After not riding for a while it was an unexpected pleasure to mount the motorcycle a couple of days ago. It was a more visceral experience than I was anticipating, the weight of the bike in the context of the cool air. I found such comfort in all that for reasons that elude me. No matter. You need not understand the origin of pleasure to enjoy it. The bike and I hummed together as I listened to The Black Keys playing on the helmet speakers, their overdriven sound fitting the moment. I related to idea of overdrive — noise as music — during this ride.
We tend to think of noise as something we don’t want, something to get ride of. The purer the signal, the better. But that is not accurate. Without noise, change would be impossible. it is the bridge to the next signal. It is what allows change to occur. Every artist needs it because otherwise the pure signal would remain as is — pure and unchanging. To never change is not life — a flourishing life critically needs to have its share of noise — not so much that it disrupts the signal but enough to suggest something different is possible, like those European signs that have a cacophony of pointers in every direction telling you about towns near and far.
I was riding to get my coffee, feeling the engine vibration pass in waves through body and The Black Keys pass in waves through my head. The ride was a quick thirty minute trip as I did not have the time to do more. The air was just cold enough to sting a bit at 50 mph, with it almost starting to hurt. Is pain a sort of noise? I am not sure about that one. Perhaps a warning of noise to come? I then noticed a car full of twenty-somethings up front and on my left. No doubt they will notice me go by as this tends to be what happens. No reason I can’t entertain them, so I dropped back to give myself a runway and then I accelerated past them at 70 mph. By the time I looked in my rearview mirror, they were already a small image. I let go of the throttle and dropped back down to 40 mph. It was all over in a flash but I’m sure they all took note. At that age in particular, high speeds are so intoxicating.
I reached the coffee shop awake and just this side of happy. I could tell it won’t last long. It would take more than a few minutes of noise to shake me out of the feeling I had. It was a start, however, and I could feel the effect of the noise building a bridge out of the malaise. The body just does not like to not move for long periods. It settles into funk, idling at too smooth and low a speed, and it becomes a physical flatness for hours if not days. We are creatures of movement and need to move to just feel normal. Movement is not only critical to the Eudaimonic Self, it is a necessary precursor. Despite the double mocha and blueberry scone that morning, I could not get beyond this side of happy and I could feel myself sink back to the other side of line by the time I left the coffee shop.
I rode home disappointed that I was not skipping and popping. It would take more than a thirty minute ride and some rocket fuel to bounce me back where I wanted to be. Hope springs eternal. We always hope. Where does that phrase come from anyway? Apparently from a 18th century poem by Alexander Pope:
- Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
It is meant to be “a rationalistic effort to use philosophy in order to vindicate the ways of God to man.” I am certainly not trying to vindicate God but I am expatiating in a Eudaimonic life to come, soon I hoped.
It is all noise when you stand close or far enough. It is only at a given scale that you can find a signal in the noise. There was so much to unpack in that observation alone but no interest at that moment as I came around the turn back to my home. You certainly don’t want any noise coming out of that turn as I accelerated to straighten out the bike. Not accelerating at the right moment is the biggest mistake riders tend to make when making a turn. The correct way to take a turn is to set it up before you reach it — the correct position and speed — and then lean into it and accelerate out about a third into it so the acceleration will eventual straighten you out of your line into the other side. A mouthful to say but a smooth dance to do. You want pure signal in purpose during that: no uncertainty, no hesitation, and certainly no second guessing your speed. Riders nevertheless often misjudge the speed and position and adjust during the turn itself, the worst thing to do. Judgmental noise at the worst possible time. This turn, however, I knew by heart and mind and proprioception sense. When I pulled up to my garage and shut off the engine, the silence was noticeable: the silence itself became the sound. After thirty minutes of noise and a belly full of mocha and blueberry muffin, there I was with no Eudaimonia in body or mind.
I’d like to tie all this together into some pithy wrap about noise and the search for eudaimonia, but honestly, it would be forced. This is where I left it when I had arrived home, in its unassembled parts. What I can tell you, however, is the following day I was back on track. I can’t say for sure how much this ride and what went along with it played a role but I would like to think it was in the mix, that it kickstarted it.
When I went out for an evening ride the night after, I took some sunset pictures on my iPhone. I was not expecting much but the camera surprised me. the color in these photos were not manipulated, just boosted a bit with saturation. It is clear the camera does not see what we see. This is what my particular iPhone camera saw. Maybe this visually ties it up because it told me what the effect of the ride itself was. Maybe.
As it so happens, I finished up an Ambient Movie this week, which you may have noticed at the bottom of the post. It is my fourth attempt. This meditation on noise fits it for a number of reasons. I do not know what any of it means yet but something seems to be evolving. The color and video lighting effects are being used to echo events in the music. Beyond that, there is not much more I would want to say now except to say watch it and decide for yourself what will prove to be signal and noise looking back on it. For now, let yourself fall into it.
May You Always Enjoy The Ride