There’s No Moral to this Story
Yesterday, even though the sky was cloudy gray, the temperature climbed into the 60’s (over 15 degrees Celsius) and I had to see if I could crank up and ride the old 1973 BMW. I hadn’t ridden her in a few months. With a little tickling of the carburetors, and a holding back on the throttle, she cranked right up. The clutch had tightened so a few times she accelerated very slowly but I knew she’d loosen up and she did. I pulled up the speedometer app on my phone and tucked it into the top of my tank bag. The speedometer had stopped working a few years ago. Through the clear plastic on the tank bag I could check on my speed as I rode. I rode her for about 20 miles and up to speeds of 75mph (120kps) while I enjoyed the feelings of gratitude and the sense of flying.
I announced at the beginning of this year that I was going to retire from teaching at the end of the academic year (May). We’ve just finished this semester, so I have one more to go. The students and my colleagues have been great; it’s just time to go and time to ride. Where, I do not know. I plan to engage in, as the writer Walker Percy once described, The pilgrim’s search outside himself, rather than the guru’s search within. It’s what the old Celtic Christians called engaging in peregrinatio; to become a peregrine, literally a wanderer, an exile. One of the great church fathers, Saint Augustine of Hippo, wrote that all Christians should live a life of peregrinatio. But the task usually fell to the monks. The Irish, Saint Columbanus of Bobbio – the patron saint of motorcyclists – who I have written about in this blog, was a peregrini! They were individuals who travelled to wild and “thin” places in search of the sacred. “Thin places,” also a Celtic expression, are special locations where the veil, the separation between this world and the eternal world is “thin”. A Celtic saying goes that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in “thin” places the difference is even smaller. They are places where you can feel the presence of the sacred. My biker name is Monk, so it all makes sense I should ride and try to find them.
So those are my plans as of now. And, as my ex wife (who was born and raised in Ireland) used to say: “So there you are and where are you?”
I have no clue. But for now, I’m thinking, planning, praying and riding my old BMW, whenever it’s warm enough. My best wishes to you for safe travels, and in this holy season, may you find your own sacred, “thin” places.