Yearning for the gods

- May 01, 2016

One of my frustrations with being thoroughly steeped in academia is that I’m not allowed to believe in the gods anymore.  After all, we’ve climbed the world’s highest peaks and haven’t found Zeus, or seen Odin; we’ve been down to the ocean depths and haven’t been accosted by the Neptune’s Leviathan; and we’ve explored deep reaches of space and haven’t witnessed Apollo or Ra charioting the sun through the heavens and into the underworld.  Industrialization, modernization and education have banished the trolls, faeries and elves from the shadows, rivers and forests and given us instead physics, geology and biology.  All things that I am, of course, grateful for.

But I still find myself yearning for the gods.

Neil Gaiman once wrote that America “is a bad land for gods.”  And I think he’s right.  There’s little place in the new world for the old gods and certainly precious little they can offer to modern economics, science and technology.  

Which makes the precious little they can offer all the more valuable.

Which is why I find myself believing, somewhat irrationally but completely enthusiastically, in the motorcycle gods.  Because, well, I think that perhaps sometimes a thing doesn’t need to be truly real in order to be really true.

So, I’ve found myself wondering what these gods might be like.  In my own mind they’re part Norse gods of Asgard and part Greek Muses: a mob of back slapping, beer swilling, laughing, fiercely loyal, occasionally brawling, but always impractically romantic poets.  A strange mix, to be sure, but it satisfies all of the elements of riding that I enjoy: a love of tactile pleasure elevated by a love of technical and artistic beauty.  The love of a thing well-made and well-used imbedded in a love of good food and good drink and good company…in short: a love of life.

To this end it is, I think, appropriate that I acknowledge a few ways to please the motorcycle gods.  After all, it’s traditionally fitting that one pays homage to the deities of one’s community.  And, honestly, I think that the motorcycle gods really do have an unfair advantage among the pantheon—-the thing they demand is already a reward in itself. While other gods often need incentives for deeds of devotion (an afterlife of paradise and peace) or deterrents to discourage dissidents (an afterlife of agony and torment), the motorcycle gods only demand that you ride…which is something their followers already want to do.

Photo credit: Darren Hull Photography

In any event, whether you are a new or experienced rider, consider these three sacrifices that may please the motorcycle gods:

  1. Fiscal irresponsibility-there’s never a “right” time to buy a bike, or take time off work to go for a ride.  But the gods have constructed the world in this way or loyalty would be too easy.
  2. Riding in the rain (or fog, or snow, or sleet or…) This sometimes follows from 1.  Indeed, after buying a bike with money that could have been used a dozen other ways, and after booking time off to go for an extended weekend ride the gods may cause the temperature to drop, clouds to roll in and the rain to fall…sometimes in biblical proportions.  The important thing to do is to soldier on.  Some of the more radical believers don’t bother with rain gear; and while the gods may be pleased with devotion, I don’t think they are impressed by idiocy.
  3. Getting back in the saddle.  It is said among the devout that it’s not a matter of IF you’ll lay your bike down, but WHEN you’ll lay your bike down.  They also say that getting back up, if you can, is the important thing.  As a matter of fact, it happened to me—after I had taken time off work and ridden through the rain (fulfilling the requirements of both 1 and 2).  I lost control over trolley tracks in Portland and the Radian ended up bleeding out all over the asphalt.  Thankfully, motorcycle gods, like other deities, have their own priestly caste—they’re called mechanics.  Naturally, like other priests and magicians, they, too can work miracles even on a holiday Monday when nothing is open.  

And at risk of sounding irreverent (because I think the gods like that, too): if the ten commandments can be summed up in two—love God and love your Neighbor—then I have it on the good authority of a trustworthy MotoVida priest that all the commandments of the motorcycle gods can be summed up in one:

F**k it and ride.

This inherently fulfills the requirement of 1, 2, and 3…besides, it pleases the gods and they reward it richly.  There’s certainly no promise of an afterlife, or even material wealth; but there are treasures nonetheless.  Rides that the gods favor become Memories and these experiences remain almost as real remembered as they were in the reality.  And I think that they remain for eternity.  As a matter of fact, this often causes followers of the motorcycle gods to smile when there is, seemingly, nothing to smile about.  

We call that Joy.

Above all, and almost by accident, you’ll find yourself a part of a community. Followers of the motorcycle gods are connected across and between social circles…and things like background, education, occupation, socio-economic status or personal history cease to be defining monikers of acceptance.  To be a part of this religion, all you have to do is want to ride…

…and the rest will follow.

David Balfour was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and has since lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as British Columbia’s Cariboo and Kootenay regions before settling in the Okanagan. David has had a variety of career tangents through the years: he was a roadie for a rock band in the 1990s, he worked on a mushroom farm, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, owned a small business and recently completed his Education degree at the University of British Columbia. David lives in Kelowna, BC.


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