Steel Wheels

The Tao Of Motorcycling


July 2016

Old Friend, Old School

The Tao of Thinking

Riding out my driveway yesterday morning I came upon my old friend Kyle slouched on his Old School bike working his iPhone. At first, I thought he was just another surfer hooking-up to my free hot-spot. Continuing on my way, I suddenly heard my name echo in my helmet. I screeched to a halt and went back.

Forty years ago Kyle was indirectly responsible for changing the way I thought forever. I was starting college in the Fall. Kyle was finishing college. We worked nights at a JC Penny’s warehouse and that’s where he cajoled me into signing-up for my first course in Political Theory taught by a Master Teacher named Ross Lence – a course in which you are guaranteed to receive an F on your first paper. Who could resist that?

It’s said, only emotional shock can convince a person to change the way they think. I didn’t get an F on my first paper – Kyle was wrong. But that C+ was the lowest grade I’d ever made on a paper and low enough to make me change my thinking. I’ll never forget that first semester of college and I’ll always be grateful to Kyle for steering me toward a Master Teacher right from the start.

There’s nothing like a surprise visit on a misty morning from an old friend.

Kyle's '09 Thruxton on Harvard

Kyle’s ’09 Triumph Thruxton on Harvard Street, July 30th 2016

The Girls From Rigel 7

8th Grade and The Final Frontier

While riding to the IMAX Theater to see the new 3D Star Trek movie it all came rushing back. The year was 1966 and her name was Charlotte. We were in the 8th grade. She sat to the right and two rows up. She swung around to face me but it was some time before I noticed she was mouthing a silent question. We all turned 13 that year and the girls began wearing nylons – weapons of mass destruction. I tried not to look at Charlotte’s as she silently mouthed the question 3 times before I finally heard her: “Did you watch Star Trek last night?”

In 1966, 8th grade girls were made-up meticulously, with permed hair, cotton fitted dresses, and dastardly nylons. In our fertile 13 year old minds, 8th grade girls fully-dressed looked like the college girls in Beach Blanket Bingo. But it was all about to change.

The years between ’66 and ’69 changed everything for our generation. Star Trek came and went. Older kids were dying in some place called Viet Nam. Riots. Assassinations. Demonstrations. Strange exciting psychedelic rock music. And the 8th grade girls boldly went where none of us boys dared. Ironed-straight hair, dark eyeliner, projecting utter seriousness. In High School, the 8th grade girls we fell in love with, looked like the women from Rigel 7 on Star Trek. We on the other hand with our regular boy cuts had become uninteresting to those exotic alien creatures whose nylons had given way to different but no less deadly weapons of mass destruction. Those years went by in a flash but I’ll never forget the innocence, the boldly-going, and the girls from Rigel 7.

You’ll never have girl friends like the ones you almost had in 8th grade.

In The Presence Of A Master Teacher

It Never Gets Old

Motorcycling can take you places you wouldn’t believe – like the past, to meet old friends. Last night at Mockingbird Bistro, we celebrated, lionized, and told inappropriate tales about a transformational figure in our lives. Ross Lence changed the way we thought, forever.

Many like to say Ross Lence never answered a single question put to him by his students. In truth, Lence answered all their questions the same way . . .

“There are no answers, only questions,” he replied with a wry smile.

The path to knowledge is blocked by a hairball of questions and the task of the student is to untangle them. In the presence of a Master Teacher you engage with insights into the most powerful experiences a person can have. You discover the Tao of The Master Teacher is helping students teach themselves about love, friendship, virtue, and how to live. In our tradition, learning begins with an introduction to the Great Books where the great conversation takes place across space and time. What we find soon enough is the never-ending story – a journey for a lifetime and beyond.

Lence’s mojo was difficult to nail down. The classroom became electric when he arrived. And then he started to talk. And ask questions. When it came to our preconceived notions, Lence was a one-man wrecking crew. Our reaction to him was intellectual and visceral. Ross Lence was a shock to our systems. He exposed us to the universe of ideas and the world of the mind. Resistance was futile.

On the ride home through the noire of The Montrose I couldn’t help thinking back to those days of shock and awe. It’s been exactly 10 years since Ross went on his journey to the Divine Beyond. This is not the first time we celebrated his life and our good fortune. It won’t be the last. It never gets old.

Ross Lence was professor of Political Theory at the University of Houston from 1971 ’til his death in 2006

Lence was a Master Teacher with a program in his name – The Ross Lence Master Teacher Program, which is alive and well to this day at The Honors College at University of Houston

I started at UH in Fall 1976 … by the time I finished in Fall 1981, I’d taken five courses from Ross Lence … it was not nearly enough

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