No Moral to this Story: 1973 BMW; Peregrini; Celtic Christianity; Thin Places; Ireland and the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists.

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.

 

Day 11: Pocatello to Dubois, Idaho – 100 miles (so far); Happy Birthday Walker Percy; Man with a Sign on the Corner; Brian; Blessings.

Today is the writer Walker Percy’s birthday. He would have been 101. He’d be my favorite writer of recent times. I was thinking about a couple of quotes from his book “Love in the Ruins”.

“Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?” And

“I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all. A man, wrote John, who says he believes in God and does not keep his commandments is a liar. If John is right, then I am a liar. Nevertheless, I still believe.”

This morning I sat at a McDonalds getting a quick breakfast. I watched as across the street in front of a gas station a man was sitting on a box with a sign for the passing cars. Nobody seemed to be stopping. What thoughts occur to you right now?
I decided that after I filled up Big Red I’d give him a few bucks. No big deal. Maybe you have some opinions about this action?
As I was filling up I could hear the man talking and I listened closely. No, he wasn’t talking like a schizophrenic, though that wouldn’t have mattered, instead it sounded like he was muttering prayers and blessing on each car passing by. I went over and talked with him. His sign announced that he was veteran and that he was looking for work. He told me how he had been in the army down in Columbus, Georgia in the 70’s and told me a few stories. He had grown up in Illinois but preferred living here. The Mormons, he said, really help the people here; not so much the Catholics and the Protestants. They do good work other places, just not so much here. We talked about the VA medical care he has received and his dislike of Obamacare. He said he had too many physical problems to work regularly but that he could do odd jobs. He smiled. He was overweight, his face was tanned and he was missing a few teeth.
I told him that I thought I had heard him praying aloud. He said he liked praying and blessing folks that passed by. He had a lot of time on his hands and he enjoyed it.
Had many people been stopping and giving him some money or talking with him?
“Naw”, he looked down and shook his head. We talked a bit more , then shook hands and I wished him well.
No bible I’ve ever read says anything about judging people before you help them. Mother Teresa used to say that if you’re judging people you can’t be busy loving them.
And isn’t this what the whole religious business is about? Finding ways to translate the words we profess, like loving others, our enemies, the poor, not judging, into a reality? That’s what I struggle with because I’m sure as hell not doing it right.
His name was Brian. Bless you Brian.