One of religion’s longstanding problems is the immutability of scripture – the inevitable struggle over the inability of a fixed text to respond to changing conditions.
You can see this as Jews try to keep the Sabbath, and in modern fundementalists’ struggle over shellfish.
I was thinking deeply about this issue today on my bike ride, as I pondered modernity’s response to the strictures in chapter two of the Book of Velonius:
When the grapes hath been made wine and the leaves doth fall, thy big chain ring shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of the temptation of the hammer, but ye shall have thy big chain ring in abomination. Neither shalt thou ride with fast paceline in thy big ring as with thy small ring: it is abomination.
It made sense when that scripture was written, because cyclists in those days had big chain rings in front – at least 53 teeth. The most ascetic rode 55s. Those who wrote those sacred words in the book of cycling could not have imagined the modern compact crank, with its 50-tooth big ring and a mere 34 on the small.
Is what they said to be taken literally? Must I pedal all winter spinning wildly in the small chain ring? Would that be really good for my cadence? Or must my understanding of the book of cycling’s scripture adapt to the time?