Four Beatitudes of Motorcycle Riding

I have ridden a motorcycle exactly two times. The first time was when I was twelve. My girlfriend’s older brother Dale (about 19) drove in one summer afternoon to show off his new motorcycle. He asked me if I wanted a ride. “Sure!” I said. I hopped on the back and away we went, roaring up and down our country road. It was wonderful! I should add, my parents were not at home at the time. Later when they heard I had ridden on a motorcycle with Dale, they ordered me never to ride one again.

When I was about 45 and living in Middleburg, Virginia, I had my second motorcycle ride. I figured my parents’ prohibition against motorcycle riding expired when I turned 21. Besides they were almost 400 miles away. This time it was the husband of a friend of mine who gave me the ride. Although that was many years ago, I still remember the thrill of flying down Route 50 at 50 miles an hour. Afterwards I came up with what I called the eight beatitudes of motorcycle riding. Here are four of them.

red motorcycle

The first one is based on the fact that motorcycles are dangerous. They require skill to maneuver. That’s why, if you’re hitching a ride, it’s important to ride with someone you really, really trust. My friend’s husband (I’ll call him Dan) was very trustworthy. For a living he advised several Presidents of the United States on Russian affairs. I figured the intelligence and competency he displayed in his work would spill over into his motorcycle riding. In addition Dan road his bike into Washington D.C. every day on Route 66–in rush hour traffic. He had to be good! So the first beatitude is this: Blessed are they who learn how to trust trustworthy people, for they shall have more fun in life.

Dan and his wife made me don a helmet. They didn’t have to convince me because I wanted to wear one–despite the fact that the helmet smashed my hair and made me a little claustrophobic. Prior to donning the helmet, I had seen many motorcycle riders with no helmets on. I was quick to judge them as completely foolish. But once my head was actually inside the helmet, I could understand better a person’s aversion to wearing one. I still think motorcyclists should wear helmets, but I am a little more understanding of those who don’t. Beatitude #2: Blessed are they who do not judge others until they have ridden a mile inside their helmets.

As we rounded the first curve in our long driveway, I became aware of how important balance was. Lean a little to the left now. Lean a little to the right now. Soon the balancing became second nature. As we travel through life we are continuously trying to keep our balance. Now work, now play. Now speak, now listen. Now hang on to, now let go. Beatitude # 3: Blessed are they who know when to lean a little to the left and then lean a little to the right, for they shall master the fine art of balancing.

CoverMcycleAs I rode on the motorcycle that day I became very aware of the world around me. In a car, we are very insulated from the world we’re driving through—unless we’re in a convertible with the top down. But on the bike I felt the warmth of the sun on my arms and the playfulness of the wind as it billowed my blouse in the back. I smelled the sweetness of the honeysuckle and the tang of freshly cut hay. I spotted a corpulent groundhog munching on the grass at the side of the road. I found myself thinking: “What a beautiful world!” And, “I am one with all of you!” So the fourth beatitude is this: Blessed are they who realize what a beautiful world they live in and who know they are one with all of creation, for they shall come to experience the sacredness of everything!”

Yes, of everything. Even a ride on a motorcycle.

What are your thoughts and feelings about motorcycle riding?

Do any of these beatitudes resonate with your experiences in life? 

Happy Labor Day!

PS: A few days ago I was working on a future blog about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I accidentally clicked “publish” instead of “schedule.” This caused some of you to get part of  this blog. I apologize! The full reflection will be posted next week.

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  1. Kathleen Magiera on September 2, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Sr. Melannie,

    Sorry, no personal motorcycle experience that I can relate too.

    I like the beatitude on balance. Balance in my life is something that I struggle with often. I watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” over the weekend after reading the book this summer and the author reminded me about how flexible balance should be. The Spirit is calling me to be more open to balance and listen more often.

    Thanks for being another voice about balance.


    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      Dear Kathleen, I’m glad you’re feeling called to more balance by the Spirit. And I’m glad my little blog could reinforce that call for you. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

  2. Joan Campagna on September 2, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Sister, thank you for another great blog! I had one ride on a motorcycle unbeknownst to my parents until I came home with a leg burn from the exhaust pipe! No prohibitions against riding another, but now I stick to motor-scooters. Yes, being able to feel the wind around your body and see the world more fully is wonderful.

    Nice picture of you and “Dan” on the bike, haha!

    God bless, and I look forward to reading the rest of the blog on Dietrich. You had me hanging!
    Joan in Miami (Fl)

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Dear Joan, My goodness! A leg burn from an exhaust pipe. Ouch! The Dietrich Bonhoeffer piece will be next week’s blog. I hope you don’t mind “hanging” in there for a week. Thanks again, Joan! Sr. Melannie

  3. smjames on September 2, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Dear Melanie,
    Wonderful meditation on the “cycle” Rode one three times. When I was
    about 30 I road on the back of one of my student’s through the cemetary adjoining St. Mary Massillon convent. In my forties, the father of one of my students in Sheffield Lake took me for a ride to Vermillion to get
    an ice cream cone. Then in my sixties one of my friends gave me a ride to a going away party.
    Absolutely need a helmet, even though you can’t feel the cool breeze through your hair. (It’s even hotter with a veil).
    The experiences made me more trusting and I think helped the “drivers’
    feel trustworthy. Balance–ah yes another name for “heaven” when we
    are “perfectly” balanced–I think that will be heaven.
    Thanks! God bless!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Dear James, Thank you for sharing your “personal history” of motorcycle riding with us. I liked what you said about balance and heaven! Melannie

  4. Mary Schneider on September 2, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Sr Melannie:

    How appropriate that your article today comes at the closing of the Harley Davidson 110th anniversary here in Wisconsin. I myself have no desire to be on a motorcycle, but one of my sons did own a touring Kawasaki for many years. My mother and eldest sister were both wild about the machines. Even in the 1920s my Mom would catch a ride whenever she could. Most of all, I loved your “beatitudes”, they apply to every aspect of my life. Thank you!


    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Dear Mary, I didn’t know it was the 110th anniversary of the Harley Davidson. What a coincidence! Motorcycle riding must be in your genes! Your Mom was “daring” to be riding in the 1920’s! Thanks for writing, Mary! Sr. Melannie

  5. Susan on September 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I loved your 4 beatitudes. My husband rides and has ridden for 50 years. I have spent many hours on the back riding and enjoying our beautiful world, but not without helmet and jacket and heavy shoes. Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts. A motorcycle is dangerous, but many beautiful emotions can come from a ride on a winding road.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Dear Susan, You are lucky to have ridden so often! Cherish your “beautiful emotions”–and your good husband! Melannie

  6. Julie Teder on September 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Melannie,
    I did ride on a motorcycle when I was about 10. My uncle Herb had one and he had a heart of gold.. I think he would have given anyone the shirt off his back. I loved feeling the wind in my hair and the freedom. Your thoughts on leaning to the left and to the right ring a bell also. Riding the road of life, we have to do a little leaning from time to time too. You do such a wonderful job writing. Thanks.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Dear Julie,
      It is amazing how some memories are so easy to recall. May you continue to lean when Life calls you to do so. It was good hearing from you again! Thank you! Melannie

  7. Barbara on September 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    I’ve never ridden a motorcycle and I am well beyond an age where it would be even thinkable. I just want to say that I love your Beatitudes – most especially the last one. I am well aware that I live in a beautiful world; I am overawed by the wonder of creation; and I know that I stand and walk on holy ground.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Dear Barbara, May you always be overawed by all of creation! Thanks again for writing! Sr. Melannie

  8. Marilyn T. sabatino, S.N.D. on September 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Dear Mel…………….ah yes I’ve ridden a motorcycle three times…learning to lean to the right or the left moving with the curves in the road and landscape was a magnificent experience of feeling one with creation……………and so we lean into God..for the air we breath and the breath of the spirit being ONE

    blessings, Marilyn

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Dear Marilyn, Somehow I’m not surprised to learn that you too have ridden a motorcycle–and found it a spiritual experience!…Blessings on you and all you do! Melannie

  9. Deb on September 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Sister Melannie,
    I look foward with great anticipation to your weekly writings. I am also blessed to read your writings in The Living Faith and Give us this Day meditation books. I love to ponder your thoughts and sometimes my response comes later, as you have now written two more weekly reflections. I love your Beatitudes. My motorcylce story is from my youth, when I was 14. My brother’s friend Ray rode to our house on his motorcylce, only a few blocks, as we lived close. After the two of them left for awhile, I ventured outside to check out his motorcyle. I wanted to sit on it to see how it would feel. As I tried this out, the kickstand gave way beneath me. It took me quite some time to actually get it back on its stand. What relief! The next summer my older brother Butch died in a car accident at the age of 16. For some reason, Ray was not with him in the car. Our family had moved 350 miles away that summer. Ray rode his motorcycle to our house once again, a little further this time. It was healing for our family to have him close for a short time. At this moment we are now in vigil as my friend Ray is in hospice, nearing the end of his journey with cancer. He is 56. My life has been blessed as he was like a big brother and helped me with so much in my lifetime. I will miss him.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on September 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Dear Deb, Thank you for your beautiful story. I’m so sorry you lost your brother at such an early age. And I will certainly pray for Ray as he nears the end of his earthly journey. Yes, you are so lucky to have him. Thanks again. Sr. Melannie

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