Saturday, March 27, 2010

I could feel at the time

Pits at Talladega Grand Prix

An AMA racing kid was at the track this weekend, a fourteen-year-old wunderkind who didn’t look a day over eleven. He was a full five seconds faster than the next fastest adult, which sort of blows your mind. I wrote it off for a while--of course he’s faster, he has no fear and he weighs 104 pounds--until I actually saw him, goofing off on his brother’s BMX. He was just a kid! I mean, seriously, a kid!

A lot of things people don’t recognize as art are art, including motor-sports. It’s an art that I can appreciate, without needing to participate. Like opera. Motorcycle racing is like that. It’s a beautiful, elegant sport [] that pushes the limits of human creativity. It’s also a dangerous sport. I don’t really have a problem with dangerous sports. I terrified myself more than once sailing, and my brother is a mountain climber--a sport that has an obituary section in its most popular magazine. I’ve always believed that if one dies doing what one loves, than that’s a life well-spent.

Watching this kid out there racing made me question those presuppositions. After seeing him as a goofy fourteen-year-old without his helmet, without his 120-horsepower machine, I couldn’t help but imagine his tender bones and young joints, about the many years left he has to live. But who am I to say he deserves less than I do? Less of a chance to live his dream, if his dream is winning a championship, and mine is summiting K2? Even if he is young? If he dies, he’ll die doing what he loves, even if he is only a teenager. Right?

I don’t have an answer for those questions. The answer that I do have is how joyful every curve on that bike was for him. Watching the older guys out there struggle with their suspensions and their tuning and their egos, watching them crash after pushing themselves too hard, it made me realize that the reason the kid (Jake Lewis) is so good is that he’s just playing. He has the joy of his youth, the truth of living each moment fully inside of each moment.

It’s motorcycle yoga. The two sports have a lot in common, as different as they look from the outside. Each racer has to meet each turn in time, the same way a yogi meets each asana in time. If I push yourself beyond my current moment, that’s when I struggle. That’s when I fall. The key for all of us is to convince ourselves that we’re fourteen years old again. To recapture that ability to inhabit each moment completely.

1 comment:

wfrenn said...

The problem with youth in dangerous sports is NOT that they are just "playing." They are drawn to the sport because they wish attention, and get it by being competetive and good in their reflexes. What they lack is judgment. They are immortal. Death and becoming crippled is happens to others, but not to themselves. They believe their skill and ability makes them better than that. Ask them the right questions and you will discover an amazing cockiness,recklessness, and irrational sense of invincibility.
I agree with you that adults (of whatever emotional age) have the right to risk their necks and butts doing whatever is their bliss. But to watch some mother's son with the judgment of an early teenager blissfully (and recklessly) burning up the track at speeds that do not allow you to survive a motorcycle accident, makes me recall what nurturing parents are for. My nephew went through stages of dirt bike racing, dune buggying, stock car racing with a lack of judgment that made your hair stand on end.
I don't share your romanticization of letting children do things until they clearly have the judgment for them.
That is why we have driving tests and minimum ages for them.
Hope you take this in the spirited manner in which it is offered.


the Capt'n