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 Seventh Et.
BE MORE THAN AN ANIMAL.
This is the part where we’re going to start losing people, that that’s okay. No one thing is for everybody.
This is the part where we start getting into the realm of the subjective and the esoteric, but contrary to popular belief, that’s where the truth of things lives.
And only by being more than an animal, can we enter that realm.
First we must define “animal,” in order to progress beyond it.
There are those who say that progression beyond animal is impossible. That humans are nothing more than animals with slightly more complex spaghetti-trails of neurons between their ears than your average gorilla.
On the face of it, that position is difficult to argue against: most attempts to define “human” in a manner which expresses the difference in a way that doesn’t rely on some sort of scripture has fallen by the wayside.
“Humans use language” …turns out, so do whales, dolphins, birds, bees.
“Humans make dwellings for themselves” …the birds, bees and termites would like the right to vote in that case.
“Humans use tools” …this was the definition until it turned out that there are some primates and even avians who do the same thing.
Leaving the clinical, scientific attempts, it turns out that even the New Age attempts don’t separate us from the animal.
Body – people and critters have this in common.
Mind – some people insist that animals do not think, but one has only to watch a cat figure out how to undo the latch on the plastic container where its food is kept to know that this is a fallacy. The mindless can’t figure things out.
Spirit – it has been, and still is, argued that animals have no souls, and that that is the line of separation. However, if “spirit” is defined as a motivational factor, different from “mind” as an analytical factor, it is plain to see that even the most indolent sloth possesses will as well as wit.
Are we, then, no more than animals?
Militant vegetarians point to the preceding and say, “Nope.”
They say it with many more paragraphs of frenzied invective, of course, but that’s not important right now.
What is important is that they are wrong.
The difference between humans and animals is to be found in the ultimate potential of the Spirit. An animal is motivated by nothing beyond the gratification of its own immediate desires. Put prosaically, an animal is concerned with nothing more than eating, sleeping, fighting and fucking, in various degrees.
…some humans are concerned with nothing more than eating, sleeping, fighting, and fucking, in various degrees, but the difference is that in so doing they waste their potential.
The Buddhists say that while all things possess the Buddha-nature, only in a human body can one achieve enlightenment.
If that’s a little too mystic for you, then put it this way: no animal has ever been concerned with the welfare of others, the inner workings of the mind, the heart of the atom, the future or even its own motivation; animals never wonder why they do something.
You can teach a great ape sign language. You can teach dolphins to read English.
But you can’t talk to them about the nature of God…or quantum physics, if that floats your boat a little higher in the water.
Still a little too lofty for you? Okay, that’s fair, there are a lot of people with whom you can’t discuss the nature of quantum deities. So let me put it this way:
For all its strength, a gorilla will never be anything but a gorilla.
For all its intelligence, a dolphin will never be anything but a dolphin.
As a person, you have far more potential than that. Primates have been put into orbit, but it never occurs to them to become astronauts on their own. That’s a power that they do not have…but we do.
You will never see an animal control its own emotions. You will never see an animal studying anything to elevate its thoughts. You will never see an animal care about anything but its own immediate physical gratification. That is a power they do not have…but we do.
We have the power to elevate ourselves beyond eating, sleeping, fighting and fucking. Being an astronaut isn’t any of those things. Being an artist isn’t any of those things. Being compassionate isn’t any of those things. Being able to study the fabric of reality to figure out how it’s woven together isn’t any of those things.
It’s more than those things. Those four things are real, and they are important, but they are things of the animal, and there is more.
You are more than an animal. You have the ability, the potential, to look into yourself and be God between your ears. You do not have to be a slave to your body or your mind: you can exercise your will to make your body and mind obey you, and that is the point of departure. It is by becoming aware of this potential that we take the first step on a path to ultimate knowledge.
You are better than an animal.
You are more than an animal.
That is the Truth.
And the Truth rides a motorcycle.