app called Strava to appreciate every little nuance of our activity. We track our speed, time, heart rate, elevation, joules generated, calories- all within segments of each trail, and, I kid you not, there is a “suffer score” to summarize our activity. So, since I’m going to cycle, I gotta get the app to appreciate all that’s happening to me as I suffer, to appreciate suffering as much as possible.
Enters “Hope.” Suffering is the gateway to hope, the greatest nuance of them all. You can live life without paying much attention to it or you can explore the world your whole life and never discover all the treasures that hope offers. I got Scott beat here; having studied the nuances of hope for the last 20 years, delving deeper and deeper. Maybe one day I’ll have an app that gives people their “hope score.”
Today Scott and I met up at the “Dog Park” near Phoenixville for a ride to Manayunk and back- a 45 mile trip for me. I’m working up the strength to ride to Philly and back sometime this Fall. There and Back Again, as a hobbit would say. It was a perfect day; 73 and sunny with a light breeze to invigorate us when fatigue set in. Near the end of our trip, about fifteen minutes before we parted ways near the Perkiomen Trail, Scott waxed eloquent. I stopped talking because my legs were crying. I had reached a pain threshold, all leg and neck muscles seizing up. I pushed through the pain as Scott kept me distracted with his philosophical musings on cycling.
Today Scott reached a milestone: 5000 miles cycling and he shared that with me. I asked him, “So what has 5000 miles taught you?” He has been reflecting on what it means to be a cyclist and the purpose of goal setting. In addition to mitigating seasonal affective disorder- basically cyclical depression, goal setting and goal achieving in one area of life set us up for hope and joy in other areas of life too. We joked that flossing is our next big goal. If we could get that down, we would be success moguls, unstoppable. Scott mentioned quite a few more benefits from cycling and achieving goals- from living with hope. Ironically, Scott only scored one achievement on his Strava activity today- mostly because I was holding him back. However, I scored 34 achievements- personal records- on different segments of the trail. I normally ride about 13-14 miles per hour. Riding with Scott bumped me up to 15.6mph. And this is how the nuance of hope makes such a big difference; when we share our interests, passions, time and hopes with others, their lives can become remarkably richer. Because I’ve explored with my friend Scott, I can say of life, “What a ride!”