The lessons taught by the motorcycle are many; Ten of these shall be known as “Ets” and shall be considered fundamental to the practice of being a Zen Biker. All of them are of equal importance and form a synthesis, yet an order presents itself. This, then, is the Ninth Et.
Honesty is the ultimate form of reverence; and like all other intangible things upon which the universe depends for its existence, you must live it, to be worthy of it.
It is easy to say “I am honest” and quite another to be honest. But it must be done. The Ancient Egyptians revered Truth, Ma’at, above all things, called her “the child and sustenance of Ra” because without Truth there is nothing. Hell, they didn’t tell their dead to “rest in peace,” they praised the dead to the living, by saying of them Ma’at kheru, loosely translated as “In their voice is the Truth.” For people who took death as seriously as the Ancient Egyptians to make this distinction the highest honor of the dead does not prove that honesty is all-important, but it does make a pretty strong argument.
As difficult as some may find it to adhere to any of the other Ets of Zen Bikerism, this one is the barrier that shall turn away multitudes. If you have the power, read on.
The most difficult part of living this ideal, the part that causes a natural avoidance reaction in most people, is the development and maintenance of the ability to be truthful with oneself. So of course it is this ability which is the most important one to develop.
You probably thought I was going to speak of fair, open, truthful dealings with others, and these things are all noble, all proper, all right all right all right. But not a one of them is worth a fruit fly in a meat locker if you spend your days lying to yourself. Lies are just things to hide behind, and Bikers don’t hide. Not even from themselves.
I get it, though. I’ve been there. We all have images that we wish to project. We all have Goals and Ideals for which we wish to stand, to represent. We want to be known for something, no matter how small the scale of our celebrity.
To embody our Ideals is to be honest with ourselves and with others.
Do you worship fairness? Or justice? Do you bend your knee to lofty principles of compassion or strength?
Or do you only worship your own ego? Be honest.
The best way to be seen as a solid individual is to be a solid individual. You can only be solid to a point without taking a good honest look at yourself…and if you’re only solid to a point, you ain’t solid at all.
Let me put it to you as a metaphor:
When you ride through your life, you will encounter traffic. You will encounter poor weather conditions. You will encounter poor road conditions.
Can you make it through that gap between SUV bumpers before it closes? Can you keep your bike upright when rain or leaves or grass clippings reduce your traction to a sliver of its capacity? Can you avoid flying over the handlebars when potholes and railroad tracks work their hardest to destroy your vehicle?
You might want the answer to be “yes.” You might even want the answer to be “no,” because inability equals absolution, and ability means responsibility.
To answer “yes” or “no” with certainty requires that we look into ourselves, and know ourselves with neither arrogance nor exaggerated humility, both of which are symptoms of an unhealthy ego.
The ego, therefore, in this instance becomes our own most powerful enemy; it knows our tactics and motives, knows how to resist our attempts to move it into proper place, because in the immortal words of Pogo Possum, “We have met the enemy…and he is us!” The ego sees all attempts at proper perspective as a threat of annihilation. That’s kind of what it’s for; the ego is where our sense of self-preservation is the strongest and so you can’t really fault it for doing its job. To truly be you, however, you must confront the paradox of defeating it.
I can’t tell you how to do that. We’re all different and what is medicine for one may be deadly poison to another. But I can tell you that it can be done, and that you can do it. To help you, I have this bit of Truth:
You are stronger than your ego.
You must be. Knowledge is power and you know something that your foe does not: that an honest assessment of who you are and what you are and most importantly, why you are, will not destroy your ego. It will die, but death, like all ends, is only change. Honesty is at times more bitter than adoration, and feeding your ego that bitter pill will kill it. That’s a good thing; there is no resurrection without death; that mortality is the most important ingredient. With the right effort, your ego will be resurrected in greater health and capability, and that is a state difficult to reach, but most rewarding. After all, with a self-image born of self-knowledge, there’s nowhere you can’t go. And once you’re truthful with yourself, being so with others becomes more natural.
There is more than one way to reach this state. And again, there is more than one right way to reach that state.
Just remember that all the right ways have as their core component honesty.
I have said before, that you have the power to make your own world, to be God between your ears. To do so requires the ability to know the difference between the real and the imagined.
Honesty is the key which unlocks the door between the imaginary and the real, no matter how subjective the reality may be.
Without that key, the door remains locked, and trying to ride your bike through a locked door is not likely to go well.
You cannot even seek the Truth, much less find it, without being honest; with others, yes, but first and foremost with yourself.
That is the Truth.
And the Truth rides a motorcycle.