Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Zen and the art of motorcyle training

April 11, 2016 

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Zen and the art of motorcycle safety training

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of my favorite books.  I read it for the first time in 1973 and have reread it every few years since then.  Back when I first read it I knew, some day,  I was going to hit the two lanes country roads of the USA on a motorbike. Even though at that time I had only ridden my cousin's motorcycle once or twice up my Grandma's long driveway when I was a teenager. That same cousin was killed on that bike before he got out of his teenager years. I think he was hit by someone drinking and driving.  I haven't thought of him for a long time. He was named Carrol after my grandfather, but we called him Kerry. May he rest in peace. He was my age and my favorite cousin. 

I guess that is part of why I didn't actually get that first bike until I was 50 years old. It's no wonder I am so devoted to safety training. That and the fact I crashed that first bike,  (You can see the photo in one of the earlier blog posts on Rapid, Responsible Reinvention.)- It was a lovely Honda Nighthawk with big hard saddle bags that I could load up, strap on the tent and be off camping by myself during the lonely sojourn of my midlife bachelor years.

When I write about that very early vision that my first reading of Zen created, it amazes me how powerful and enduring a simple intention can be when it is lodged somewhere in the soul. It took me forty years to bring that one to life when I took my first long trip to Maine USA with my partner riding cheerfully on the back just a couple of summers ago.

 I told a friend today the story of when I went to my very first basic safety that everyone has to take to get a license. At the time I didn't even really know how to ride. We all began the course  by introducing ourselves of course. I said "I am here because I am leaving no midlife cliche unexplored!" (That wasn't literally true as I didn't get to them all.)  I had to mention that it was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that was really to blame for my signing up for the course.  The instructor just looked and me and said she knew I was going to mention that book.  Maybe it came a lot in the courses she taught.  

So now it is quite a pleasure to be back on the road again. Last year we  road all the way from North Carolina to St. Johns New Brunswick and back. That trip included a stay at our good friend's Patty and Bill's cabin on Campobello Island in Canada(which now has the Roosevelt National Forrest, the only one managed by two countries at once).  

Yesterday, I suggested replacing the word  motorcycle with the words your life in my safety trainer's description of the difference between riding and driving.  I did that myself and look at what I wrote: "Most of the first two days were spent in the parking lot attempting to drive my [life] in ways that I did not even imagine it could go.

Attempting to drive my life in ways that I did not even imagine it could go.

Maybe that 's the best answer or explanation I can give my worrying Mother (I guess it never stops) who asked me last year:

"Why in the world would you get back on a motorcycle?"   

As always…drive safely!


Copyright © 2016 David O. Aspenson, Ph.D


  1. "... attempting to drive my [life] in ways that I did not even imagine it could go."
    Yes me too. I met a man a year ago, he showed me his woodworking projects of chairs designed in cooperation with each person who wants one. He involved them in the actual cutting of the wood, stripping the bark, chipping off twiglets, sand smoothing off the nubs, building a stable base then the best part of making each chair unique with the crown, back and curving arms. He said "We return in the new year. If you want to make a chair, just call." Next week it will be me with goggles on, running the bandsaw, creating my Faerie Queen Throne. My design includes the birthstones of myself and my husband embedded in the arm just where my palms will rest. In May my Coronation as the Faerie Queen will be bt the Faerie Empress (a local artist Legend and woman I highly admire and love). Then our May Dance and Feast to celebrate! Just because I said yes to "driving my LIFE" not to being a passive wishful unfulfilled non-player in process. Scared of the blade of that saw? UM HUM Intimidated by the sander? UM HUM Not sure of where I am going with this idea about to become a reality? UM HUM Fearful it won't look like the throne in my mind? UM HUM That isn't stopping me. I told my Chair-man "I had a dream that all the chairs people had made with him as their Chairmentor were in a big circle telling their stories." He loved that... hell, I loved that!