I sold my 1200 Harley Sportster yesterday which means today I reflect upon its significance. We bought the bike in Dallas, Texas a couple of years ago and road it two-up (a rider and passenger) all the way back to Seattle, Washington. I had an idea going in that it would not be an easy journey, but it proved to be even more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Having been a distance runner and a soccer player, tests of endurance and will are very familiar terrain for me. I loved the last lap of the 1600m, the second half of soccer matches- because that was the point where athleticism often gave way to will and determination. The fight often shifted from one between two physical opponents to one that matched the heart against the physical and mental, which were both screaming just quit! But what the body and mind do not know, and the heart only vaguely comprehends, is that on the other side of agony lies transcendent bliss. I remember a race where I was in fifth place with a quarter of lap to go, completely out of energy and certain that I had lost the race. Everything in me begged just quit, coast to the finish, you did your best, that’s good enough. Yet just before these voices won out my league rival started his kick. It was earlier than I usually started mine, I was completely out of gas, and he clearly wasn’t, but something inside me said chase him. No more than that, but it was enough. Patristic writers wrote of the passions and how we must fight and conquer them. To understand this battle one must understand that the root of the passions is passivity; it is a passive giving over to that which brings us down. At its core, giving oneself over to the passions is a denial of our freedom. The thoughts that tormented me during the race were giving me an out, I could give up (or give in) and believe the lie that I had no choice in the matter: you did your best, you had nothing left. Yet in the midst of a false determinism choice asserts itself, just chase him. And in that moment we have a choice whether to lie to ourselves and live in bad faith or to live into who we are meant to be, our destiny, which is the other side of freedom. I chose to follow that fleeting thought; I got out of line and chased him. And in a moment my body had taken over, carrying through the assertion of freedom. I suddenly had more energy than I could ever have imagined having. My steps grew faster- I was no longer tired, but rather . . . elated. I had passed through that wall in the self that persuasively claims that it is the outer limits of human experience. If we are to live through this life foggily then this is true, but it is past this fog, past this façade, that the mystical life is truly experienced. I won the race by a lean, yet had experienced something far greater than winning a race- I had expanded my conscious experience of life.

Returning to the journey from Dallas to Seattle- leading up to the trip I had frequently referred to it as an adventure. Most people have a romanticized understanding of adventures, but the way I saw it, by definition an adventure is a test of one’s limits. The romantic view of adventures comes from viewing it from the outside, or at least reminiscing from a safe chronological distance. I had reached this distance, and as I poured over photos from the trip I could feel that stirring from within. This stirring is not false; rather it is the deeper truth to the original experience which gets lost in the agony of the moment during the actual adventure. The problem is that those viewing adventures from the outside often only take away this deeper truth and expect it to be the whole of the experience when going into an adventure of their own. You look at motorcyclists cruising down the road and imagine yourself on a bike; free, happy, invigorated by the fresh air, the rumble of the engine, the feel of the wind. But this is merely the sales pitch for a cycle- true, but only half the picture. The other half is the soreness that settles into the joints and muscles like a November cloud cover in Seattle, the boredom that comes after looking at scenery for hours on end, wanting something different, and realizing that you are fully alone in your thoughts, a scary place to be. Our minds circle around like the tires on the road, getting tangled, lost, looped; and eventually that aloneness, that lack of novel engagement drives us to a place of crisis. Beyond the boredom we encounter our inner emptiness. It is this agony that one must conquer to truly encounter the mystical state of motorcycling. I have had glimpses, but on the trip spent most of my time somewhere between novelty and agony. It seems it takes more than a couple years to find the other side of cycling, to fully enter this state of bliss. Look out for those seasoned riders, the ones who have traversed the country every which way, those who have their bike and aren’t looking for another. Beneath that soreness, that boredom, that agony that often settles in so deeply, lies the wholly other state of being we call motorcycling.