Friday, May 30, 2008

+ Riding again, one more time: its not the bike!

I have now about three entries in draft mode, just sitting in a true digital limbo. Unlike to old days when drafts sat waiting for the author to do something with them on a piece of paper, and unlike the not so old days when drafts sat in one's computer or hard drive waiting to be printed or published somehow, these days online drafts sit in a computer we have actually never seen, waiting for the publish bit to be flipped by someone with the proper user name and password. So there are 3 pieces of writing sitting out there, waiting for me to flip that bit and make them public to those that happen to drift into the space called my blog.

Those drafts try to convey and relate my struggle with health and mechanics, which has kept me from riding and writing since November of last year. More appropriately, since September of last year. At the end of the day though, they all these writings have felt somewhat empty, somewhat shallow, somewhat self-centered. During this time off, a lot of thought, reflection, and conversation has taken place. One seemingly important stimulus came from my church friend Steve B., who happened to mention to me the Lance Armstrong book "It's not the bike" (or really, "Its not about the bike", the actual title). This happened in a casual manner after service many Sundays ago, and while I have yet to read the book, the title itself has generated a lot of cogitation. For a while I have been struggling with the fact that as I was hoping to develop a deeper relationship with God through riding. Many years ago, the seed of developing a motorcycle ministry at our church also began to take shape. Even the thought of exploring a carrier in motorcycle travel journaling has been entertained in my mind. All of this has been accompanied by setting goals for myself as I continue to recover from back surgery. And yet, it seems that the longer I entertain these ideas, the farther away I move from them, as the focus of my attention has shifted and affixed itself on the actual motorcycles. The situation goes even more out of whack, when I see two motorcycles in my garage, and my mind becomes filled with anger because one of them has developed mechanical problems, and also challenges me more physically. While the Hidalgo, my Kawasaki cruiser, sits faithfully waiting for my attention, Luke, the Aprilia sport tourer, challenges my patience and sense of faith and trust with its faults and nuances. Hidalgo is this steel hearted machine that has carried me around for thousands of miles. Luke has this unique body style designed in Italy, and stands out in a crowd because of its unique shape. I have tinkered with, and heavily modified Hidalgo, fearlessly taking out parts, replaced and customized the body, and this faithful steed remains strong, barely needing a battery replacement, or an oil change. Luke I dare not touch, besides adding gas to the tank, as I have no idea, in this complex body, what anything does, besides the standard mechanisms that operate all motorcycles. So the sensible thing would be to say, why do you bother with Luke? Is it just the looks? There are days when I think that it is indeed about the looks, but somewhere I also believe that there is a lesson in faithfulness here, but then again, I may just be stubborn and fixated on the wrong issues.

As I started riding again a few weeks ago, I was able to get on Hidalgo first, and my body has been able to take it. It felt indeed like a blessing to feel the wind, the heat of the sun, and the power of the engine responding to wrist flicks and body leans. A couple of weeks later I was able to ride Luke, but for shorter distances, mechanics getting in the way of the joy of riding. Indeed, each of these motorcycles translate their characteristics into something that leads one to say that each has a different personality and style. Each of these styles offer a different experience, and even provides the rider with some personality traits by association. Hidalgo is well planted, has plenty of chrome, a loud engine with plenty of muscle. Luke is dark, more nimble, fast and quiet. Even for the casual observer of motorcycles, you may tell yourself upon sighting each of these, that you have seen a number of bikes like Hidalgo, but rarely will you have seen one like Luke. In my pursuit of individuality I long for the unique in Luke, but in my need to reliability, I find comfort in Hidalgo.

But at the end of the day I need to continue to remind myself that it is not the bike. It is rather the moment, the slice of time that repeats itself thousands of times while riding, in which the segments of tire, infinite according to calculus, touches the road and creates an analogy of what life and prayer could be. As I ride down roads, taking in the beauty of creation, the smells, the shifts in temperature, the ever changing landscape, my mind remains focused in the moment, and some thought get placed into taking in what is ahead of me, allowing me to both take in the richness of the experience, and arrive at my destination, being filled with the experiences of the journey.

If I can approach prayer, and coming in to the presence of God in the same manner, how sweet it will be when I arrive at my destination.

Indeed, at the end of our journey, it is not about the bike.