But Keep Your Enemies Closer

Motorcycle covered in snow

I kneeled, shivering uncontrollably, next to the engine of my motorcycle hoping I wouldn’t freeze to death right there on the highway. The sleet was coming down furiously. Continuing on the bike was impossible.

I’ll rewind a bit…

Living in Jacksonville Florida for a short time in my twenties, I decided to take the hour-long ride down to St Augustine. I had never been and knew it’s historic significance as the oldest city in America – continuously occupied since 1565 when Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed ashore at an inlet (later called Matanzas Inlet) on the eastern coast.

Not having checked the weather (as 20-year-olds are prone to do) I left my house in balmy 75 degree weather. After spending some time taking in the sights of the quaint town, I made my way to a seaside bar and grill. I met a gregarious group of tourists from Boston who invited me to join them. We spend the next several hours throwing back pints of Jamaican beer and swapping stories.

I walked out of the bar around midnight for the ride back home and the blast of arctic air hit me square in the face. I couldn’t believe it. The temperature had dropped at least 40 degrees. It was now in the 30s – and still dropping. I had a jacket strapped to my bike so my thought was that I’d simply go slow and make the trip. I’d be fine, no problem.

Some 10 miles into the ride, the sleet started. If you’ve never experienced sleet on a motorcycle, all I can tell you is the riding becomes wholly impossible and life threateningly dangerous. I sought cover underneath a highway overpass. I was freezing. I huddled as close to the cycle’s engine as I could – heat. I knew I was close to, if not already, hypothermic. I couldn’t stop shaking.

Your mind starts to do weird things when you’re that cold. Mine started to remember a story I’d read years earlier in a book called “Tales of Adam” by Daniel Quinn…

Hunter-gatherers in ancient times, a father and son were making their way to the winter hunting grounds. During their trek, snow began falling furiously as the temperature plummeted and night fell. The son said,

    “Let’s turn back father or we’ll freeze to death out here.”

    “We won’t freeze to death,” the father said, pressing onward. Some minutes later the man heard his son’s teeth chattering uncontrollably.

    “Why are you making so much noise,” he asked. The son simply sat down in the snow shivering and said,

    “Please father, please build a fire. I don’t want to die out here tonight.”

    “Son, you must stop thinking of the cold as an enemy bent on your destruction,” the father said. He held up a rabbit they had killed for food and said, “See this rabbit? It isn’t his fur that kept him warm. He and the cold were simply one thing. The son continued shaking.

    The father continued, “The cold isn’t your enemy. But it will crush you as if it were if you don’t make way.”

    “I don’t know how.”

    “You must relax your muscles. Stop struggling to keep the cold out. Let it flow through your body. Give it the space it will have in any case. Then you will see that it isn’t malevolent or hostile – or indeed anything that is thinking of you at all. The son did as his father instructed and to his surprise found that his sense of cold began to dissipate until he was no longer frightened or even uncomfortable.

    “The cold, the heat, the elements, all of these things are the same as the things that life will throw your way. If you see them as your enemies you will, sooner or later, be defeated. However, if you don’t resist them, learn to move WITH them, you will never be crushed under their weight.” The two then carried on and reached the winter hut sometime in the night.

Just then a large motor coach pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway just ahead of me. It was towing a trailer with several motorcycles.  A man exited and walked back to me and my bike and said,

   “What the hell are you doing out here, son? OK, nevermind that. You go on inside the bus, my wife will get you warmed up. You’re blue for Christ sake.

    “But my bike…”

    “Don’t worry about that, I’ll get it loaded up onto the trailer and we’ll get you home.”

They drove me all the way to my front door in Jacksonville. I got better at checking the weather after that.

Check out the podcast episode…

Check out the Happiness 2.0 Podcast – https://podcast.edwardgdunn.com/

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