Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Experimental Answers to the Question: Why Ride? No.23

This area used to be under the sea, and there is still something oceanic about the Mallee under its sun: the land is submerged in light, the distant scrub moves in its hot current. The heat is intensely silent, so powerful it makes you listen. In that mute state my mind, like a muddy sea-bed, releases things to the surface that float: joys, anxieties, memories. My own of course, but others which seem new, which this place evokes.

In the shadowy social world I take a hardened form: a person known by this name, with defining ties and obligations. My petty cares matter. It matters what I have achieved. My very appearance reveals me, apparently, and must be answered for. We make much of these abstractions. Like a religion where each act has the weight of eternity.

That world is a series of little meetings, we relate with only a part of our self and feel separate, distinct. A person is defined by that and by what others make of him. This is why I am out here with a wheel spinning before and behind, and little else. To ride a motorcycle is to release myself into something greater. Last Sunday I rode into a storm so intense I could not tell if it was hail. Later I felt blanketed by the chill of the grey sky. To be submerged each time is to experience something more than myself; no longer a separate unit but merging with the whole scene, the entire flux of sensations and beauty.

Back in the Mallee, as I rode east from Hattah, called by the pink salt flats and their ghosts, the storm grew. Its sound submerged me. A drone of wind which seemed absolute. Pulling and tugging me, swirling the dust and the trees into a dance. All this was given me without choice, and yet I chose it: I assented to the storm, to the winds which before had frightened me, and gave myself over to what this great thing had to offer. On two wheels I let go of everything in the drenching of rain, of chill, of heat and light.

The social world is a cave, people believe in their shadows and take them for reality. But as Diotima taught Socrates, we transcend ignorance only by love. Through visions of beauty. And it is true. The love of motorcycling can be a way of loving the world. Of loving a beauty whose selfless lack of limits embraces and teaches us. Before it finally absorbs us too, as echoes and memories buried in salt flats.

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