That Being Said

Let me tell you a story:

For once, it’s fairly short, so bear with me. (“Grr!”)

See, back when I was taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Rider Course to get the “M” endorsement for my license, during the classroom portion one day, one of the instructors presented us with a scenario.

“You’re riding hard around a curve and as you come around it, you see a car coming around the other side at full speed, and it’s half in your lane. What should you do?”

I said, “It depends.”

The instructor was very impressed. I got the correct answer in one.

You see, in riding, as in life, there are no hard-and-fast rules.

Let’s go back to the instructor’s example: what should you do in that situation? Should you head for the shoulder of the road? Even if you’re on a cliff? Should you swerve to one side or the other? First answer if there are multiple traffic lanes with other traffic around. Tell me also if you see oil or leaves or lawn clippings or anything else that can erase your traction and send you and your bike sailing out of control. Should you keep to your line and honk? Remember that even the largest bikes are equipped with anemic little meep-meep horns. Also be sure that the driver will have time to pay attention and correct his own line…if you trust said other driver to do so.

“It depends.” You see now why that was the correct answer.

Generally speaking, we tend to like hard rules. Things like Chivalry and Bushido and the Klingon Code of Honor. Life is pretty ambiguous, and it is of no little consolation to have something, anything, upon which we can lean when things go all pear-shaped.

But it is because life is ambiguous, that the best you can do…is general guidelines.

It applies here on this website as well. There are Ten Ets of Zen Bikerism, and not one of them is an inviolable hard and fast rule.

Sometimes there is only one way to do something. (First Et) Just because your ego isn’t all-important doesn’t mean you should let people use you for toilet paper. (Fourth Et) And I said right in the Tenth Et, that just because you have to live, doesn’t mean there’s any shame in being dead for a while when something in that life just kills you. Depression is a healing mechanism.

Just come back, is all.

I made this oddball religion around the motorcycle because it truly is an excellent teacher of life lessons. The most simple, the most basic lesson it can teach is perhaps the most powerful. Consider how the machine works:

If you only lean to one side or another, all you’ll do is go in circles. If you never lean at all, all you’ll do is plow into something in front of you. If you lean too far, all you’ll do is find out what asphalt tastes like. If you don’t lean far enough, all you’ll do is swing wide into oncoming traffic in a turn.

The bike, above all, teaches balance in all things. It teaches that “balance” isn’t just a matter of staying rigidly upright. Balance is the ability to stay up, whatever that takes. When you get right down to it, what else are you looking for in your life? Learn from the machine, and respect it as a teacher.

I can’t tell you how far to lean, when to lean, why to lean, when to swing back upright or anything other than the fact that these things must at some point be done.

You have to know when, and how much.

You know that, by feeling it, and by experience. By getting the hang of it. The only way to get the hang of something is to do it.

You have to believe that you can. Shit, you have to know that you can.

I can’t give you that either.

But you’re here, you’ve read this far…something tells me you don’t need me to give that to you. You already got it.

That is the truth.

And the truth rides a motorcycle.

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