In medio stat virtus is a Latin expression taken from Aristotle (and translated from Greek) by St Thomas Aquinas. It isn’t quite the Via Media of Hooker and some of our present-day enthusiasts of “classical Anglicanism”. It simply means that strength or virtue is found in the moderate position between – and above – the two extremes of any issue.
I came across a Telegraph article about something completely unrelated to religion or Christianity but a sign of polarisation of positions and intolerance. This concerns people who ride bicycles – Take a stand against the false God of cycling. It is quite amazing, but something so predictable. I have ridden bicycles most of my life, from my tricycle which I converted to sail / pedal when I was about 10, my gleaming new bicycle for my 11th birthday. I have ridden these contraptions everywhere, fallen off them and still have a scar on my right elbow. I was once nearly killed riding into the side of a moving car when I was about 12. I have ridden all round London and Paris, and saved a lot of bus and Metro ticket money. I still have a bicycle and go for rides in the country, and take it to Rouen on Monday mornings when I go and give English lessons. Riding a bicycle is good physical exercise, good for health and non-polluting. Great, but not everyone rides a bike!
Also, I take pride in riding without any kind of helmet or anything other than ordinary clothes. As in any sport, those who take it too seriously really look the part, and often overdo it. I find the same thing with sailing with expensive sporting boats and all the clobber. It would also be like driving a car with leather gloves and goggles like the chauffeurs of the 1920’s! Why do we take ourselves so seriously?
I also drive a car, and have had experience of both intolerant and rude car drivers and cyclists alike. I have added a means of locomotion on water – sailing. I also went on a gliding course with a friend up on Sutton Bank in Yorkshire when I was 16 and had the thrilling experience of flying. Locomotion is a means of recreation as well as getting from A to B for reasons unrelated to the journey itself. I can understand the grievances of cyclists in regard to bullying motorists. I was in London in about 1982, somewhere near Oxford Street, and was in the wrong lane. A taxi physically forced me to turn the way he was going – very unpleasant. In my experience, being a motorist made me a better cyclist. You learn the Highway Code and the limitations of your vehicle due to its width and wheelbase. Cyclists do better when they observe the Highway Code and make sure they are in the right lane for turning left or right or straight ahead. The road is for all.
People on bicycles can be very rude and intolerant, as can people in cars or in motor boats on the sea. We have the same problem between sailing vessels and fast motor boats with engines as big as the egos of their skippers. There is perhaps less kindness on the road, but there are fewer on the water. I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved by laws other than the application of the present Highway Code, but by education and a different society from the one we live in.
This Telegraph article shows the tendency of everything in reverse: racism, sexism and the domination of the weak over the strong. Women try to dominate men, non-white people discriminate against white people, homosexuals against “straight” society, and now cyclists against motorists. I appreciate the tremendous progress made in towns where the road system has been designed to offer cyclists better and safer conditions. I appreciate the cycling ways in Rouen. The system is very well designed, and there are points where people can hire bicycles when they don’t have their own, or when they just want a short ride without taking their cycles on the train. It’s very convenient. I am grateful to see better conditions for women and non-whites. Racism and sexism are evils to be condemned, whether they come from one “side” or the other. Polarisation is a very dangerous tendency, when if we are critical of something – for example the LGBT lobby – we are on the opposite extreme. Many of us just want tolerance and respect for the majority as well as the minorities.
What makes people tolerant and considerate for other people? Basically, it is empathy which is born from humility and truth about oneself and our limits. We live in a world that makes it almost impossible to get on in life unless we are willing to compete and push others out of the way. Some call that Social Darwinism. Christ taught a different way, that of taking a step back and seeing more meaning to life in being good to others, self-sacrifice and being less ambitious.
In regard to the use of public highways, cyclists need to keep well in to the kerb to let the cars past, and motorists need to watch their distance and speed, knowing that the aerodynamic slipstream from the car can be as dangerous to the cyclist as physical contact. These are things we need to know. We can see this issue literally, as well as analogically. What is the effect of our lust for power and domination on others?
What will it profit us if we gain the whole world and lose our soul?