November 2, 2012

Racing Bull. ~ Jim Ryder


I believe Lance Armstrong and Governor Romney are facing the challenge of finding their honest and authentic place.

The notion of racing has been occupying my mind and weighing on my heart in the midst of the news coverage of Lance Armstrong’s dethronement and the impending presidential election.

I am remembering the time when I won the World Championship of the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio; it was 1973 and I was just a boy.

Days later, dozing off in front of the television and CBS evening news, I thought I heard Walter Cronkite say my name—this was not good.

Sitting bolt upright on the edge of the bed holding my breath during the commercial break, Walter, the most trusted man in America appeared and said, “Well ladies and gentlemen, there is one boy in America unhappier than Richard Nixon this evening, and it’s little Jimmy Gronen, cheater of The Soap Box Derby.”

Needless to say, this had great impact on my life, and led to deep contemplation of many things; especially the idea and meaning of racing and winning. Being a confirmed national cheater in the thick of racing, I developed sensibility for recognizing outright skullduggery and things—even slightly—out of alignment. Alignment means “things in their proper place.” In human affairs, alignment is being in accord with one’s nature and capacities.

Living in Boulder, loving its bicycle culture and having the history that I do has led me to follow bicycle racing with deep interest. Even before the evidence began to accumulate around Lance Armstrong’s racing, I have always believed Greg LeMond to be America’s greatest bicycle racer. 

In Zen we say, “To equal your master you must surpass your master.” All of the great bike racers in our country sit upon the virtue and shoulders of Greg LeMond, the man who pushed the envelope and went where no American had gone before.

Watching Greg come thundering into Paris on the Champs-Élysées and winning the Tour by only eight seconds, I wept.

I weep at the possibility of Governor Romney becoming our next president. Mitt Romney is a good man; he is a good father and husband. I would enjoy knowing him as a person; he has a twinkle in his eye and I trust he wishes and endeavors the very best for our country and this world.

Becoming our next president is not in alignment with his own soul and what is best for our country.

Our founding fathers considered which ‘big bird’ would best represent the logos and spirit of our nation. Ben Franklin was rooting for the turkey; we ended up with the eagle. Our eagle is a predator and so was Mitt Romney in the years he accumulated tremendous wealth. Predators in the natural order of things are not bad—they are quite beautiful and have their proper place. 

Suzuki Roshi, the man who brought Zen to the West, was asked this question: “If we are already God’s children, why are we studying ethical precepts so thoroughly and practicing sitting-meditation with bone-crushing intensity?”  To which he replied, “Yes it is true you are already perfect and could use some improvement.” I believe Governor Romney would benefit from a little improvement before qualifying as the President of the United States.

Consider the story about Mitt as a youngster whom while leading a gang in bullying a boy they believed to be gay, chose to shear off the hair of his victim. This action itself is deplorable and predatorial, but what is disturbing is Governor Romney’s reply, from the adult and not the boy: “I don’t remember, but if that happened, I’m sorry.”

When I was in fourth grade, I remember pushing Sandy Stathus, a girl I loved, off her bike and onto the pavement. I have never forgiven myself. 

I guess boys will be boys and even such acts could be forgivable, but do we really want a man with a memory and conscience like this leading our country?

When my grandfather heard the news of the Soap Box Derby scandal, it broke his heart. Family members recollect his words, “This is the best thing that could happen for my grandson Jimmy, to not get away with cheating and face the difficult road of reconciling and coming to terms with such a thing.”

No matter how difficult the recent events in the news and their import must be for Lance, I will continue holding him in my heart with care and regard. I look forward to learning how he works through this, perhaps his greatest challenge—maybe even tougher than having faced cancer and his probable loss of  life. I hope in the coming months and years he will be able to share this part of his journey with us. I know and believe he has the right stuff and suspect we haven’t seen or heard the last of him. 

Maybe one day we will wear teal colored wristbands from his next foundation reading, “WordStrong!” Whenever I find myself rising out of the saddle and looking up that hill, I say to myself, “Ride like Lance,” and I always will.

The performance of our President in the first debate was not the result of high altitude or lack of preparation. We witnessed the sober demeanor of a man who has faced great challenges over the past four years with notable intelligence and dignity. It is not Barack’s nature to aggress upon another with the intention of winning. But thankfully, as we say in racing, he knows when to “Drop the Hammer” when it’s right. 

In the third and final debate he was not attacking the good Governor from Massachusetts, as the Governor claimed. With energy and passion he was revealing the instability and lack of clarity of our republican challenger’s views.

I believe wisdom guides us to choose not the person with ambition for higher office, but rather the one with a wise heart and clear mind, who reluctantly accepts our nomination and vote. That’s what we saw in the first debate. I trust that. I celebrate that. Let’s run towards the man who is not fueled by personal ambition but genuinely walking the walk of one endeavoring to reconcile the incredible challenges we face.

My great grandfather, John Taylor Adams, as Chairman of the National Republican Party engineered successful campaigns for a couple of presidents. I wonder if his knowledge and awareness are running in my blood. Does it take political and moral genius to recognize that Mitt Romney’s ‘Ra Ra Flip Flop – I’ll Morph into Anything for Your vote’ approach is insulting our intelligence and is outright dangerous for our well-being as individuals and a nation?


The gift of the Governor’s race for the presidency, besides being energizing and colorful, is for those who have eyes to see a contrast and illumination of a deeper capacity and intelligent authenticity. And all of this without even beginning to consider the positions he really represents.

I heard an endearing thing about his campaign. Before entering a political debate he writes the word, “Dad,” on a piece of paper and holds it close. I invite the good Governor to live in Boulder with us for a while as he earns a degree in Contemplative Psychology from Naropa University. Please study and dig into the issues of needing to be seen and recognized. Study your mind Governor! It’s not too late. Lean into discovering who and what you really are. Your father will be smiling. I promise.

Jimmy Gronen, Cheater of the Soap Box Derby


The boy in this story is known as Jim Ryder. Living in Boulder, CO and Dubuque, IA, he arranges flowers for his friends and the dharma.




Editor: Jennifer Townsend

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