Somewhere in Japan

Dispatch № 62: The Bike of Theseus

35°51’13.47″N, 139°39’23.63″E

Most adults seem to have forgotten what all kids know with certainty: a bicycle is a tool of personal freedom, an implement of liberty. Want to go? Just go. Get on and roll. No license necessary, nor gasoline, nor keys for the ignition.

Got legs? Got a bike? You’re good to go.

Not long after I moved to Japan, my friend Yohei invited me up to Saitama, where we built a bike for me out of a frame and other parts he had lying around. He knew I loved riding and that I needed a bike of my own. It was an ugly duckling—functional, though a strange jumble of everything.

But it was a bike, and it was mine. A ticket to personal mobility and a way to get out of my apartment and get out of my head.

I’m still riding it, though all that’s left of the original bike now is the frame, and that’s likely to go in the next year. Every other part on the bike has since been replaced.

From day one, it’s been my bike. At the ugly duckling stage as well as now, when it falls more easily into the category of finely tuned machine. And though in the foreseeable future not a single part of the original bike will remain, it will still be the same bike to me.

As Heraclitus noted, a person can’t stand in the same river twice. The river changes from one moment to the next, as does the person. But the river remains the same river in terms of identity, just as the person is still who they are and get just as wet.

And I suppose it’s fitting that the bike has evolved as it has over the last six years, and is on the verge of having had every piece replaced. I’ve changed as well, in very big ways, and am attempting to further renovate my Self. But no matter how much I change, I’m still me, and I’m always happy to get on that bike and ride.

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Picture of David R Munson

David R Munson

Photographer, essayist, wanderer, weirdo. Everything is interesting if you give it an honest chance to be.

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