Rolling Thunder

Imagine, lining up with thousands of bikes four abreast in a line over a mile long.. The call comes from the front to start your engines. This is Rolling Thunder. Every Memorial Day weekend upwards of 400,000 motorcyclists converge on Washington DC for Rolling Thunder.

From the Rolling Thunder website:

“Rallying for the POW/MIA issue, our mission is to educate, facilitate, and never forget. This First Amendment Demonstration Run has also evolved into a display of patriotism and respect for all who serve our country.”

IMG_0134Huge groups of riders converge from all 50 states. One of the exciting events I participate in is the Patriots Ride. Over 5,000 bikes line up in Fairfax and get a police escort to the Pentagon where we join up with all of the other groups and stage to ride into the nation’s capital as one enormous group. The route is lined with cheering spectators waving flags and holding banners in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Every overpass along the route is filled with families waving, smiling and cheering us on. It could make a guy emotional if he weren’t a tough old biker such as myself. This truly is a day where all walks of life come together to honor our brave soldiers, seamen and airmen.

I saw a few bikes sporting rebel flags and displaying politics I abhor but today, this day, was not about any of that. I’m sure some balked at the Obama emblem I proudly display on my rear fender. The thing is, our service members don’t go into harms way judging the guy in the next foxhole for their politics. When threatened by an enemy we draw together. When hostile foreign governments threaten our way of life we rally as an insurmountable force. It was heartwarming to see that kind of unity today. No red states. No blue states. Just a lot of glittering chrome and black leather. Murica!

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Finding My Zen.

I seem to have been born with some perpetual discontent that will never quite allow me to feel as if I’ve arrived. For the most part, over the years, that has served me well. I’ve done my best to channel that angst into personal, professional and spiritual growth and yet I’m coming to realize that this can be a huge obstacle in my life. An obstacle that is separating me from the sense of Zen I so desire. Wait. That’s not true. I think I’ve always been aware of this affliction. I’ve just not found the willingness to confront it.
IMG_0126My dark secret is that all too often I struggle with the simple principle of assuming good intentions.
In my mind assuming good intentions seems to be a derivative of The Four Agreements. The Four Agreements are regarded as a preeminent model for personal growth. I struggle every day with making assumptions and taking them personally. On the outside I’m great at presenting a positive attitude but my inner self is, at times, maybe more analogous to the proverbial duck swimming across a pond; gracefully gliding across the water. Under water, however, its feet are paddling like mad.
Here are some things I know: a principle tenet of Christ’s teachings are that we live our lives for others, a fundamental element of our humanity is that community is an inherent value and finally that we choose our inner dialogue. So what is happening when I make assumptions about others motives, their obliviousness or their seemingly flat out selfish and hateful behavior? Yeah. I do that too often. Could it be that others are just trying to make sense of their world? Could it be that they have concerns about their health or that of a loved one, pressure at work, troubling relationships or any number of the things that create some of the very insecurities I face from time to time?
It’s at those times when that I am focused inward as opposed to the people around me. It’s good to remember that we are all in this together and maybe, just maybe, the more I afford others a little grace the more likely they will be to find relief from their troubles. I can find blame in western culture, that sense of personal aspiration and trickle down charity. To often we can conflate that “take care of yourself first” mentality with a “what about me” pity party. I can find blame in a busy lifestyle and Madison Avenue projections of what my life should look like. I can find blame nearly everywhere I look. The fact of the matter is, this isn’t about the world around me. It’s about what goes on between my ears.
Assuming good intentions. It’s a simple concept. Maybe the next time I’m cut off in traffic or waiting impatiently in the checkout while some shopper digs for exact change I can imagine that their life is about a purpose I know nothing about. As soon as they get where they are going they will make their world a better place. Maybe the next time I feel insecure I can feel assured I’m doing the best I can; just like we all are.

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