When I was six I got my first bike.
I rode it up and down the path outside my home, slowly, wobbling, scared at first, feeling every bump in the pavement, the pedals heavy and reluctant under my feet.
To begin with, I needed stabilizers. Without them, I'd have fallen over and hurt myself. But the stabilizers helped me, held me up.
After a few weeks of practice, my confidence began to grow. I wasn't scared anymore. I learned how to balance and pedal at the same time, how to turn smoothly, how to stop safely.
And as my skill and my confidence grew, I found that, rather than being a comfort, a protective influence, the stabilizers I'd relied on a few weeks before were now becoming a bit of a drag, a burden; cumbersome rather than helpful, holding me back rather than supporting me as I tried to do more: more daring turns, quicker riding, maybe even a wheelie or two.
The thrill of Cycling
And so the stabilizers came off. One at first, and then shortly after that, both. And I was away. I was a cyclist.
And I still am. I still enjoy that same rush I got the first time I felt like I was really riding the bike rather than teetering on top of it. The rush of the wind at your face, the roar of it in your ears, the busy whirr of the mechanisms as they turn under you. The exhilaration of freedom.
We used to need the spectre of a vengeful god to explain earthquakes, floods, plagues and pestilence; frightening and unstoppable ills that seemed to rise up without warning or justification to punish or stymie us. Now we understand the true causes of these events, and that they are driven by natural forces, not motivated by any form of sentience.
We used to satisfy ourselves with ideas that the sun was rolled each day across the sky by a divine dung beetle, or ferried between day and night on two magical boats, until centuries of painstaking measurement and observation by far-sighted individuals gave us planetary science, the true shape of the solar system, and our place in it.
We used to need the theory of the four humours to treat disease and sickness, until we discovered germs, bacteria, viruses, developed antiseptics, antibiotics, vaccination, blood transfusions, transplants and all the other life-saving wonders of modern medicine.
Cycling without god
We used to need creation stories, which had us magicked into existence in various ways, to explain ourselves. Now we know that we are mammals, flawed and amazing creatures evolved from simpler ones over staggering stretches of time by the power of simple mechanisms repeated in dizzying quantities; and that the atoms that form us were forged by exploding stars further away and longer ago than is within our grasp to imagine.
I used to need stabilizers on my bike. I don't need them anymore.