11. life lessons from my motorcycle

As I struggle to deal with the many faces of the unleashed hatred following Trump’s election – including but not limited to bigotry, misogyny, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia  I’m reminded of how I’ve been taught to handle curves on my motorcycle.  OK, those of you who do not ride may think I’m straining for this analogy but bear with me.

In single vehicle crashes, more bikers are killed in curves than any other scenario. The biker fails to negotiate the curve and runs off the cliff, into the guard rail, the mail box, etc.  And dies.  Basically, the biker looks at what he’s afraid of, at what he doesn’t want to hit, or what he suddenly finds fascinating, and wham!  It’s over.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation stresses the proper technique for handling a curve.  One shorthand version of the lesson is – slow, look, press, and roll.  Slow down to an appropriate entry speed. (Get on the brakes – don’t try to go into the curve at a break-neck speed)  Look through the curve, look where you want to go. (Do NOT look where you do not want to go.  Yes, the cliff is right there, with no guard rails and the edge of the pavement is crumbly.  But don’t look at it!  You are going to go where you look.  Head and eyes up – Look through the curve, look where you want to go)  Press – lean into the curve.  (You’re at the curve now and there’s no more time.  Lean into it.  Commit yourself. )  And roll on the throttle – speed up. (Yep – speed up.  If you brake in the curve, the front end of your bike will dive, you’ll lose traction,  and you may well die. Speed up and you will be stable).  You can stop and change your pants when you’re safely on the straight away – but there is no time to be tentative on this side of the curve.

Sometimes I see a curve coming and have no trouble slowing.  Other times I find myself going too fast and have to really get on the brakes.  That’s where I am right now, watching what feels like the unleashed worse, emboldened to act and threaten our connected humanity, and it’s closing fast.   I’ve needed to really get on the brakes. I can’t see how to handle what’s coming next, but I can remember what to focus on.

Side note – for those familiar with the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory Test, I’m an INFP. I’ve been in tears with my heart racing as I seriously slow down and reassess pretty much everything.  Others respond with anger, by sulking, or analyzing,  We each do the best we can.

For me, the fear is not of a change, or lack of change, in politics.  The fear is for our humanity in the face of the legitimization of hatred, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny,  racism, Islamophobia .  My fear is We, The People, may just surrender and placidly follow the roads being drawn that lead to divisiveness.  My fear is we will focus on the negative, the hatred, and become part of it.  Like a biker becoming part of a guard rail.

Martin Luther King reminds us what to focus on – “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

Isaac Penington,  imprisoned for the crime of being a Quaker, wrote from a brutal jail cell in 1667, a reminder of what I chose to aim for  “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand, “ bday skills2 2010http://www.qhpress.org/texts/penington/letter20.html

Things are going to change rapidly around this blind curve in our shared road.  Right now, I need to slow down and keep my head and eyes up – focused on what I value, where I want to go.  I refuse to lose control and fly over the cliff or crash into the guard rail. I refuse to let hatred trump love.  Love is bigger and better than that.  American is better than that.

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