The Tao of Touring

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If you ever read the classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you will love this. It's the Tao of Pooh with big boys toys. Just how much of life can we rely on? Does what people believe make a difference? Is all existence as we know it, an illusion? Brandon has been given 'bad' news. Instead of going to pieces he goes to France, a final motorcycle ride to ponder life and experience freedom. What appears to be a chance meeting sends his plan awry. He is shown a book that makes him question reality, and finds himself on a metaphysical quest for truth. As reflective teachings open up for him, he discovers accepting 'what is' to be a more important choice than 'what could be'. If his thoughts do create the world, as Buddha said, what is he thinking to make someone want him dead?

Adventure / Scifi
Rod Lawless
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Realising freedom is an illusion is one thing, but finding out knowledge is too, well isn’t that just peachy! Where am I to go with this doublethink reasoning? An inner impulse to search for an answer, to find a direction or some guidance, tips me into the cold water of my decreasing existence. I conclude that to rely on anything, in particular, the thoughts I entertain, is misguided.

Memories streamed back to me when I opened the garage door. Old engine oil retains a lingering, syrupy aroma which, intertwined with petrol, aluminium and iron, hangs in the atmosphere. The whole fragrance lifted my mood and took me back to motorbikes I once owned. Real bikes, at least as far as I interpret the expression, old Brits, Triumphs, BSAs and the like. Most notable the burnt-out AJS I cut my mechanical teeth on. A strange phrase, don’t you think?

Baldy Mick dropped in with his beat-up Ford Transit to help me move some stuff. He’s not a chatty man, so I never know if he’s listening when I try to have a conversation. Still, he does let you vent your thoughts without being in the way.

“You’ve never had a reliable bike, have you, Mick?” I asked with the intent of pushing him up to speed on my agenda. He sniffed, his stock reply as if to answer all possible questions.

“There was a time when I thought being free meant getting out on the bike and letting rip. Now I’m feeling more trapped than ever.”

“Yer off t’ France!” His observation is clearly well placed and somewhat unexpected. I didn’t continue with my speculations, in case he got carried away.

I find reliability relates to machines as much as anything. Mick’s flow of old motorbikes, a testament to the fact. Although deceptive, the principle of dependability can appear genuine at times. This is so true when all seems well, and the bike is moving. Fate will most likely raise its ugly countenance, an occurrence as inevitable as a block in a rusty fuel tank. Failure can occur with the smallest of components, even a simple misalignment. The human body is much the same, and a slight imbalance can trigger unplanned repercussions. Could these occurrences be an allegory for life and what we term ‘destiny’ be bound to arise from a risky choice made along the way? Is decision making predetermined somehow? After all, we sometimes believe we enjoy free will.

The last of my three-cheese sandwich disappeared from view as I began sorting the tools I needed. Back when the ‘Motor Company’ was building what are termed with affection proper Harleys, the practice would’ve been a weekly ritual for most owners. With my modern but ageing Big Twin, I only dipped in to fettle the tuning when the demand surfaced. The old girl’s off to a new paddock, the procedure being the least I could do to bid a fond farewell. She served me well for seventeen years, but time and the implicit nature of the universe, one of change, brought fresh vistas to behold. Untested roads exist for me to travel and, for my own sanity, an examination of reality which I’m compelled to face.

“Yer shed’s a mess!” Mick’s remark, once again unpredictable, walloped in dead centre to the truth. However, it wouldn’t be for long, and he is playing his part in the clean-up.

The need for his input at this stage is considered unwarranted. “It’s a garage, Mick, not a shed.” My remark met with the customary sniff and flick of the eyebrows.

The whereabouts of my feeler gauge eluded me. I’d tidied the garage I don’t know how many times, the rack for spanners, testament to my resolve to keep things orderly. ‘A place for everything and everything somewhere near its place.’ The phrase from a friend, a professional motorbike builder, landed on my mental bench for inspection. I moved it aside, hoping to discover the gauge. Mick looked sideways, swallowed and sniffed again. His version of ‘see what I mean?’

Of course, that was a while ago, and at the time I was altogether entrenched in the illusion. Back then I didn’t start out with the evidence that all I understand to be the truth is bogus. An electrical impulse, not spicy enough to cook a nanoparticle, is all it took to induce this fact. A thought which might’ve never had the chance to exist if one different decision occurred along my so-called path. Perhaps if I understood where I was going before I went, if I leapt back in time, I may select to set out earlier or maybe not at all. Assuming I could understand beforehand what is real and what false, I might never have rolled out of bed. But I did. Then I left the house, the town and a short time later, the country.

The calling resounded loud and clear. To move, to go, to be in some other place creates internal pressure, building to thrust me forward. Then again, why bother? Can anywhere else be better than here? Can I be any place other than where I am? Also, since a simple quality like beauty is subjective, can we say for sure anything can be proven? Does our perception of good and bad, when focused on a topographic spot, stand scrutiny? Is it at most another perspective? In this regard am I trying to uncover ‘what is true’? Too many inquiries, not enough answers. Perhaps I should heed the call and see what happens. Indeed, if what we experience is all for a cause this would, with any luck, present itself for dissection at some point. For all one knows, following the lure would fire off the missing solutions. If not, who cares? I will be travelling, which is reason alone. Enough of one to push me out of my comfort zone, I hope.

With the spark plugs removed, the engine is effortless to turn over. Carpeting my workspace always made sense to me. It makes for easy going on the knees. Well, in theory. I jumped and rubbed at the soreness. Ah, the feeler gauge lay under the old rag I use to keep my fingers slip free. No matter, this space will soon be cleared out. Part of me hopes I don’t sell this bike, so I could stay here and carry on my life as normal. This is possibly a way to remain living in familiar bounds. That portion of my psyche is a small one, thankfully, as travel broadens more than only the mind.

“I’ll just get this done, and then we can pack up these tools.”

Mick gave no answer, I guess he didn’t need to. At least I can ponder my journey in his silence.

The expression; ‘I try to go,’ jars in my head as trying sound’s defeatist and infers procrastination. I just ‘intend to go’, to discover new places with no planning. This way, I don’t invoke the conscious faculty which only leaves the subconscious. This aspect gets the job done with less stress. Practising trust in the deeper aspects of consciousness is on my to-do list. Sometimes I end up on the wrong side of circumstance when listening to someone’s guidance about a route. Nothing worse than being told which direction to go and where to park, and later finding this was bad advice. Mind you, becoming lost by my own volition has been a pastime on occasion. Half the fun of going somewhere new entails doubt, and the unknown, uncontrollable adventure of a release from limits. I’ve heard said that there is no true freedom in the three dimensions we call home. We are confined, a crab in a bucket we must some day kick.

Sometimes it appears evident that we can’t make consequences come about. They either do or don’t with no middle ground. The understanding of control is illusory. Events happen the way they are going to. From one orientation, our involvement is the essence of wu wei; to do without doing and let be whatever will, no argument, justification or interference. From another, it might seem pessimistic. I prefer to think of it as going with the flow.

I feel like testing Mick before I bid him goodbye. Just to see if anything of any depth occurs inside. “The ancient sages of the East say;

‘What we call reality is a deception brought about by our interpretation of the circumstances we undergo.’”

It would appear, he’s not listening. He can be a bit deceptive like that.

The conversation could have continued as it’s curious, some scientists are saying similar things. Living is a game we play simply so we play. It doesn’t matter where we go as long as we do because the journey is what counts. This whole adventure I’m about to embark on will end in death. There is no getting around this little inconvenience. Having faced the unavoidable before, it would be superb if the idea didn’t still conjure fear, yet I discover that dread inescapable. I harbour an opinion of what dying might entail, but there is only one real way to find out. Despite this, I won’t shuffle into some gas chamber without the middle finger proffered in ceremonious fashion to The Bone Man. Time to face the truth, I am leaving this Earthly realm, but not without a fight. Plus, my departure into the unknown is going to be preceded with some fun and enjoyment.

Mick doesn’t take up the slack, and I don’t think much at all goes on in his head, the lucky bugger! I’ll carry on with what could have been the conversation in mine.

I remember how my journey began; the day, the month and the minute. It was when the news dropped on me. “Six months? Really?” The hope was fight wouldn’t become flight, but light; that of understanding. My ′bulletin’ arrived full-fledged to change my relationship to life.

There was a trip ten or eleven years ago. A lot of frustration dogged me back then. My good friend, Sniper, had just met his end on the fast road out of town, and I didn’t hear about it until after he was buried. A situation I could do nothing about, yet the guilt of not being there for him lingered. There was nothing for it but to ride off into an unknown place and release my emotions.

Back then I didn’t see death as the illusion I now believe it to be. It was grave. (Whoops!) I guess I turned up somewhere around mid-Wales before I realised how far I had gone. I ended up sleeping in a bus shelter on a side road. The thing was, I didn’t question anything about the way things worked out. I was altogether in reaction mode. I’ve seen folks hit their bike with a hammer in this state. Yeah, for real.

The next night I found a pub and without much help, got into a severe fight. One that left my finger, my nose and my pride broken. Was there a need for it? Possibly. How about a reason? Beyond a doubt. However, it solved nothing. A week later, when I got home, I was putting the blood-stained T-shirt in the wash and gathered how stupid the whole episode had been. Violence changes nothing on the inside. My best mate was gone, nevertheless, and I was still at the mercy of my own mind.

With these ruminations, a need to ask arises; ‘Am I living in a genuine way?’ Does this question occur to people these days? I see no proof. Sure, I’m supposed to allow them to be free to make the choice, I know. The thing is, I suspect they haven’t got all the information. It appears so many folks take life for granted. They must hold some notion they’re promised a thousand-year lifespan. Is the realisation of our limited time here the key which opens the mind to this enquiry? How many people sit around filling the hours with bland existence and commercialism before the end draws near. Maybe they don’t own the strength to face up to facts so turn away. It could be they think a need for entertainment contains no inner cause. Assuming so, what is the point? Pleasure? If watching contrived TV is someone’s idea of relaxing they are mired in what society and the press want them to believe. They will never contemplate a style of ‘being’ which delivers so much more. They’ll not find a way of overcoming the need to escape and become free. She’s a compelling whore, the media. Who pays her? The majority, it would appear!

Your gravestone is carved by the way you choose to experience life. Is it to say;

Here Lies ****. So What?’

From birth to death, he gained nothing,

Learned nothing and left nothing.

Why? Because he did nothing.”

I think I read the quote somewhere. The Internet I suspect.

So I ask myself how should I live? The answer comes; By learning, gaining knowledge and leave something other than the drawn-out eroding tracks in the mud. When we are not growing we are dying. We are either approaching what we want or heading toward what we don’t want. Nothing stands still in the universe. This doesn’t mean everyone should write an opus or paint a chapel ceiling, but at the least, we should all strive to make a small difference on this colossal blue marble.

Such news as mine changed my orientation in an instant. Six months! Jeez, it woke me up a bit. Obviously, I should have taken more notice of the pain. However, I don’t like to complain. I would rather not burden others with my ailments. As I see it, we are all here on our own. Nobody can do anything for us in a real sense. They are players in our outer world. Okay, so we hang out with people, but the fact is everything we observe is outside ourselves. Whether we are standing in a crowd or alone, we are subject to a viewpoint which is external and somewhat illusory. Both perspectives are a projection, yet due to the nature of the intellect, we buy into them. So doing helps us rationalise and create a better connection to the alleged ‘actuality’ of life. A world of mirrors and most are distorted. The question pops up as to how I may prove the deceit our mind creates, for my progress and mental grasp if nothing else. From one perspective, I am the only being in the macrocosm. The view from Enlightenment has always been a goal for me. There is a long way to go, for sure. I’m still learning all this stuff, hoping it might help. I realise if I can accept the fact this is my existing state, I will feel fewer negative emotions and therefore, not enhance the disease.

My attention meanders, a puppy wandering empty cobbled streets. I plug in the timing light, turn the crankshaft to top dead centre and question how much influence one person can exert on this world of ours. Assuming the flickering idiot box in the corner is to be believed, it does convey the appearance of being in a sorry state. Not sure if I can make much of a splash with my present beliefs and limitations. Even doing something about the modest part of the world I inhabit appears beyond my ability. Yet the timing is sorted, and my belly feels full. Is this all I can hope to achieve?

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