Two days ago, I participated in the first charity ride I’ve been on in about a year and a half. And it not only reinforced but encapsulated everything I’ve been trying to say here.
Now, I should begin with just a little explanation: I really like charity rides. The left half of my vest operates as a proud display case for pins commemorating charity runs and rallies through the course of my bikerhood. I haven’t attended any since 2018 for a number of reasons, some of which I have already discussed.
The weather was damp in the morning before the run, a few sprinkles dotting the gas tank as I rode to meet up with the group I was in. The temperature was barely in the 60s, not bad but sub-optimal and requiring a little extra throat covering to prevent illness. (Knowing your own physiology will almost always help you achieve the most out of any situation).
But none of that mattered either.
What did matter, was that there was a memory to honor, and that I had said I was going to be there: a Biker does not allow trifles like slightly sub-par weather make him go back on his word.
My friends and I thought that perhaps others would be put off by the conditions, which only made it more important that we attend.
So we ventured forth, through puddles and chill wind and the occasional side-eye from a hipster on a bicycle, and descended upon the noble venue that had agreed to embrace the run.
This, as you know if you have been paying attention, is already a spiritual endeavor. But then there was the ride.
I tell you truth: There is no more energizing symphony to the blood, than the sound of 200 motorcycles starting in unison and rolling out.
For my friends and I were right to attend but wrong to doubt, and a mighty phalanx rode for the cause.
And even the rustiness which required that I pay more attention than usual to the mechanics of riding could not prevent the connection from happening, and being felt, and elevating me to my element.
That…that is what it is all about.
The machine connects you to the world in a way that no other vehicle can. The group is connected as one composite entity: watching out for one another, learning, aiding. Each points out the hazards of the road to the ones behind, the front runners protect the flanks, every rider gives the others courtesy and space that they do not add to the danger inherent in the machine. The group, winding across the country like an immense bellowing snake, is the culture, the people, the honor, the respect, the love.
All connected by two wheels and a roaring engine, through sun-gleaming robust life on every side: above, fore, aft, port, starboard and below…
This, this connection is what every religion preaches at its heart. All else is surface. Every religion is intended as a signpost and a lamp, guiding the questing soul to a moment of balanced forces and awareness and sheer joy in life almighty.
That Zen moment, that lasts an hour and a half on a big motorcycle run.
While you ride on one of those glorious spins, there just isn’t room for any of the life-debris that can clog up your body, mind, and spirit.
Now, a big charity ride is not the only way to achieve this state.
I won’t even say that it’s the best way, because everybody is different. Maybe a long tennis match in front of a big crowd is more your thing, and may the gods bless you with it.
But the charity run is the way that I found works for me. I offer it up as proof that the Zen state is achievable, that spiritual elevation is to be found out in the regular old world and not just in a cloistered temple setting (though of course it can be found there as well).
It’s worth trying. And it’s for a good cause, so somebody’s getting something out of it and the time will not be wasted either way.
…and when it’s over, there is meat and beer. Just two of the many benefits of being a Biker. So you have connection, and communion.
The essence of all religion.
That is the Truth, and the Truth rides a motorcycle.