We were given a very special gift before we left for Alaska: Nooks. We have at our fingertips a small and simple gateway into the endless world of literature and ideas. It fits into pockets that books simply cannot. I do miss the pleasantries of an archaic, physical page turn; yet I find myself hopelessly content with this device that eliminates all of the material distractions from reading. Minimalist high technology has let me dive into Tolstoy, Bloom, and Sun Tzu. I’m currently wading through Blank Slate by Steven Pinker, a real intellectual game changer in understanding neuroscience, psychology, human nature, and social science.
Pinker writes about proximate and ultimate causes. Why am I hungry right now? The proximate cause is my active hypothalamus signaling hormones to me that I could demolish a tub of ice cream. The ultimate cause is that the human body is evolved to seek out scarce food resources and enjoy eating them to survive. My need for ice cream isn’t actually life threatening. Yet the ultimate cause is still manifest in the proximate. Proximate ice cream is a wonderful thing but it is not as profound as the ultimate system of which it is a part.
I think of every day on our bicycles like a big tub of ice cream. Except you lose weight, increase your hunger, and regret eating so much ice cream every day. The proximate cause can seem silly. We are going to this campground or that town (why not something closer?). Sometimes it is less silly, like when we must reach a certain water source or escape a very certain grizzly bear. The proximate envelops the breathtaking peaks of Denali and the miserable windy days outside of Haines Junction. Proximate causes have us climb dozens of mountains, capture hundreds of photos, eat thousands of calories, and move with great intention between lonely old places that we might never see again.
There is a greater ultimate cause that we are about. It does not take away from the magnificence of the proximate. It is the raison d’être. We’re riding our bikes to build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Every photo, story, person, and mile between here and Ushuaia is proximate joy. To build a Habitat home in eastern North Dakota is an ultimate necessity.
This is our dream and our vision. We will pedal across these proximate Americas and attempt to capture their stories and blessings. That journey will come to an end in Argentina while the ultimate work will remain at home. If we are successful in our fundraising, we will return home to North Dakota and volunteer to help build a Bound South house. Our Pan-American bicycle expedition can build windows into the manifold wonders of the world and the walls of a single-family Habitat house. Please help us make a difference.