Thanks to Andrew “Wookie” Longshaw for his editing contribution.
I received a message from my family in Italy: a long quote from Silvano Petrosino, philosopher and Professor of Theory of Communication and Anthropology at the Catholic University in Milan. The quote, that I use in this blog, is from Mr. Petrosino last book “Lo scandalo dell’imprevedibile – The scandal of the unpredictable” that I believe is not yet available in English.
“What is the lesson we can take from the pandemic? – asks Mr. Petrosino – We need to let go of the unpredictable: While planning for the future we must recognize what is not configurable, what is unpredictable. And, if something does not go as we wanted/planned, we should not consider it a failure. We do not have to freak out about the project or on the rigidity of our way of acting. We need to accept a margin of incertitude, to the point of understanding that the real freedom is not doing -what -we -like.
What can we do not to be overwhelmed? We should try to be more serious in the way we live our time; it has never been OUR time, the time of personal private urgency. This epidemy unmasked the dictatorship of the URGENT. We understood that nothing is urgent, not even work and business. Urgency is an infantile way to establish a relationship with time: kids always want all urgently. The epidemy has been very effective in making all of us understand that noting is essential, nothing is urgent. Maybe only the hospital. We cannot anymore leave in the illusion of creating Paradise on Earth: the Good cannot be imposed or guaranteed: we must try to be better, not to be the best”
“Urgency is an infantile way to establish a relationship with time”
And infantile we are: how many times at the kind (although trivial) question “How are you?” we got the answer “Busy… very busy…” a way to establish a self-importance, as saying “you, lucky bastard, have free time to question my wellbeing… I have much more important task to accomplish and I have no time… for you, for my family, for my friends, for myself”
Suddenly the presence of an invisible enemy brings the possibility of Death into the equation and time get a new prospective: in lockdown most of us realigned priorities, reevaluated relationship and discovered how much better acts of happiness are when we move slowly. Time at disposal remained the same but the use of “our time” went from infantile to mature.
“Urgency is an infantile way to establish a relationship with time and the epidemy has been very effective in making all of us understand that noting is essential, nothing is urgent”, said Mr. Petrosino; the strict lockdown months (March June 2020) and the continuation of “social distancing” were in my experience a period when everything and everybody slowed down and when I learned once more to appreciate the use-of-time-lessons that motorcycling gave me in the last decades. “The Plan” and planning is only the starting part of the Course of Action undertaken and is used to work out later where it changed or went wrong.
From the choice of bike to the reactions facing hazards, from the conduct on the road to the attitude toward training, from the system of taking decisions to the relation with peers, we, the bikers, are quite often a good example of infantile relationship with time. “I want it all and I want it now” was a great success of the band Queen and the lyrics reflect most of our attitude.
“But just give me what I know is mine.
People do you hear me, just gimme the sign.
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth.
Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth”
” Nothing is urgent” sounds strange for a sport based on speed and for an industry searching every year for more horsepower, more torque, more SPEED. Time used to cover a distance is not the subject of this consideration: the way we live the time is the key. “It is the journey not the destination that matters”: old expression proved now true.
While writing this note a message from Andrew came by with a “lesson” from his recent ride in rural and peaceful England “And the lesson for today is – get out there and be slow. We rode slowly. Really slow. And soaked up the heat, the smells, the dust and the sweat. We had a time booked for the restaurant table and that was the only ‘time limit’ for today. We had time to eat and drink slowly. Then an even slower ride home on the old / small roads which lie within the rush of the M25 motorway.
And it really doesn’t matter where you are riding. Throttle goes both ways. Choose a Slow Route and take your time to enjoy. As you’re lying on the slab, it is way too late to wonder what all the rushing around was for”
Strange words for a rider with an unorthodox passion for speed. But… Covid19 thought us to question the way we live time. Andrew message shows that motorcycle is a great teacher when used in combination with a thinking head. And you can read or listen or watch professional riders all around the world telling that the key element for good riding is “the way we live the time”.
Maybe not in this Zen form but using words of experience: “do not rush in”, “take your own time”, “do not allow pride to rush you”, “know the speed (space and time) that you can handle”, “pace yourself”.
Mr. Michael Neeves chief tester of MCN and a racer with many years of safe and fast riding make it very clear in a YouTube video that I highly recommend.: “Neeves shares the secret to riding like a professional road tester | MCN | Motorcyclenews.com”
In very plain and humble words he talks about the disappearance of “biking excitement”, “the can’t wait rush”. The saving attitude for Mr. Neeves is “it does not matter”. It may sound a little cynical but what he means is far away from passive cynic. “It does not matter “means “you’re your own time”, do not be pushed into unknown territory of pride, to beat, to be the faster, to show . It is this “it does not matter” that the continuous panic of the virus thought me: to exercise the old virtue of patience, to take time to do thinks well, to forget multitask… there is always tomorrow to ride your bike.
Everything is important but nothing is URGENT. Time ago this awareness took me away from the rat race of success, career, money and symbols. Today it showed me that what is URGENT and ESSENTIAL is around us, near and available, to be reached with meditated-slow consciousness and meditated-slow attention. As a slow ride home.