I almost got run down the other day. But it wasn’t by a car.
The newest trend out here is families racing their bikes or their skateboards down the sidewalk. I can’t tell you how many times I innocently walked out of a store to almost meet my untimely demise at the hands of a mad adult or child biker or skater.
It’s not just the kiddies who are taking it to the streets. Whole families are soaring down the sidewalk, as though they are racing in the Indie 500. And while skateboards used to be for boys only, now the girls are maniacally whizzing down the street as well — despite all the possible head and other injuries to the tykes. And, since it’s perpetual adolescence out here, the dads are speeding alongside their children, with mom in tow. It’s wholesome family fun, except for a few things.
First, it is illegal to fly down the sidewalks on bikes and skateboards. It is more appropriate for said bikers and skaters to ride in the streets, rather than almost mowing down the innocent. However, given that it is too dangerous to ride on city streets, the parents have decided that the sidewalks are now their own.
You see, people have no room to move around here. The traffic is crazy, and the streets are so narrow that a car can barely get down it. As Cat Stevens once sang, as though for Berkeley: “Where do the children play?”
In addition, the wild bikers and skaters are all part of the, “If it feels good, do it,” vibe around here, which is just a fancy term for entitlement. People pay a fortune to live in matchbox houses. If they want to raise their children to be so self-centered that it’s okay to risk the lives of the elderly, the disabled, and the rest of the population, so be it.
But it would be unfair to just blame parents. The whole area has become intoxicated by the pursuit of self enjoyment. With the influx of young, well-heeled techies driving an inch behind you in their Teslas and BMWs, Berkeley et al. has become an uncivilized area in a supposedly civilized nation.
If the land of the entitlement was simply Berkeley, Oakland, etc., that would be one thing. But the sad truth is that the pleasure and self seeking culture isn’t restricted to our parts. You can see the same thing happening all over the country: this uber entitlement, which is often based on the love of money and what it can buy. Interestingly, I just read a quote the other day about the best way to corrupt a country: make it awash with money. This is what we see happening with the artificially inflated stock market and the current tech boom.
But what about some solid, old-school values, ones that made our country strong and civilized for hundreds of years? How about the Golden Rule (which, for those of you who never learned it, means do unto others what you’d like done for you.). And how about thinking as a community, as a culture, and making decisions based upon the common good? Not so, as people race to do whatever feels good, regardless of the consequences for other people (and sometimes for themselves).
Tragically what I see out here, and increasingly all over the country, is people entranced by their own image in the mirror (or on Facebook) rather than the luminous face of God. St. Augustine wrote in City of God that we can choose to worship God or we can choose to worship ourselves. We can’t do both. But don’t people realize that at the end of their lives, how much money they earned and how many toys they amassed won’t do them a lick of good, especially when they stand before the Judgment Seat?
Ultimately, life isn’t about self-love or pleasures or “rights” or all the things that money can buy. It’s about falling in love — head over heels in love with God. When we love someone, we want to please him. When we love God, we strive to be good, considerate people and to love others.
Perhaps the saying should be changed from, “If it feels good, do it,” to, “If it feels good to God, do it.” Otherwise, whether it’s running amok on the sidewalks of Berkeley, the government, and the courts, in the end, the damage we cause is to ourselves and our own souls.