Half-Baked Theories: Why Bike-Riding Is Life’s Central Metaphor

Unfortunately, I have used my title to as a bait and switch. I don't really know why bike-riding is life's central metaphor. I only know that it is. Or that it seems to be, which, to my too-easy-to-convince brain, is almost the same thing.

So, there's: "It's just like riding a bike!" to mean that once you learn it, you can't unlearn it. And first of all: NOTHING is like that. I have learned far too many things over, and over, and over, and I have to learn them anew each time, which makes me think that really, there is very little in this life that is just like riding a bicycle.

However. There are some things that are like riding a bike. Maybe.

See, Strider was saying that we have entered the phase of being a parent in which you actually have very little real control. (As if you ever did. But at least before we could bodily pick people up and put them in different places.) Our job from now on, he intimated, was to stand back and watch.

And what sprang into my head was life's central metaphor: the bicycle. As in: when children were babies, we were running alongside, physically exhausting ourselves, trying to help them with the basics (pedal! Pedal!) and now is the part where all of sudden they are actually pedalling. They are wobbling off, choosing their own friends, books, loves, likes, everything, and we have to stand back without any control at all, watching while they pedal off into the distance, or pedal straight into a garbage can. And then they stand up, and get off the bike, and get back on again, wobbly but under their own control. And we just have to watch.

How this isn't actually like riding a bike? I have to learn this over, and over, and over again.

How did people even make metaphors before bicycles?

2 thoughts on “Half-Baked Theories: Why Bike-Riding Is Life’s Central Metaphor

  1. I love this post. I would go so far as when they crash into the garbage can, we help them dust off and get them right back on the bike.
    Wasn’t the methaphor before riding a bike riding a horse?


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