To live is easy, to stay alive is hard work

The essay by Ken Condon distributed on February 17, 2016 and recently re-published in this Blog has been selected as a good introduction to the theme that will guide the development of our conversation into the new year.

Age and experience keep growing to introduce the final portion of my mortal life: I can now see that awareness is the real virtue/skill/attitude to cultivate, to grow and to respect.

The dictionary definition is simple: AWARENESS “the quality or state of being aware: knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists”

Is “knowledge and understanding” a sufficient definition of being aware especially when applied to being self-aware? Man is an animal who asks questions about himself and, in this continuous search, the first question is about the Self and the position of the Self within the reality or environment.

Ken Condon deeply understand the double aspect of awareness: he speaks of attention or attentiveness “Situational awareness makes you alert to clues that allow you to read the environment and predict.. best riders have finely tuned, hi-definition radar that can pick up subtle anomalies… stay sharp so you can spot the often-subtle clue “ and on top of this high level of attention he introduces a new dimension, a difficult one to define “Situational awareness involves more than just your most familiar senses. It also includes your “sixth sense”. You know, that gut feeling you get when something just isn’t right. Developing your sixth sense takes a deeper level of awareness and conscious attention.

Years ago, taking part in a discussion with Bob Higdon and other writers we came to the conclusion that “sixth sense” is just a figurative form to summarize the accumulation of conscious and subconscious experience coming from observations and actions: “sixth sense” is the result of what Ken Condon defines “conscious attention”, the attitude that builds awareness in motorcycle and in life.

This is one of the points where motorcycling, like many other sporting activities, becomes a good master of life: “attention” is what the humans want from you, attention is the way you show love and kindness, attention is to pay respect and to share, attention is to learn and to teach. Attention is what makes every aspect of our life and any connection with reality interesting and involving.

The opposite of attention; “distraction” (nearly synonymous (1) of “destruction”)  is the greatest enemy of safe riding and conscious living. And the society of entertainment and consumption we share is an active producer of distractions: it looks like almost everything around us leads to distracting us from the “real” replacing it with more attractive and illusory visions.

All these distractions suffocate what  Ken Condon calls the listening to the “intuitive voice… Every time you listen to that little voice it makes it louder and clearer”. The gentle inner voice that requires a “deeper level of awareness and conscious attention” is silenced in the cacophony of sounds, messages and images bombarding body and spirit: we risk turning deaf, blind sleeping in virtual reality.

Here is Ken Condon conclusion: “Developing your physical skill to a high level will allow you to respond correctly and accurately if things go wrong. But believe me, your odds of a crash go way up if you think your physical skills alone will save you. Dulled attention leads to knee-jerk reactions and the need for heroic measures that might not save the day

Dulled attention, dulled conscious attention not only might not save the day on a ride but surely reduces the meaning of life and relationship: self-awareness, social awareness and situational awareness bread on conscious attention.

  1. The two words come from different Latin verbs: Dis-trahere (to drag away)  for distraction and De-truere  (where truere means to build and the prefix e transforms in opposite meaning un-construct) for destruction.

By Paolo Volpara

"Si sta come d'autunno sugli alberi le foglie"