The Third Et of Zen Bikerism: The Speed Limit is Fast Enough

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 Third Et.


The world has seen an innumerable number of plagues in its time. The Black Plague, typhoid epidemics, smallpox, plagues of locusts, plagues of frogs, plagues of Canadian pop stars.

But the worst plague of all, is the great sickness of the modern gestalt. I call it “the Microwave Mentality.”

Now, a microwave oven is a very useful, very convenient thing. However, the thing that makes it so, is also the very property which makes it most dangerous to one’s outlook: it eliminates time from a process.

That is very useful, very convenient; other things can be done in that time thus eliminated, or, if other things have already been done, there is still time enough to make a meal–or at least to reheat one that has already been made by a clean-suited denizen of a cramped food factory somewhere in Ohio. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It is the expectation which this creates that is the problem.

You see, the ability to have meals on the instant, or nearly so, led to other things being instant: we have video on demand to watch TV shows at our own convenience rather than that of a schedule; we have instant cash, instant shopping, instant music, instant inspiration, instant answers…it is only natural that we as a people are coming to expect everything to be available on the instant: we rage if our packages take longer than two days to be placed in our hands, we are furious when our friends leave a text message unanswered for more than a few seconds, we build our vehicles with more and more power so that even automobiles approach the speed of sound.

The modern person worships speed above all things, and demands it in all walks of life: chant a mantra and become enlightened, wear a colored ribbon and cure cancer, elect a political candidate and live in Utopia.

Do you see the problem?

The problem, is that the universe does not work this way.

The solution, is to realize that this is a good thing.

Everything takes time. You might say that the universe is made of it. A Zen master known as Dogen did say it, and as an important realization.

Think: standing on the summit of Mount Fuji is meaningless if you just teleport there. It is the time and effort to climb the sides of the mountain, that provide the meaning. When I went to the Sturgis Bike Rally in ’15, I experienced a life-changing moment that would not, could not have happened, not only because of the three-day journey to get there, not only because of the preceding months of riding…but because of the 40 years of experience that led up to that moment.

All things take time, and they take the time that they take. Even Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, had to start off as an infant inching his way across the floor at ten feet per hour.

There is nothing wrong with that.

When you try to circumvent Time, you only do yourself a disservice: skip to the last page of a novel, or the final scene of a movie, and you cheat yourself, because the ending is nothing without the rest of the story. It is in time that growth resides.

A parable:

In the early days of my motorcycling life, some friends of mine saw how much I was enjoying myself and bought bikes of their own. We made plans to go riding together, and I was ecstatic; I enjoyed riding so much, that the only thing which could have made it more enjoyable was to share it with friends.

This was going to be bliss. And so, we met up, took to a back road that I loved…and my friends snapped their wrists, disappeared over the horizon. I put on some speed to follow them: 50, 60, 70 miles an hour, in a 40 MPH zone on a curvy road with a hint of gravel on the shoulders. I had to focus so much attention on my speed and on not-crashing, I was missing the ride I was on. It was not enjoyable at all. When I started pushing the speedometer towards 80, I said to myself, “No.”

“No, this isn’t me, this isn’t who I am.”

I relaxed my wrist, closed the throttle (because I, not anyone else, control the bike) and, at 40 miles per hour, soaked up the scenery and sunlight that my friends didn’t even notice. When I pulled up behind them at a stop sign in the next town, one of them yelled at me, “KEEP UP!

I yelled back, “WHY DO YOU WANT IT TO BE OVER?

He had no answer.

In that no-answer, are all the answers.

Because getting there is not half the fun…it’s all the fun.

And the speed limit is fast enough.

That is the Truth, and the Truth rides a motorcycle.


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