Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Real Freedom in Riding a Motorcycle

the real freedom in riding a motorcycleFreedom is a big word. We express it everyday, and here specifically in the United States, we mention the word a lot.

Motorcyclists use the word "freedom" to describe the feeling they get when they ride, associating it with the open road, the wind in their hair, escaping into the grandeur of the mountains and canyons.

Freedom is of course relative to another man's freedom. Where I might consider myself free, another man claims I'm limited and bound. It's dependent on natural conditions like stopping a ride to answer the call of Nature. There are social conditions as well; if my thoughts and opinions were influenced by the society I grew up in, am I truly making choices all my own?

As I sit here this morning trying to decide on where I plan to ride my motorcycle, I can choose from a wide variety of roads to take. But as banal as it seems, I can only choose the roads I know about. The roads I know about are those I've ridden before, or that which I can see on a map.

And that bring us to the ultimate expression of freedom: motivation.

If I wasn't motivated to investigate all the roads around Southern California, and if I wasn't motivated to study a map, then I would have limited myself to just the handful of roads I know of in my immediate area. That limits my freedom.

When we elect presidents, we start out feeling hopeful that we made the right choice, and then a year later feel disappointed. How many of us were motivated to learn enough about a candidate to know the consequences of electing that person?

Not knowing the consequences of our actions and inactions is perhaps the opposite of freedom. Apathy is when you're satisfied to remain bound.

Here in California, I can choose to ride a motorcycle without a helmet even though there is a law requiring me to wear one. I can ride well above the speed limit, and make my exhaust pipes as loud as I want. But all of that comes at the risk of punishment. Yet within the confines of the law, it is still within my abilities to do them if I feel so motivated.

Dissidents in China are perhaps some of the freest people on Earth, choosing to stand up to their government despite the risk of imprisonment or death, doing and saying what they please to the point of mockery.

True freedom is not just being without constraints, but being motivated to shed those constraints despite the risks.

You might feel free riding your motorcycle, but what is more free, riding a motorcycle when your wife said it was OK, or riding a motorcycle when she said it was not OK?


  1. Don't you think freedom is a myth at some level? Can the freest person feel like she wants to feel or behave in accordance with her wishes? Can I make that turn exactly as I envisioned it? Does someone else's expressive glance or thoughtless words create unwanted emotions?

    I'd you really want to be free, mind your wife. The Chinese have a good saying, "you can send a pig around the world on a voyage of discovery, but it will still come back as a pig.". Pigs aren't free to be non-pigs. They can't shed that constraint.

    If we want to be truly free, we need to see our deepest constraints--without judging and reacting. Then, after many years, perhaps something "more" can happen. Transformation could change the rules and make freedom possible. As we are, we imagine certain conditions and circumstances make us free.

    1. However, if you send a person around the world on a voyage of discovery they will not return as the same person. An advantage we have over pigs.

  2. Steve, well written and thoughtful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. We can do most anything we want, if we are willing to pay the price. You know the old saying, only two things are inevitable: death and taxes. That's only half-true, as a wise man replied, "The only thing I HAVE to do is die." We can choose not to pay taxes, although it would be very difficult and perhaps ultimately end with a stay in prison.

  4. I'm going back to read the Alaska deal all in one big bite.

    Good thoughts here. We are free to do as we want but true freedom comes with an alignment with others who think as you do. A group can truly exercise freedom together because as one unit they can not be dealt with on a tryannical level. I think about this subject often.

    As far as the wife? Uh...well, my significant other knows better. We'll see how long that lasts!

  5. I don't think you even have the freedom to die. The government will keep you on life support as long as they can and if you try to hasten that choice they will declare you crazy and put you away for that as well. The only freedoms you have are self imposed....just don't get caught!

  6. Have you ever read Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"? It is my favorite, and the first poem, I have ever read.
    "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference."
    I have always equated the option of choices with freedom. This may sound simplistic, but I think any big idea has a very simple basis. What I have always said to my daughter is that life is made of choices. Being a Christian, I have been taught that we all have free will, and we all have a destiny. You can change your destiny anytime with your free will.
    I was certainly destined to become someone different than who I am, based on my circumstances as a child. I have made so many choices, daily, that have influenced my path; directed it. To me freedom is a byproduct of making choices, and owning them. I am who I am today based solely on my choices; what I choose to do, think, believe, absorb, react to, and ignore.
    I love the comparison of riding and freedom. You can choose any path, and it will take you to your next destination.
    Where do you want to go?


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)