The Tour gives me the chance to ruminate, to recover from the family vacation. (People are indeed mired in suffering, sleepwalking in the dream of existence.) My Nineteenth Century mind has some difficulties with it, with everything, really, but perhaps more particularly with modern life in general. The pitch of the coverage, in some overview, is for self-centeredness, and all the commercials reflect it. "Be a 'me.' Me, me, me." The conventional thinking of the commercial world, of life experienced solely as a subject amongst objects is reinforced by the excitement of the commentator, that each rider is a subject, with a clear goal, with clear obstacles, a body reaching for power and speed, victor over loser.
The riders are men talented at riding, and they are simply doing their jobs, good for them. And the Tour is not all about subject and object, if watched meditatively. The fine athletic accomplishments remain, as do the old churchyards and abbeys, the peaceful landscape, the vineyards, the farms, the hill towns. The idyll of the Tour lives and breathes, and with a trained mind less we see of the annual facade and the corporate logos and the Light Beer commercials that say "YOU (objectified) know how to live life (objectified) in the fullest," that takes us for needy creatures easily bored, in need of stuff and things to do beyond the good stuff that would naturally occur to us given a modicum of parental love and support and reasonable educators. The Tour does remind us, as the great writer Blondin famously referenced, of the schoolboy's pursuit of hands on sports excitement, and riding a bike is, after all, fun.
The viewer can indeed say, "I had my own little ride yesterday, saw swallows rising on a thermal at dusk above the finger of forest." Or were they bats. Anyway, interesting flying creatures doing the dance of life. And today the viewer has finally returned to read and ponder the Washington Buddhist Vihara's excellent piece on Buddhist Meditation, found at www.buddhistvihara.com, which lays it out for you clearly.
Our road maps, our directions in life, our landmarks, we often construct around the self. Senses get in the way; we seek pleasure, and accomplishments.
"As we understand, emotional excitement is not true happiness, and attachment is not true love," we can read here, from the above website.
Under the conditions of a family vacation, without benefit of the daily meditation practice, it's easier to fall into the reactive side as opposed to the will-power side. Emotional reactions can eat at you, and under such circumstances they can override Buddhist-based wisdom of the deep appropriateness of non-attachment in love and life, such that you react to what's immediately around you and take it as a great body of evidence that love and life is first and foremost about material wealth and, therefore, professional accomplishment. "You'd be smart and own Walker Point if you really loved me, honey, and then we'd have a big family." (Or at least a job with a pension.) A way of looking at things that leaves a lot of us out in the cold.
As the Tour goes on its way, mimicking how humanity tenderly shepherded its members through countryside and adventure and challenge in order to eat and survive the elements, someone will win the stage as punch the sky with his own self-centered way, which in turn allows the commercials, which preach selfishness indirectly by offering you stuff you pay for. Something in the end makes these guys want to win, like Lance, a competitive nature, "I want to beat you," the will that makes winning worth the extra mile. (Buddha, if in a competitive riding shape, might not care so much about winning. And in fact, there are lots of good guys here, who have a good attitude toward competition, an impersonal regard to their bodies capabilities on a given day. It is, after all, a less egotistical aggressive injurious sport commercially defensive of itself than American football, as one might expect from the long point of view of the European. Hemingway writes with curiosity, mocking slightly, of discovering the sport of cycling in a hotel scene in The Sun Also Rises, as he himself discovers the European sport of writing, Sketches from a Hunter's Album sort of stuff.) And living as adults we say, well, that's the way it is, winners and losers. Which is looking at it one way. Our identity can, on bad days in particular, only be based on perceived actual livelihood, yearly earnings, rent.
But, "wouldn't it be nice to believe back in the old fairly tale of love based on less practical things." Wouldn't it be nice to see a real way of human caring that goes beyond attachment, that takes a pure form of love that does not advertise itself, that is, through selflessness often long-suffering, I mean, if we had to objectify it. (Paul's message of he who preached a higher form of love...) Wouldn't we almost need at least the hypothetical conjectured existence of such a thing in order to preserve enough calm to move forward in a given day... Hey, wouldn't that be close to love itself. Wouldn't we need to believe in the existence of it in others too.
As far as offering myself some relief, I can at least say I do not have the most selfish of jobs, at least I'd like to think. Sure, I can do bad stuff, getting carried away with the pleasures of wine, inciting rather than abating it in others. But, serving people, there's a lesson in it. Perhaps, with the stress, it's a lesson in keeping calm, but more than that, a decreasing of "me, myself, I win," and an increase in "I can all help others," even if such is confused being part of a trade with a boss to keep happy. (Actually, many bosses.)
There is beyond the experience of subject and object the experience of experience. We are watching ourselves watch the Tour de France. We are watching existence, and in existence there is a world with a country called France with picturesque villages set in countryside, which we in turn, to objectify ourselves, watch through the modern miracle of the television set even with live coverage. It seems to relieve muscular tension, a desirable thing, something relaxing, to take our minds off of the pressing stuff of our own lives, to dawdle for a moment wrapped up in a man in a lycra suit needing a change of bicycles, the man in yellow taking a curve with a pleasing conservative staying within the lines, a fat man spectating out in the middle of the road with a fist raised.
Back to the experiencing of experience, back to the meditation and the awareness, back to one's own mind, back to the calm from which kindness and compassion and deep understandings come from. Back to the de-objectifying of experience, away from the sense of a permanent fixed self, back to realizing more the dream quality of existence and the clear mind of pure consciousness itself that lives on.
To me, that is the art form.
(And also the basis of literary criticism, a topic for another day, say Chekhov's gift for capturing non-duality... or for Sherwood Anderson's defunct broken souls who still have a beauty about them...)