Monday, August 18, 2008

Kris Kristofferson was right

So I had 'the conversation' again today.

I was working alongside two folks with whom I have recently become acquainted, when one asked me if I rode "that motorcycle" everyday. I answered in the affirmative, bracing myself for the inevitable.

"SOOOO dangerous..." they began, and segued into a detailed, blow-by-blow recital of their personal experience with the bleeding edge. The tale included the road involved (check), the vehicle they were driving (car, check), the behavior of the moron motorcyclist (check), the inevitable result (check) and ended with the phrase "...into the guardrail" (check).

I found myself starting to make the usual arguments, in this case pointing out that most motorcyclists were morons and this particular individual most certainly fell into that category. But I also pointed out the behavior the story's hero was partaking in happened to be--in all honesty--the best part of riding. He was attacking a swoopy, sweeping road, one which I've written about before.(Oddly, in the context of a similar incident. Hmm.)

"It's the freedom" one of them sagely opined, the other soberly nodding in silent affirmation, as though that little phrase was the be-all and end-all of the matter, the alpha and the omega.

Well, I was dumbstruck by that comment. Of all the words, phrases, metaphors, similes, cliches and bad puns I've used to describe riding, I honestly don't think I've ever thought of riding in terms of freedom, per se. It's a lot of other things to me, but freedom—in this context, anyway—implies the absence of something, and riding has never been about absence. It's always been about the presence of something, the active embrace of an experience that involves me fully on a different level than other endeavors do.

The exchange made me realize there is a gulf between riders and non-riders that is uncrossable. There is so little common ground between the two camps, and we have been our own worst enemies by letting the least articulate of our brethren set the terms of the dialogue. Those of us who believe riding is something to be affirmatively embraced as an end in itself--as opposed to simply serving as an avenue of escape from some nebulous, oppressive reality--need to speak up more clearly, more forcefully, more articulately.

At this juncture, the discussion (if we can even call it that) is a narcissistic, self-indulgent, self-obsessed diatribe all about loud pipes and totalitarian edicts, about not wearing helmets, about

Otherwise, the non-riders of the world will never get past the poorly-crafted illusion that is presented on our behalf, and we will continue to exist only as another unpleasant and outdated hollister-sturgis-easy-rider misunderstanding.

Kris Kristofferson was right: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." Well folks, that sure as hell isn't why I ride.

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