Strangers

Windy again and the fun of grinding slowly up to Nettlebed into a headwind somehow escaped me. Still, the homeward leg was reasonable and the end result was that I’ve ridden more miles this week than I did in the whole of January last year – wrecked as that was by a mixture of ‘flu and snow. It feels positive to get the year off to a good start.

Up near Nettlebed I ended up helping out a chap who’d punctured. Another rider had stopped to help too but his pump was playing up; between us we sorted the flint-victim out. No big deal: it cost me a few minutes of my time and an inner tube. In return I got to chat with strangers I wouldn’t have ever spoken to otherwise, and it’s somehow just plain nice to be able to help someone.

What I want to know is what that says about me. I could be just a mug – someone’s gained an inner tube for nothing and I’m out of pocket. I like to think that what goes around comes around but there’s no guarantee of that.

“It’s nice to help” is awesomely limp and meaningless. I’m sure it’s not buying me a ticket to heaven: I’m not doing it out of fear of a god looking down and judging my actions for some future reckoning.

Taking some satisfaction from knowing that you’ve somehow made the world a slightly better place than it was is pretty well as unenlightening as it being “nice to help”. Frankly, “the world” doesn’t care.

I don’t know why I don’t hesitate to offer help. I don’t know the source of the satisfaction it brings me. That’s a big hole in any claim to self-knowledge. It needs to be returned to.