Sunday, January 07, 2007

Motorcycle Riding and Philosophical Aspects of Life

Yesterday morning I rode my Harley over to my brother’s house, and after a cup of coffee he and I headed out for a short ride and a stop at a local motorcycle dealership. (Okay, I can hear some of you now – women go to the mall and look at new shoes and men go to motorcycle dealerships and look at new toys). Nonetheless, on my way back home I came up on a group of a dozen or more motorcycles and rode along with them. They were very friendly and it was fun. As we were riding, however, I noticed that some of the riders looked almost exclusively ahead through their windshields and some frequently looked in their rearview mirrors. Interesting? I thought.

Later when I got home and was sitting out on my dock reflecting on my ride, the first thing I thought of was that all of the riders with whom I had been riding with were careful and safe riders. And if you look at the State Motorcycle Riding Laws, they address things such as helmets, headlights on during the day, eye protection, etc., and that motorcycles must have two rearview mirrors. There also are numerous other excellent sources for enjoying safe and comfortable motorcycle riding (such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and Motorcycle Tips and Techniques). I also reflected on some of the sayings that motorcycle riders say to stay focused on safety – some of which I include in my new pop psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em – sayings such as “Keep the shiny side up” and “Keep the rubber side down.” Nonetheless, my observations of the riders’ seldom using versus frequently using their rearview mirrors stayed with me. After a short while, however, I realized why.

Being somewhat of a life-long student of philosophy and a psychologist with a penchant for symbolism, I saw “looking through the windshield” as focusing on the future and “looking in the rearview mirrors” as focusing on the past. Then a thin smile broke across my face as I thought about two relevant anecdotal pearls of wisdom:

The first was from my pop psych book, Living Life, Anyway:
“If you live your life with one foot in the future and one foot in the past, the best you can hope for is to piss on the present.”

The second one was from my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships:
“Watch your charts and keep an eye on your bow – make sure you know where you are going. Look over the stern occasionally too, appreciate your wake – it can tell you a lot about you and your boat.”

How much time do you spend looking through the windshield or over the bow, and how much time do you spend looking in your rearview mirrors or over the stern?



Anonymous said...

Don't know how you arrived at your conclusions.

As a safe rider myself, I would say the riders looking in their mirrors were more about the future -- their's.

Not frequently watching your mirrors is insane.

I would say the riders glued to their windshields were wreckless, with no regard to the present or the future.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you for the Comment – it did cause me to re-read my Post and pause. However, I don’t know exactly what “conclusions” you assume I made with regard to safe motorcycle riding. I sense from your comments, nonetheless, that you indeed are a safe and cautious rider. I also know that where we look and how often we look where we look are influenced by situations and conditions. For example, if I’m all alone on a straight two-lane highway, I sure don’t look in my rearview mirrors as frequently as I do when in a middle lane of a crowded eight-lane Interstate.

Thanks again... be safe and enjoy the ride!


Anonymous said...

I liked the analogy.
Actually I have been thinking about the past quite a bit in the last few days. Mostly about how much effort it will take me to get back to my previous bike riding level.
The thing is that thinking about it isn't going to get me there. Riding is..

lisa said...

Ha...I first heard about "pissing on today" in an alcohol education class/traffic school. I must say that I find it difficult sometimes to plan for the future without obsessing...but the past can stay there! (Except for life lessons and fond memories, of course!)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for the Comment and insight.
Yeah, I hear ya -- that's a fairly popular expression in the 12-step programs and communities.
"Letting go" is easier said than done too! But as you so very well say, say: if you can hold onto the warm and fond memories and learn from the "life lessons," then let the "past" be there -- in the past!
Ciao for now,

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Happy and Blue 2,
Thanks for chiming in! I hear ya... loud and clear! And when I cognitively obsess about something which is basically active (behavioral), it's nothing more than procrastination anyway.
Nike has a three-word expression for what you're suggesting: