September 24, 2018
Motorcycles in the Winddo not do or die
A motorcycle in the wind is a true test of the adapted anxious man.
The wind blows the bike. The wind blows your body. Your body steers the bike, through the handlebars. But the wind also steers the bike, by steering you, who steers the bike in turn. You’re getting blown, and steered, all over the place. None of this is up to you.
But a bike in motion is stability in motion. When a bike stands still, it longs to fall down. When running 60, 70, 80 miles per hour, it’s two great gyroscopes, two tops of metal and rubber spinning, lashed to a metal frame, upon which your one and only mortal coil resides. A moving bike wants to keep moving, upright, immune to environmental disruption. It wants to do the right thing. It wants to keep you alive, to deliver you where you mean to go.
Keeping you alive, circumstances accounted, involves leaning and turning, with every billow and gust. Wind leans the bike to the left, wheel steers to the left, turning the bike back up to the right. Wind leans the bike to the right, wheel steers to the right, leaning the bike back up to the left. It is a self-correcting system. Self-correcting, if not for you.
All of this motion comes through the handlebars. The bars that steer the bike. Tense up, and you become an impediment, a fault, a spanner-in-the-works threatening this whole self-and-you-correcting operation. If you force the bike to go where it’s blown, or where your body’s blown—where the wind leans it—you are leaving your lane, and you are probably going to die.
The bike wants to correct, but you are in control. Exercise that control, and pain, inexorable, perchance terminal pain, will follow. You know this, though you’ve yet to feel it. You know it in the abstract, while the urge to control is concrete in your hands.
You can’t correct the bike like it wants to correct itself. You’re not capable. Your whole anatomy, natural psychology, and psychosomatic anxiety, plus control of the bike, conspire to down you. Only the machine alone, without your interference, survives you in these conditions. And you know this, hold to it like a queer kind of proven faith, riding your motorcycle in the wind. You know you must deny control through your body. You know if you do not deny control, your body, and the bike, will control you sideways or down, and that may be the end.
So you’re anxious as Hell. But it can’t come through the handlebars. You have to let it go. Your mind, your instinct, ought to be screaming, and your hands, your arms, have to be silent, calm, accommodating, indifferent. You have to let it all happen, at once, contradictory, to keep yourself alive. And you do. And you get used to it.
You split your mind from your body. You split your body from your mind. And you learn, not in theory, but in crucial, self-preserving practice, that the two are not the same. The motorcycle, and the wind, and surviving in the wind, teach that they are not the same. My life, continuing, bears witness that they are not the same.
Panic. Anxiety. Fear. Instinct. I don’t know whether of the body, or of the mind, or of how much of one and the other. But the panicking, anxious, fearful, instinctual beast atop the motorcycle isn’t me. I am something else, besides, ripping madness and action asunder. I am the will, apart from body and mind, keeping the whole upright. I am feeling fear, by proxy, but doing nothing for it, by command. I am indifferent to fear, and therefore, in this crude natural and mechanical coincidence, surviving. And, frankly, enjoying myself.
I didn’t seek this lesson on the bike. I happened into it, a novice and a fool. But none can take it from me, what the wind and the motorcycle have taught. Not even should I walk every mile left to me, to the end of my life.
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