Falling in Love with Hate. Motorcycling Meditations.

It’s December, and cold, but I’m still getting a ride on my bike every chance I get. Heated gloves help and so does layering up. We year round bikers are forever optimistic and try and make the best of things. So I’m still riding, reflecting and meditating. I’ve been going to the free meal program I help out at and talking with the poor and homeless I meet there. I make paper airplanes for the kids that read books to me and for the younger ones who will let me read to them. I mop floors and I’ll tell you right now: I swing a mean mop. Last night at the program the troubles and violence of recent events in the world were very far away from the normal trouble and violence experienced there by the poor and homeless every day. There were people sleeping in tents in nearby woods, others trying to get enough money to stay the night at a Motel 6, a man worrying about traffic fines and the jail time he’d get if he couldn’t pay them, and he knew he couldn’t. What was going to happen to the grandkids he was taking care of? Foster care? I spoke with a couple who used to ride Harleys but had to sell them to cover medical expenses. One man told me he wants to give me his old Harley gloves because, he says, “I’ll never get to ride again.” Some folks talked about last week’s football games, upcoming games, and coaches hired or fired. I watched laughing kids run past me to the playground and listened to their happy, screaming voices. And I witnessed small kindnesses – a man who has a car will give someone a ride to visit a loved one in the hospital; when the donated milk runs out a man gives his to a woman who didn’t get any; folks help with sweeping the floors, cleaning tables and taking the garbage out. And I have to say that the beauty of the children, their smiles and high fives, always melts this biker’s heart.
What with all the shootings around the world recently it’s easy and understandable to feel anger, even hatred at the individuals and organizations that have committed these horrific crimes. Beyond the compassion we feel for others, we worry about our own family and friends. Rippling out from these feelings can be a sense of helplessness, vulnerability and an angry determination not to have these events ever happen again on our watch. So we look for quick solutions. Gun control advocates hurl their angry comments. Gun possession advocates fire back with their claims of defense. Some people get angry at all Muslims. Others get angry at the people who stereotype all Muslims as killers, all refugees as evil. Regardless of the “side” we take in our words and writings (postings etc.) we can all too easily move beyond any sincere questioning of our own views, any honest searching for the truth, any engaging in rational analysis and argument. We can come to take pleasure in making fun of others, ridiculing them and their beliefs. Sometimes it seems like we have reached the point where we have fallen in love with hate.

I know a lot of folks’ mommas, like mine, used to tell us that if you can’t say anything good about anyone, then keep your mouth closed. The opposite now seems to be true. Don’t say anything good about others, just share your anger and ridicule for them. Falling in love with hate is a terrible path to head down. It’s not going to take you to any good place, to where your religion or beliefs want you to go.

I think of the children smiling and playing at the free meal program and it gives me hope. On all of our parts it’s going to take some deep soul searching, compassion, compromise and cooperation to solve the problems our world faces, both in the random suffering and violence we hear about in the shootings and in the ongoing suffering and violence of the poor and homeless, who are constantly in our midst. Compassion, mine and yours, and the spiritual and practical beauty it can create when it’s combined, is our only way out. Otherwise, our only choice is to fall in love with hate.

Ride safely. Ride with compassion.

Trusting Your Journey: Part One; Why do Bad Things Happen to Good Motorcyclists? Abandonment to Divine Providence? Why Are You Reading This Now? Caution: This blog entry contains spiritual questions. Enter at your own risk.

What does it mean to “Trust Your Journey”? I’m not sure I really know. Every time I try to describe it I get muddled down in motorcycle metaphysics. It starts as a nice ride down a well maintained street then after a while I hit potholes and gravel. To fellow Christians, Trusting Your Journey might mean: Trust in God. Muslims certainly preach it. And so does Judaism. If you are a Taoist it means trusting the flow of the Tao. Buddhism believes in living in the here and now. I’m sure most religions believe in the idea. But what does it really mean? Trust your journey and good things will happen to you? Nah, we know better. I bought a friend a beer the other day and told her she could buy me one someday when I’m destitute. She said: God won’t let you get that way if you trust Him. My response was: Why not? Maybe that’s what God has in mind for me. I asked her: Yeah, well how come bad things happen to good motorcyclists? –A question that every motorcyclist asks at some point or another in their riding career.
There have been a number of books out on the subject of why bad things happen to good people.
Two spiritual classics that have influenced me over the years are called: The Cloud of Unknowing and Abandonment to Divine Providence. Essentially the first one says, and here’s a quote from Wikipedia, “The underlying message of this work proposes that the only way to truly “know” God is to abandon all preconceived notions and beliefs or “knowledge” about God and be courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowingness,” at which point, you begin to glimpse the true nature of God.” The second one, this time from Amazon, says God is to be found in the simplest of our daily activities and especially through total surrender to whatever is His will for each of us. That is the message of this 18th-century inspirational classic by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Its encouragement to “live in the present moment,” accepting everyday obstacles with faith, humility and love…”
A more modern version can be seen in the words of the Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor:
“There is a sense in which if I will trust that what comes to me is for me (now that’s the hugest faith statement I can make to you), if I will trust that what comes to me in my life is for me and not against me… what I find is that it breaks my idols, that it breaks my isolation, that it challenges my sense of independence, it does all kinds of things for me that I would not willingly do, that are for me, that are for my health.”
So essentially, let me see if I have this right- I have to believe that the bad things that happen to me are really, essentially good for me? Yeah, right. Tell that to Job from the Hebrew Bible. God totally wrecked his motorcycle journey. And this motorcycle problem I’m having now? How is it good for me? Well, it did throw off my schedule yesterday and caused me to be places where I probably wasn’t going to be. I met some interesting folks last night that I probably wouldn’t have met. It caused me to stay an extra night in Destin.

I do try to abandon myself to divine providence when I ride. My destinations are never absolutely fixed. The only GPS I use is a spiritual one. And most of the time I’m not sure I’m picking up the signal. I get lost a lot. If I like the look of a road or the direction it’s heading I’ll take it. Which explains to some degree why I ended up crossing the Mississippi River 5 times last year when 1 would have done rightly. And why it took me 18 days last summer to make it from Georgia to California by way of Sturgis, South Dakota. I was trusting the journey, trusting Divine Providence, trusting what happened to me. It can feel downright spooky to let go of so much.
And it can be mind boggling. For instance, what set of weird circumstances brought you here right now to read this blog? Or me to write it? Heck I was getting ready to walk down to the Hog Breath’s Saloon when something told me to stop and write this now. I would really rather being having a beer right now, thank you very much.
Okay. I need to write more about this but first I’m going to go get that beer. What are you going to do?