I originally wrote this waaaay back in 2008;
Its very foggy this morning, which forced me into the cage, and as a result my mind wandered a bit on the commute and after some wasted internet surfing, this essay began to take shape on my screen.
Much has been written about the joy of riding a motorcycle. Ever since Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach fitted Nicolaus Otto’s internal combustion engine into a 2 wheeled frame, there have been romantics in love with the ideal freedom a motorcycle brings. Why wouldn’t they? Motorcycles are glorious. The visceral feel of the road, sound of engine and the subtle temperature differences as you roll into a slight valley and feel in the air that a creek is nearby. Ever sense the cockpit of aircraft became closed, not other method of conveyance allows such a sensory overload with your environment.
But more than the very sensation motion purely dependent upon horsepower and balance to continue is what we learn from motorcycling. Motorcycles allow us a tremendous practicum for dealing with the everyday problems of life. For example, fear. Fear of crashing, being crashed, sliding, road rash, rising insurance rates and the fear of substantiating that look of terror in your mothers eyes the first time she saw you astride a two wheeled contraption.
Fear causes our mind to reach out beyond the next intersection. It puts our body in a loose state of readiness, always ready to twitch, slide, twist, or pull that brake level to our chest. It’s not a lack of experience that crashes new riders; it’s a lack of fear. Fear teaches respect and respect teaches us anticipation. We scan the next curve. Gravel? sand, what the hell is that idiot doing, oh look they’re on a cell phone.
Motorcycles teach us that we should not ignore fear, nor think my way out of it. Our only option is to acknowledge it and hit the dam start button anyway. Instead of backing down, we learn to live with the fear, dance with it, and use it. It adds to the very visceral appeal that got us to throw a leg over the bike in the first place. Twist that throttle and feel your heart pump, just a bit. I have been doing this for 20 years and it never fails to grab me. This fear keeps me alive. Not just in the sense that I managed to reach my destination once more without incident, but in the basic sense of I understand my world more than the guy in the SUV listening to NPR and trying to form a multi-dimensional view of a world he can only experience from auditory pulses in his ear. I am a part of this world. The young kid in the modified Honda has his music cranked to the point he is damaging his ears because right now, that song, takes him to a place where he feels more alive. $2000 of audio equipment so that somewhere on his commute to his dull job involving a name tag and a bitter, bald manager, he can feel something close to what I will get the whole ride.
I’m not just alive after a successful ride, I am actually living.
This is a lesson that I have tried to apply to my life. Every day I face my fear of being not good enough, my fear of disappointing those who look to me for leadership, my fear that I have done nothing of consequence, my fear that the phone will ring, and I will have to watch another dear friend be laid into the ground under an American flag, my fear regarding the welfare of my brother, my Dad’s deteriorating health, the pang I feel every time my beloved dog gets up and his hind legs quiver, my fear that one of these days everyone will figure out I am faking it, my fear that if my courage is tested, I will fail. It’s a different fear than realizing the curve is tightening and I am going way too fast, this fear is less frantic and pushes slowly. But the response is the same, face it head on, accept it, and dance with it. Most days, I make it through the turn.
The result has been astonishing. I do believe I am a better person than ever. Lost friends who see me now are astonished. Somehow I keep succeeding, which is a triumph when you have tasted truly abject failure. I stand tall, walk proud and for many, many years now I have no trouble looking in the mirror as I shave. Unless you have ever avoided your own gaze in the mirror, you cannot understand this triumph.
I also tried to apply this motorcycle attitude to my efforts in the bedroom. No luck so far. I think I need to enter the curves slower and keep my head down.