Not often but it happens: crossing lanes with old friends, husband and wife, people not seen for too many years: a riding couple from the past. Motorcycle community is for real and when the common memories fade away there is still a connection, the need to catch up and to continue the imaginary tyre kicking, starting with the classic opening question: “And..are you still riding?”
To my amazement, the question opened the Pandora box: in long minutes, we were flashed with number and names of countries visited, of alpine passes covered, of brands & models & year of motorcycle used, we learned about the current vehicle,(type & colour & cost), the protective and waterproof properties of jacket and pants, the technical underwear used, the motorcycle first in the desire list and the next date for replacement, with the reasons of delay in purchase (new model coming).
Add to this the preferred flying speed, the ironbutting kilometres covered and additional news on companions on the road, social media presence and camera use.
He took considerable time, and then he stopped reaching a point where it felt he was running low on ammunition, low in “impressive news”. The partner decided to come to rescue: “What do you do now?” that famous iconic question of the early 21st century.
I’ve always found it tricky… a question that questions what I have been doing in life, so far, and how I took advantage of my talents. However, very few have real interest in my activity: the question it is more about status, how much, how as long for…. a stage given to explain my fortunes. My answer takes normally short space and , in this occasion, I made it even shorter.
Mr. Alain de Botton guides when it comes to the what-do-you-do question: “You encounter it within minutes at a party, when you get asked that famous iconic question of the early 21st century, “What do you do?” According to how you answer that question, people are either incredibly delighted to see you, or look at their watch and make their excuses”
Mr. de Botton continues “We’ve done away with the caste system, we are now in a system where anyone can rise to any position they please. And it’s a beautiful idea. Along with that is a kind of spirit of equality; we’re all basically equal. There are no strictly defined hierarchies. There is one really big problem with this, and that problem is envy. Envy, it’s a real taboo to mention envy, but if there’s one dominant emotion in modern society, that is envy. And it’s linked to the spirit of equality… I think it would be very unusual for anyone …to be envious of the Queen of England. Even though she is much richer than any of us are, and she’s got a very large house, the reason why we don’t envy her is because she’s too weird. She’s simply too strange. We can’t relate to her, she speaks in a funny way, she comes from an odd place. So we can’t relate to her, and when you can’t relate to somebody, you don’t envy them. The closer two people are — in age, in background, in the process of identification — the more there’s a danger of envy”
I know and I could sense the feeling and this encounter stayed with me longer than usual. Why did I feel that a game was played? Why was I such a killjoy in playing it?
We can agree to call this game the “Reciprocal Envy”. We play it by presenting, on the first round, your goods & fortunes and you “like” them verbally or with a thumbs up. In return the second player do the same to receive his/her own share of envy. Some exaggeration is allowed.
Common, played by me and zillion of others, bikers or not: we know exactly how to pose for a happy, cheerful, “sexy” bike’n me selfie, frame and edit the shot, add attractive filters, words, emojis posting it at the most popular time for max exposure. All this, followed by counting the number of likes and comments. Envy me and I promise I will envy you!
We seem to have forgotten how envy actually sets us apart, while we are craving for sociality. Am I to ready to share, in humility, difficulties, doubts, weaknesses and my search for meaning?