Transportation: An Exercise in Awakening

Recap: One goal of the Part IV steppingstones is to explore how questioning assumptions—specifically, in the realms of food, shelter, transportation and community—can serve as a catalyst for our awakening.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of transportation? If you are like many people, cars are probably what comes up. Indeed, for most of us, it’s hard to even imagine how we would survive without our cars. And yet, prior to the appearance of the automobile in the late 1800s, people survived just fine. In fact, community life was, arguably, richer and more wholesome before the automobile came onto the scene.

To understand why, you need only recognize that when cars first began to colonize, and then dominate, the streets of our cities and towns, we began to lose something precious. That something was “community”! Prior to the appearance of the automobile, it was streets that served as the locus for social life in cities and towns all over the world. Indeed, streets served as veritable outdoor rooms for the marketing of goods and services, as well as for socializing, civic engagement, theatrical performances and public ceremonies, including weddings and funerals.

Fast forward: Today, given the omnipresence of the modern automobile, the streets that once provided open space for community life have, for the most part, been downgraded to noisy, unhealthy environments, as portrayed in this video:

-What’s your reaction to this video?
-How does it leave you feeling?

Viewing this video, I was struck by how the graphics and illustrations eloquently demonstrate the negative impacts that cars have on community life.

If, after watching it, you are moved to question the wisdom of continuing to base our urban transportation systems on the automobile, you are not alone! Indeed, more and more people today are beginning to replace our old transportation story that has us believing that cars are the only way to go with a new transportation narrative that prioritizes: i-community life over speed and noise; ii-clean air over polluted air; and iii-the health and economic benefits of walking and biking over the sedentariness and health risks associated with car-centered transit.

Upshot: Can you imagine how you might question your beliefs—i.e., your storyaround transportation—in ways that could contribute to your awakening? Here (below) are three thought experiments that might ventilate your thinking.

Thought Experiment 1:
Turn a Van into Your Home!?

Most of us have been conditioned to put housing and transportation in separate realms, but what if we merged them into one category. For example, what if you owned a van that also served as your home!? Though this may sound a bit wacko, there are now lots of people who are experimenting with Van life (#vanlife). For an introduction to Van living, check out this video.

After viewing the Van life video, pause for a moment to reflect on:
i-What, if anything makes you uncomfortable about Van life?
ii-What intrigues you about Van life?

If you are intrigued by the idea of Van Life, check out this website created byVan Lifers John and Jayme who have this advice for those considering Van Life: “If you’re prepared and have the right mindset, Van life can be a great way to cut your expenses, see the world, learn about yourself, and refocus on what really matters in your life. Van life is… about leaning into your fear of the unknown in order to pursue what makes you feel alive. It’s about meeting strangers from all over the world and accepting them for their differences, while openly seeing the commonalities we all share with each other… But deeper than that, Van life is about the commitment to create the most fulfilling life you can for yourself. It’s about not settling for all the “shoulds” that others try to push upon us. It’s about focusing on what’s meaningful in your life and shedding what isn’t. It’s about creating your own path.”

In sum, Van life offers the possibility of a new story wherein we could dramatically reduce our living expenses by dramatically reducing our possessions, while, simultaneously, enriching our lives by dramatically increasing our freedom to connect with ourselves, each other and the natural world.

Thought Experiment 2:
Save Money & Have Fun by Biking!

As Americans, we have been conditioned to believe that we love our cars, but is this really true? Do you love your car? Are you smiling when you are putting gas into the tank of your car? Are you smiling when you are driving around town running errands? Are you smiling when you are stuck in traffic?

Do you really love your car… or is it that you are just unable to imagine alternatives? If the later, here is a proposition for you: What if, instead of relying on a car as your sole source of transportation, you were to hop on a bicycle for short trips around town? Indeed, it turns out that a quarter of our car trips are only a mile or two in length, making biking quicker, cheaper and more likely to put a smile on your face than driving.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been on a bike, don’t let that deter you! For inspiration, just bring to mind that day when you first learned to ride a bike… the thrill of it… the kinesthetic delight and freedom of movement it accorded you! Now, as a first step in reclaiming that fun and freedom, consider hopping on a bike and pedaling around your neighborhood… smiling all the way. Then, to bookend your bike ride, get into your car and take the same route through your neighborhood. Afterwards, consider which experience was more enlivening… more refreshing… more fun? If you found the bike to be more invigorating, why not substitute biking for driving for short trips around town? If you regard this idea as utterly out of the question, why is that? Holding your reservations in mind, click on the video button below.

Pause for a moment to reflect:
i-What did you learn from this video?
ii-What surprised you?

Thought Experiment 3:
Rediscover the Joys of Walking!?

Our bodies are designed for walking. Indeed, we come into the world with a built-in transportation system, complete with feet and legs. Though many today regard walking as an exceedingly slow form of transportion, the simple act of walking delivers many benefits that have been celebrated throughout history as revealed in the following quotations:

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“Walking brings me back to myself.” – Laurette Mortimer

“If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood, go for another walk.”
– Hippocrates

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“I love walking because it clears your mind, enriches the soul, takes away stress and opens up your eyes to a whole new world.”– Claudette Dudley

Walking is our most fundamental form of exercise; and it brings a startling array of physical, mental and emotional benefits as highlighted in this video:

After viewing this video, pause for a moment to consider these two questions:
i-Which of the benefits of walking, highlighted in this video, surprised you the most?
ii-In what ways might walking contribute to your continued awakening?

"In Copenhagen biking is simply the easiest, cheapest and most fun way to get around town."

- Aarong Angert, Steppingstone #23 Guide

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