An attitude is a way of looking at the world, it changes how you see it, like wearing colored glasses. If you wear dark glasses you see a darker world, which helps on a sunny day. Being in a continual state of fear, or anxiety, is like wearing dark glasses all the time, so everything around is like at night – dangerous!
To be always anxious is like living in a world where it is always night-time. Is it better to wear the rose-tinted glasses of faith, so you see only the good things around? This calms the fear but at the cost of seeing the world as it is. To ride safely, the color of glasses required is clear. Let politicians specialize in visions of what might be – the ready rider wants to see what actually is. If there is a benefit to fear and a benefit to no fear, the motorcycle rider wants both. Like anything, fear is a good servant but a bad master. When fear is the master you panic and over-react rather than act. What makes fear the servant is covered below in the section on Attention.
The benefit of fear
The job of fear to remember bad things, so we don’t repeat past mistakes. Without fear, we would not learn from failure. Fear reduces arrogance, carelessness, inattention, pride and all sorts of human stupidity, so we really need it. It focuses our mind on what might hurt us, or what we think might hurt us, like a big noisy truck nearby. But to get the real benefit of fear, motorcycle riders need to see the real dangers, which are not always the obvious ones.
The benefit of no fear
Drunks and babies often survive accidents, because they get one thing right – they don’t panic. No fear means that in an accident you go with the flow. It is a faith thing. For a child, faith in the mother is necessary, for the drunk it is induced, and for both it is from ignorance. They don’t know what is happening and so are not afraid. It is ignorance but ignorant faith is still faith, so it works for them.
The faith advantage is that you don’t make bad situations worse. You can’t always make things better but you can always make them worse. There is no bad situation a bad reaction cannot make worse. For example, when you slip it is best to just relax and crumple. Parachutists are trained to do this. The worst thing to do is to panic, tense up and overreact. When older people fall, it is usually their violent reaction not the fall itself that breaks a bone. Riding a motorcycle needs this no fear virtue.
Fearless fear is like crossing a frozen river when the ice is almost breaking. Fear tells you it is dangerous to cross, but maybe you need to get to the other side. Fearlessness then tells you that the best way is to tread quickly. If you are too cautious and stay in one spot too long the ice will break, but if you shut your eyes and blindly run across you will hit a weak spot and go under. You need act quickly but still keep your eyes open. Soldiers in war face the same dilemma – to fearfully hide where the enemy will find them anyway or blindly charge to a probable death. Airplane pilots also need confidence and caution. The resolution in such situations is always different and always the same. You move boldly knowing a bullet might have your name on it but try to avoid it anyway. The Muslim saying for this is: “Trust in God and hobble your camel.”
Seeing clearly means you see both opportunity and risk in the world, as both are part of life. You cant have one without the other. If you see only opportunity, then you will fall into avoidable risk. If you see only risk, then opportunity will pass you by. Riding safely means riding with both in mind!
Put fear in its place
Fear is good and bad. Before you ride, fear makes you wear a helmet, boots and jacket for protection. It makes you read this to learn to ride safely. But when you get on a bike, fear is a liability! It causes tunnel vision when you should look all about. Fear can paralyze you when you should act. Fear causes over-reaction effects like skidding. To prepare you need fear, but to act you must abandon it. Riders need some fear but not when they ride. Before you ride, fear is your friend, but when you ride, it is the enemy. To ride a bike you must put fear in its place, in the background. To ride safely, fear is not option. I decided long ago that if I got on a bike and felt afraid, I will stop riding.
Some thoughts I used to reduce fear are:
- Others have ridden, and so can I.
- The laws of physics are on my side (a wonderful thought).
- Fortune favors the brave (it does).
- I am ready – so lets do it!
- Keep calm and let karma finish it.