/ZEN AND THE ART OF RIDING ON THE BACK OF A MOTORCYCLE /
I’m going to take a little detour from my normal blog posts and tell you about a new hobby: motorcycles. Or, at least, riding on the back of one.
Here’s the truth: I really want to believe that motorcycles are reckless. I’ve heard the stories, the warnings, the judgements. And here’s the deal: yes, riding one is risky. A lot of things we do in the world are risky. I won’t compare it to driving in a car or anything else– because LIVING is risky. There is always a chance we will get hurt or die and that’s what makes us respect life– and that fragility is what makes it that much more beautiful. All I can say is how surprised I was to learn that I LOVE riding on the back of Mr. Ainsley’s motorcycle.
Here are my thoughts:
In our cars, we are in a bubble. We have no concept of how fast we are going and are rarely tuned in to the world around us. Riding on the back of a motorcycle instantly puts me in touch with my senses. One of the first things I noticed was the smells. The scents of flowers, of grass, of restaurants are inescapable. The wind, the hot or cool air and the moisture in the air hit my face and my hands. The sound of the motorcycle, an incredibly loud hum, puts me in an almost meditative state—like white noise.
There are no distractions—no radio, no music, no talking. After my permagrin wears off (I can’t help it), I actually feel so relaxed I’ve worried before that I would fall asleep. My mind wanders to the most beautiful, stress-free places. I feel in tune with the people around me (who seem oblivious to me) and to the rushing concrete below me. I wave to other motorcyclists I had never noticed when I was in my car. I feel present.
The only form of communication with Mr. Ainsley is a squeeze of the leg or a rub of the back. Which is enough. And perfect.
We go on rides with no destination. Traffic doesn’t matter. We drive along the beach to Palos Verdes. We find hidden, winding roads in Malibu. We drive all around Venice, down Melrose. I love every second.
We recently listened to (on audiobook) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig. Don’t let the title fool you, the novel has more to do with metaphysics and philosophy than with motorcycles. Though in the non-abstract story of the book, a father and son are on a motorcycle trip and describe with beautiful articulation the art of maintaining a motorcycle– which I took to be symbolic of the art of maintaining the self. It’s a good read (or listen) and I highly recommend it.
The photo above is of Mr. Ainsley’s 1984 BMW R80RT motorcycle. Maybe one day I’ll ask him to teach me to ride it.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a little style post about my cool vintage motorcycle jacket find and then we’ll be back to some beautiful weddings.
Thanks for listening. Onward.