There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life. By Ahmet Coşar

PV note: I am often disturbed by the superficiality and vanity of conversation between bikers, then a message like the one below from Ahmet Cosar emerges from my mail and I can measure the limits of my presumption. Ahmet is a rider from the southeast coast of Turkey, a pious Dervish, exercising deep self-awareness and capturing the essence of thinking while completing any small action, as riding in this case.

Jon Taylor and Aylin Ozturk contributed to the translation from the original Turkish. Jon added a few comments:

Interesting and illuminating, a fascinating comparison -Jon writes- between a discipline and a religion, who would have thought that they would have had so much in common? I feel humbled by the degree of thought that followers of such a religion put into their everyday life and I can see how the more extreme elements over here must recoil at the superficial nature of our society…

I think it would be a valuable addition to the blog. By the way, Ahmet wrote: “Similarly, some dervishes also blame others for the things that happen to them and don’t see any fault in themselves.” This is an interesting comment and reminds me of an assessment carried out some time back of the difference between drivers who had received training and those who had not. Brunel University was once asked by the IAM to assess the difference that ‘Advanced’ training had had on drivers and they did so by assessing a group of drivers both before and after training. They summed up their report by describing the drivers before they had received training as having “externality” and those following training as having “internality” in their approach to their driving. In essence, those who had not received any training blamed everything and everyone else for any accidents or near misses; “It wasn’t my fault because; the road was slippery” or “the other driver wasn’t looking”; etc. Whereas the group that had received training blamed themselves for not noticing things such as; “I should have seen the road surface change”; “I should have noticed that the other driver wasn’t looking in my direction”.

I’M ON A LONG AND NARROW ROAD. There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life. By Ahmet Coşar

The Qur’an begins with the verse “Read”. This is the first command.

Mevlana Celaledin-i Rumi’s famous work Masnavi begins with the word “Listen”.

It is very thought-provoking that our holy book begins with the command “read”. This word cannot be a random choice. When this command arrived, there was no Qur’an yet, so what would our Prophet read, then? If you reflect on it, you will come to an understanding that the one who should read, should actually be reading the whole universe, everything that has been created, the secret in them, and the person themselves, the secret and the reality in self.

Likewise, it could not be a coincidence that the Masnavi, which consists of approximately 26,000 verses, begins with the word “listen”. People learn by reading and listening.

Man, like all living creatures, is born, lives grows and dies. But is the matter that simple? If it were, how would we differ from animals and plants? In fact, human beings have different and superior characteristics from all other creatures. All things created serve man in some way. This situation also imposes a mission on man. Man is responsible for other people, animals, plants and nature.

When I was introduced to the book “How to Be A Better Rider”, one sentence deeply affected me and it was a sentence I hadn’t expected to find in a book on motorcycle training. It said, “in order to be a good motorcycle rider, you need to BE A GOOD PERSON”.

All the spiritual books speak of what to do or not to do to be a GOOD PERSON. Coming across this information in the first pages of a book on motorcycle training made me read the book more attentively and thoughtfully. After several sessions of motorcycle training, before going on a long tour, I asked my trainer Güney Gedik for a piece of final advice, he only said, “Ride like a Mevlevi and that would be enough.” When I read the book “Motorcycle Roadcraft” and other books introduced to us by the OMM group, I found out that they had information in line with Sufism. This made me very excited. I started taking notes of the similarities I could find and now I will try to share them with you.

We are all on a long, narrow road. It is not certain when this journey that we call life will end. Time never stops, yet life is limited. To complete this ride we call life in the most beautiful and meaningful way, we need to learn and in order to learn we need to be curious. For curious people, learning is a never-ending process. In a book I read, there was the question “who can be called old?”. The answer was: “A person who has lost their will to learn is old, no matter how old they are”. What gives meaning to life is that humans, unlike any other living creature, do not live only for themself; most of them do what must be done for other creatures, unselfishly, without expecting anything in return.

The real journey for a Dervish is the journey towards his God. This path is extremely challenging, full of struggles, yet so enjoyable. The journey is very long, but it’s also short. Because this journey is an inner and sacred one that man makes from within himself towards his own essence. It’s a journey of self-discovery, where man makes sense of the purpose of his creation, fights against his own desires.

This struggle with ego is one of the most important features that distinguish man from other living things. At the beginning of this struggle, man is UNCONSCIOUSLY INCOMPETENT just like he is at the beginning of his biking life. As the Dervish reads, listens, worships, but most importantly, as he begins to think deeply (contemplation), he becomes conscious and gains awareness. However, even though he learns the right behaviours as knowledge, he cannot immediately control his own desires and he cannot apply this learning to his life easily. When it comes to this stage, the Dervish is now CONSCIOUSLY INCOMPETENT. By putting in effort and fighting against his desires, he starts to exhibit the right behaviours. Thus, he becomes CONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT. When these behaviours become natural and come from within (exhibiting the right behaviours without thinking), a person becomes UNCONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT. This is the maturity stage of a man. He is now a perfect human being.

There is a life-force within your soul

Seek that life

There is a gem in the mountain of your body

Seek that mine!

O traveller, if you are in search of that

Don’t look outside, look inside yourself and seek that

(Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi)

Bayram knew his own essence, there he found the knower

The finder became himself,

Know yourself, just know yourself.

(Hadji Bayram Wali)

I have mentioned above that one of the first things I learned when I started my motorcycle training was that in order to be a good rider, it is necessary to be a good person.

Also, the opening of Motorcycle Roadcraft book talks about being a better rider and it says that “attitude and concentration” also affect driving skills, yet it emphasizes that developing an appropriate attitude isn’t such a simple task. Just as the Dervish cannot easily acquire the right attitude.

Again, in this section, it says that we should learn from our mistakes, and it has a section about resisting learning from experience. After sharing some statistical data, it says: “These findings show that we are not very good at learning from experiences. Many riders involved in an accident don’t want to admit their faults. If you don’t think you have a fault in an accident, you also won’t think that there is anything to be learned from this incident. Thus, neither your riding technique will improve nor the error that caused the accident will be eliminated

Similarly, some Dervishes may blame others for the things that happen to them without seeing any fault in themselves. It is very difficult for such people to change themselves and adopt the appropriate behaviour. In fact, a person who sees and accepts his own mistake can change. If we learn from our mistakes, we can turn our losses into profits.

Under the heading “Attitude towards other road users”, it says, “Good riding requires constructive behaviour and being considerate of other road users“. We can interpret this sentence as we should be constructive and considerate towards the people and other creatures that we live with, in our life journey.

 Road rage (red mist) is described as inappropriate behaviour in Motorcycle Roadcraft. One should not feel rage towards life. Worldly possessions, titles and personal status are ephemeral. A person who has ambitions about such things cannot enjoy the journey of life. His ambitions prevent him from seeing the truth and cause him to have serious accidents in his life.

Being alert, knowing what the risks are and having a little anxiety helps you to be ready to react. Lack of anxiety blunts our ability to respond, leading to us not reacting fast enough. Too much anxiety also causes the inability to process the incoming information and respond appropriately.

This situation is the same for the Dervish and it is closely related to the risk of overconfidence after training as described in Motorcycle Roadcraft. When the Dervish is highly anxious, it leads him to despair and prevents him from exhibiting the right behaviour. Being self-confident exposes him to moral hazards making him vulnerable. For that reason, it has been said, “The Mu’min (believer of Islam) goes between hope and despair.” In a sense, he must always be alert.

The Motorcycle Roadcraft system has 5 phases: information, position, speed, gear and acceleration.

We make many important or unimportant decisions at every stage of our lives. Making the right decision requires gathering information and processing the gathered information correctly. Gathering information on a motorcycle is the first phase of the system. According to this information, position, speed, gear and acceleration phases are then applied. The Dervish must also gather information and determine his position in life according to this information. He should always act according to the correct information and be ready for the new position. For example, if the information tells us that we will lose our temper, follow our desires or commit a sin, we should get away from that situation immediately. So, we should take a position away from that situation. Just like we do on a motorcycle.

If it is not possible for us to get away from the situation, then we must be able to show patience, remain silent and control our rage. When we receive information about a hazard, we should reduce our speed towards the hazard. This means we must go more slowly and calmly towards incidents. This must be a speed that will allow us to stop before we sin. The gear suitable for this speed is our spirituality, faith and moral values. As soon as we get out of this hazardous situation, we must accelerate towards our new goal.

There is a concept called rear observation in Motorcycle Roadcraft. A good rider uses his mirrors constantly, and by observing what’s happening behind him, he receives information. As long as we look back in the mirror, we cannot see ahead. However, the journey continues. If we don’t look in the mirror, then we can’t see the hazards behind us. Then we must decide when and how long we should look back. My father used to say, “a good driver should look behind as well as ahead”. Dervish must also not forget his past, remember at times where he came from, learn lessons from his past, and avoid making the same mistakes.

Flexible use of the system; as we receive new information, we must re-enter the system at an appropriate phase no matter what phase we are in. Similarly, this rule applies to Dervishes as well. The Dervish must be flexible. With each new information, he must re-determine his position, speed and gear, and then accelerate towards his new position. The Dervish should be mild-tempered and smooth as well as flexible.

I think it would have been easier to write down the differences between Motorcycle Roadcraft and Sufistic knowledge rather than their similarities. Because there is no difference! I wish you rides that are safe, systematic, meaningful, aware and responsible, smooth like water, fluent and fun, be it in your life ride or your motorcycle ride.

One thought on “I’M ON A LONG AND NARROW ROAD”
  1. My sentiments exactly; only put down ten times more eloquently than I would have envisaged and at a significantly broader context.
    I had never thought the first verse in Qur’an, ordering “Read!” was actually before Qur’an was sent (hence your ingenious explanation).
    I also applaud Guney Gedik for telling you to “Ride like a Mevlevi and that would be enough”; this is quite insightful – apparently knowing you and knowing your long and narrow road… congratulations for your very valuable and immensely important contribution.

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