Optimization

“Optimization” (credits:statease.com)

So my student, who was also happened to be a cyclist, approached me the other day and told me that he saw me biking the night before. We apparently crossed paths in front of Quezon hall, during one of the laps of my 45-minute workout.

He asked me if I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable, since, from his point of view, my saddle was too low. I told him that it was at the proper height, and that it only seemed low because the pedal bracket had a lower ground clearance. While the latter was true, my student was apparently correct to judge that my saddle was indeed not at the proper height. Nonetheless, that was the maximum saddle height of the current seat post installed – it was close to optimal, but not quite.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “optimization” as an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible; specifically : the mathematical procedures (as finding the maximum of a function) involved in this.

Apparently, I had tricked myself into believing that the saddle height was optimal just because that was the limit of the current hardware installed, and it has stayed at that height since I bought the bike last year. I became accustomed to it.

I then remembered that daddy gave me an extra seat post, which apparently didn’t fit his bike in Sri Lanka. It never occurred to me before to try and fit it into my bike frame. To my surprise, the seat post fit my bike frame perfectly. It was a few inches longer as well.

To cut the long story short, I was able to replace my seat post and achieve faster speeds under the same conditions. My student was right after all.  I had been riding the bike for more than a year now in sub-optimal conditions, just because I convinced myself that it was fine. That it couldn’t have been any better.

Perhaps it’s not only the seat post height that is under sub-optimal conditions. I realized that I have been spending less time in prayer, self-reflection, physical fitness, and writing during these past few months. What’s bad is that I’ve come to accept these as normal, in terms of not doing anything about it. Yet Jesus tells us that those who believe in him have another standard for what is normal:

“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. ” -John 10:10,(MSG)

Better life than one could ever dream of… The life given to those who chose to follow the Lord Jesus isn’t just about the assurance of spending eternity in the presence of God. It also means living a life on earth that is characterized by constant communication with, and daily obedience to him. It means listening to his voice and directing our resources (time, money, talents) to where he wants us to. That, I think, is the optimal earthly life. (Okay, perhaps full/abundant/better and optimal are not synonymous)

Let me put it this way. A spoon can be used to dig hole, but it wouldn’t be as efficient as a shovel. Similarly, it would be ridiculous to eat food using a shovel. Secondly, there are proper ways of holding and using spoons and shovels to fulfill their intended purposes.

For me, living the optimal life means knowing what your purpose is, and taking the steps necessary to fulfill that role.

Lessons:
So, what have I learned from this extended allergory cum reflection?

1. Other people can see things about us that we couldn’t. God can teach us deep lessons in an infinite number of ways, whether it be a prophet, a talking donkey, or a fellow cyclist.
2. We could trick ourselves into believing that mediocrity (or anything below optimal) is normal, if we wallow in it long enough.
3. Some limitations can be exceeded. We can’t simply assume that something is hopeless or a dead end. Who knows, maybe our Dad in heaven has already given us that “longer seat post”? We just need to admit that we need it.

 

Applications:

  • Do you think that you are living the “optimal” life that Jesus promised to give?
  • What role do you see yourself playing in God’s kingdom?
  • Is there an area in your life where you think you could “do better” or realign?
  • What steps do you think could be done to improve the current situation?
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