Cycling: the Sequel

I fell off The Bike. One minute I was sailing along, congratulating myself on how well I was handling this whole re-entry to cycling thing, the next minute I was lying on the ground, with a kind Dutch lady asking me if I was ok. Apart from a cut knee (quite an achievement as I fell on grass!) and a bruised ego, I was fine. I struggled to my feet to prove it and, in Dutch Direct style, she said: ‘Are you not used to riding a bike?’ I replied honestly: ‘No; I am just starting’. She looked at me a bit strangely, backed away slowly and I could see her thinking: ’Just starting to ride a bike? At her age? How weird!’ Anyway, I did what you are supposed to do – I got right back on The Bike and took the straight road home (most roads are straight here – and flat). The whole way home those annoying but true words from Proverbs kept bouncing around in my head – ‘Pride comes before a fall.’ And, as if that wasn’t enough, another warning from 1Corinthians popped up too: ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.’ Yes – it seems like I had it coming to me! But those biblical warnings are about so much more than cycling – they are guides for our whole lives. Once we lose our humility and think we can do it all by ourselves instead of trusting God, falling is inevitable. Physically, falling down is a strange thing – children do it so easily; they bounce back up, forget the fall in minutes and their cuts soon heal. For adults it’s not so easy. We have further to fall and we feel the pain for longer. It seems we get worse at falling as we get older. Yet in our Christian experience, that should not be so. We know by now that our God will lift us up again and we have Christian friends and family to encourage us to get back on The Bike. I am encouraged by this less familiar verse from Proverbs: ‘The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.’  I’m off out for a ride now – just give me an hour or so to get my helmet, body armour and goggles on!

Nelson Mandela

There are 9 million bicycles…

Dot and bike They say you never forget how to ride a bike. I’m not so sure. I got one a few weeks ago and have found it a very wobbly experience! Then I tried to remember when I had last been on a bicycle and I think it might be well over forty years ago! I still remember when I was about six or seven having a little red and white bicycle that my Dad had lovingly painted for my Christmas present – actually, I’m wrong, it was Santa who did the painting… It was second-hand, of course, as so many things were in the olden days (pre-owned or pre-loved they would call it now). I also recall learning to ride it. There were no stabilisers in those far-off days so off we went along the path to the Moat Park in Dundonald: me on the new bike, Dad running behind me, holding the saddle. I expect we did that several times before I suddenly realised that Dad was standing still and I had taken off on my own. It felt like flying – briefly – before I lost my nerve, wobbled and fell off… and then we did it all over again. There’s definitely a lesson for life in there but I won’t spell it out! Over the past few weeks I have been launching out on the two-way cycle paths here in Nieuw Vennep, trying to work up the courage to just ride on at junctions, trusting that the cars will stop for me as they do for all the other cyclists… the Bicycle is King in the Netherlands! As I ride I keep thinking of the song from Postman Pat about Miss Hubbard, the very prim church organist – ‘An upright lady on an upright bike’ (note the position of my handlebars!).51G2NHT88KL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The Supermarket of the Dead

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Prague, the DOX centre for contemporary art and a remarkable installation called the Supermarket of the Dead.

The city itself (Prague) is an architectural timeline of major historical events. Its buildings and monuments chart an often turbulent past and are a major reason for it being one of Europe’s favourite tourist destinations. But the city is very much alive and you can always rely on the Czechs to be at, or not too far away from, the cutting edge of contemporary thought.

The DOX is a fabulous concept. It sees its mission as promoting critical thinking on the issues that are shaping the contemporary world and its motto is:

Today, when more and more people tend to think dangerously alike, art’s capacity to suspend, even for a moment, our habitual ways of seeing may be its greatest value.

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The Golden Calf

The Soul of Money is one of the current exhibitions at DOX and is a striking collection of works by contemporary artists questioning the taken for granted role of money as the bedrock of the global economy. Using images, installations, quotations and written material it presents a powerful challenge to the growing inequalities and unsustainable nature of our global economy based on consumption and reliance on money.

 

The installation that blew me away was the Supermarket of the Dead. The artist explains that even today in Chinese culture, ‘Paper replicas of money and goods are ritually burned as offerings to win the favours of ancestors, gods and spirits in an afterlife which is thought to mirror the economy of the real world.’  Brought together is a collection of paper imitation TVs, laptops, designer shoes and bags, cans of beer, spirits (the liquid sort), bank notes and, bizarrely, KFC family meal buckets.  The artist goes on to say, ‘One becomes aware … of the quasi-religious fetishism inherent in the consumption of branded products, whose benefits for the consumer lie not in their use but in participation in a system of meanings…’.  That’s pretty neat critical and theological reflection that applies equally to Western Christianity and raises the question of what exactly is the system of meanings that justifies our obsession with branded products.

Thanks, Prague, for being such a wonderful city; thanks, DOX, for such a great vision and thanks, Katka, for always being out there on the edge!

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http://www.dox.cz/en/exhibitions/the-soul-of-money