Find Your Way
July 26, 2002
Riggins to New Meadows

Today's Miles = 31.4
Average Speed = 6.2 mph
Maximum Speed = 19.4 mph
Total Miles = 3910.3

I didn't go very far today, nor did I go there very fast. Yes, the ride was almost all uphill, and yes, I had a headwind most all of the way. But the biggest reason for my slight progress today was that I'm simply not in a hurry. I wish I could say I was taking it easy because I was celebrating some great enlightenment, but the truth is a simple matter of logistics. I've got mail to pick up in the town of Halfway, and no matter how hard I push myself I won't be getting there before late Saturday afternoon. Since I won't be able to pick up my mail until Monday morning, I may as well just pace myself so I don't arrive there too early.

I spent the day pretty much completely lost in thought. I don't know if this was destined to happen today or if it was simply because I didn't need to concentrate on the cycling, but my mind certainly wasn't on the road. I spent the early part of the day thinking about the concept of corporations. Not any specific corporation per se, mind you, but how it is that they even exist. Modern corporations are another example of a concept that has mutated far beyond what was originally intended. What began as a structure to limit the liability of investors in specific endeavors has evolved into a legal fiction that has eternal life, few limits on activities, and practically all the rights of a human being. Corporations are essentially free to do as they please, in particular since 1886 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that corporations were "natural persons" and were entitled to the same Bill of Rights protection as the people.

It dawned on me that as a mortal being, I tend to have two competing sets of personal interests with regards to the world around me. I'm going to call these competing interests my "selfish" and my "benevolent" interests. My selfish interests only tend to last for the duration of my life. Like most people, I am drawn to wealth and comfort. A nice home, a full bank account, more and better possessions. But as long as I remain mortal, the fact remains that I can't take these things with me. My selfish desires are bounded by the fact that there will come a day not too far away when my "self" ceases to exist. Despite knowing that our time here will come to an end, we still have benevolent interests in what happens to the world after we leave. I may not be here in 200 years, but I still care about what the world is like in that distant future. I hope that there is a world where people are free, where air is clean, and where the wild is untamed. For some reason, even though we know we won't be around for the future we still have benevolent interests in what that future is like.

When individuals amass great wealth, at some point in their lives they often to come to terms with the fact that they won't be here forever and they can't take it with them, or that they have simply amassed more wealth then they can possibly even spend in their lifetimes. Very often, the wealthy turn their eye from amassing more wealth and power to attempting to redirect their wealth to where it can best serve the future interests of mankind. How many libraries and universities and parks and museums were founded or funded by individuals trying to put some of what they have accrued to good use for the future?

But corporations do not share the same benevolent interests as individuals, because a corporation has been freed of the limitations of mortality. An individual can realize that he has only twenty years left, and rationally decide to give half of what he has accrued to some higher purpose. But it would be folly for a corporation to give away half of its wealth, nor would the shareholders stand for it unless there was some benefit that was to immediately accrue to the corporation. For a corporation with infinite life, there is always a rainy day to save for, or new assets to be purchased, or new legislation to lobby for. Corporations simply do not have the same interests as individuals, and perhaps that is why it troubles me that we have granted corporations the rights of personhood.

I got a message yesterday from someone who joked that it looked like I had too much time on my hands with all the thinking I've been doing lately. Sadly, those who know me well enough will attest that I'm like this all the time. The rights of Man, the existence of God, the role of corporations, the nature of the Universe, self awareness, these are all things that I've turned over and over in my mind before and that I enjoy thinking about. What has changed while I've been out here isn't that I think about them, but that I share what I think about them. I guess I've realized that it isn't as though I have to care about what my coworkers think of me, as I currently don't have any. My friends either know me well enough to understand the theoretical deep ends I'm always wading in, or they will forgive me if this is something new for them. Ultimately this is my place to write, and I have no reason here to censor myself for the sake of others.

The hills here in Idaho seem impossibly rugged. They jut straight up into the air and then plunge earthwards again like some giant roller coaster constructed of rock and soil. If it weren't for the fact that the roads here will built in an era of high explosives and bulldozers instead of convict labor and mule trains, crossing these mountains would make the Appalachians seem like rolling hills in comparison. There was a moment today when I was struck by how green the forest seemed, and by how many trickling streams and waterfalls I was riding past. I was thinking consciously to myself how much I was reminded of riding in Kentucky, when suddenly I rolled past a house with four junked cars in the yard and about a dozen barking dogs trying to chase me away. The deja vu was so strong that I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Late in the afternoon I rolled into an RV park on the outskirts of New Meadows. I was hoping for a place to pitch my tent and connect to a phone line, but they weren't too game about the phone line part. They did however have a swimming pool fed by a hot spring, and I remained true to form by choosing to stay the night where I could take a warm soak.

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