All Mankind is Us

Posted by on Apr 28, 2008 in Moab | No Comments

“Let us not waste our time in idle discourse!  Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!”

~Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Head down, eyes focused on the passing rocks and dust and brush.  That is how I experienced the White Rim on Friday.  No time to look, no time to stop.  Don’t stop. Pedal.  Breathe.  Pedal faster.  
I glanced at my clock as often as I did the scenery.  They were short, passing glances. Calculating of time and space.  Blurred images of monoliths, mesas, and a deep blue sky fighting with a pale, and yet dark, scorched earth.  The paradox of the canyon country.

“Around us the Green River Desert rolls away to the north, south and east, an absolutely treeless plain, not even a juniper in sight, nothing but sand, blackbrush, prickly pear, a few sunflowers. Directly eastward we can see the blue and hazy La Sal Mountains, only sixty miles away by line of sight but twice that far by road, with nothing whatever to suggest the fantastic, complex and impassable gulf that falls between here and there. The Colorado River and its tributary the Green, with their vast canyons and labyrinth of drainages, lie below the level of the plateau on which we are approaching them, “under the ledge,” as they say in Moab.”

~E. Abbey, Desert Solitaire

It would have been shameful to ride the White Rim with my head down, finish, and return home.  And so, I rode it again the next day, with friends.  Slowly, head up, eyes open, jaw dropped.
Everywhere there was nothing.  Miles and miles of breath taking nothing.  Except of course, it wasn’t only nothing.  It was everything and nothing.  It was everywhere, and nowhere.  Sun, sand, rock.  Brush, water, wind. 

…at this moment of time, all mankind is us…

The vast emptiness was heavy, weighty.  My lofty expectations, my bike, my speed, all swallowed up in a mocking eternity.  I like to think that back to back rides on the White Rim is something significant.  But the land itself chuckles at my indolence.  “You have not seen even the beginning” it whispers.  “You are only wind, come and gone.  I am timeless.”

What shall we name those four unnamed formations standing erect above this end of The Maze?

Why call them anything at all? asks Waterman; why not let them alone?

Through naming comes knowing; we grasp an object, mentally, by giving it a name – hension, prehension, apprehension. And thus through language create a whole world, corresponding to the other world out there. Or we trust that it corresponds. Or perhaps, like a German poet, we cease to care, becoming more concerned with the naming than with the things named; the former becomes more real than the latter. And so in the end the world is lost again. No, the world remains – those unique, particular, incorrigibly individual junipers and sandstone monoliths – and it is we who are lost. Again. Round and round, through the endless labyrinth of thought – the maze.”

~E. Abbey, Desert Solitaire


An urge to return to the desert has already taken root. I feel compelled to be once again, insignificant. To be dwarfed by the rising walls, the steady river, and the constant wind. To feel alone and small, and yet, determined and powerful. For while I am nothing in the vast spaces of the canyon country, I nevertheless feel as if I am everything. And everywhere. I am assaulted on every level with the joy of being in the desert. The paradox of the canyon country.

The acuteness of the pain that comes from this sort of endeavor is gone as quickly as it appears. That is, left only now are the faded images of my surroundings. The millions of years of winded sculpture, the slowly churning rivers, the smiling faces of friends. The glorious vision of the sag wagon, carrying icy, caffeinated ecstasy in a bottle.

And someplace on the wind, the smell of beer boiled brats.


  1. Keith
    April 28, 2008

    Your quotes appropriate, your comments moving, and of course there’s the images, yet even with those things there’s no way to quite express it, to make it relative to anyone who has not only been there, but taken the journey as we did, only then can you truly appreciate the rugged, barren, unsympathetic landscape that compels us to come and ride and suffer and then even conceive of doing it again.

  2. Chris
    April 28, 2008

    Love the pictures. How big are your normal shots? How big could I blow one up to put on my wall?

  3. Ski Bike Junkie
    April 29, 2008

    Nice writeup and great photos. Fun times this weekend–going back in three weeks and can’t wait (and don’t think I’ll wait that long for beer-boiled brats).

  4. Jason
    April 29, 2008

    stunning. good stuff again Adam.

  5. bradkeyes
    April 29, 2008

    Dude, I totally felt the spirit…of The Church of the Blue Dome. It’s true!

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