Feature Issue #008

Ordo ab Chao: Crepuscular Hamburg – Musings while roaming this gem of a city

Just in case you’re thinking that we’ve now turned into Freemasons, we’ll sadly have to disappoint you. If there’s any cult that we have on our radar set on then it’s our own version – and we warmly welcome any new parishioners at this temple. So for now, join us in holy fervour with a twilight roam through Hamburg.

Friday evening rolls round once again. It’s been a long week, with little to no time for respite on the bike. It’s easy to convince yourself that you can have a lie-in tomorrow, and sleep off those well-earned beers you’re about to consume on the Reeperbahn. But then the tequila is ordered, the music gets turned up, and you evolve into the most engaging and affable person ever to exist. Now, my friend, is probably when you should go to the cloakroom and hail a taxi. You’ve got an impending date with a ride in what is predicted to be gleaming sunshine – your 8,000 km goal won’t be reached without some effort. But the temptation of plonking down on the front step of Kebapisten24 with your beer-touting colleague is indomitable. The conversation quickly strays into deep, friendship-bonding territory. But isn’t it somewhat paradoxical that we choose to conduct our deepest conversations when our brains are at their most nonsensical?

The ebb and flow of the conversation eventually leads to a conclusion: we just want to be happy; our fellow humans to be healthy and content; enjoy a thriving social life; and develop as humans so that we can be better than we were yesterday. To reach those ends, you conclude that it’s all about creating order in our lives; shuffling the disorder and creating order from the chaos. Ordo ab Chao.

A series of decisions – some major, some minor – have led you to this very situation. You were too drunk to hold a conversation with the brunette. Your friend was adamant on that specific bar. The Porsche cut you up en route, but you were able to brake in time. Your parents never anticipated a third child, but here you are. Your great-grandfather almost missed out on meeting your great-grandmother but they still tied the knot. Then there were your ancestors back in the seventh century that almost died on the Silk Road but came out alive…

What was the likelihood of this very scenario? What were the chances that all of these choices made on all of these occurrences would lead to exactly this moment?

And yet you’re here. You’re conscious of yourself, of others, of your surroundings. No one can tell us where this awareness comes from, why us humans carry it. There’s never been any clinical studies or trials to try and explain the creation of this awareness; there’s no theory in existence either that would explain how such an experiment may or may not, or could or could not, look. The awareness is just there. And you’re here, kebab in hand. Tomorrow it’s likely you’ll have forgotten the majority of the conversation. For better or worse, you’ll switch back into autopilot, grab your bike and get out the city.

Despite all the uncertainty in your head, you’re plagued by one question: why do we only ask so many questions after we’ve consumed a significant amount of drink or drugs? Like this one: what’s important to you right now? And right now you’re here, fully receptive and inspired. So what is really important to you right now?

Do you still have to tick off 8,000 km this year, or would you be content with 2,500 wholly satisfying kilometres?

Is it really that crucial that you commute by bike every day, or could you imagine a day when you just don’t feel like it and that’s okay?

Do we really have to follow the Velominati rules, or can we get by just by simply riding our bikes?

Decisions we make today affect tomorrow. Our great-grandchildren are equally as likely to win a Nobel Peace Prize as the Terminator is to destroy the galaxy (of course, this scenario is wholly dependant on whether you can even have children after so much time spent riding). What we’re trying to say is that we’re in control of the future. Our own futures, yes, but also partially the futures of those in our vicinity. No matter how much you agonize over every decision, there’s also fate, coincidences, and the big X factor that come into play. Take this example, after a year of gruelling training you might still catch a fever in the week running up to your chosen gran fondo. Try not to control everything; enjoy the present. Relax. Base more of your decisions on gut instinct. Have more of the dolce vita. For us in Hamburg right now, everything south of the River Elbe is Northern Italy. So, tschüss, ciao, and thanks Hamburg, you’re a gem.

Words: Ben Topf Illustration: Julian Lemme

This article is from GRAN FONDO issue #008

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