Many of the world's great religions describe life in terms of a journey; the Buddhist Nirvana is actually “the Middle Way”, the Tao in Taoism is simply “the Way” or “the Road”.
So when Robert Matzdorff, philosopher extraordinary and a rider with more than 40 years of experience, set out to answer the biggest questions of all, such as “Why are we here?”, “What is the purpose of life” and “Is there a God?”, it was natural to approach them in terms of motorcycles.
The balance of Yin and Yang, on which Zen is based, can after all be explained in terms of the balance between gravity and centrifugal force, without which no motorcycle would ever go round a corner. And karma is no more than cause and effect, which governs every aspect of motorcycle engines - including breakdowns.
Which is why his book is called “The Metaphysics of Motorcycling” - and right from Chapter One he points out that metaphysics (literally “beyond the physical”) is not a remote discipline divorced from reality but a very real part of our lives.
Gravity, as mentioned before, is central to cornering - yet nobody knows how it works; that's a metaphysical forces in the truest sense of the word. The same is true of magnetism, without which no motorcycle would have an ignition system.
Starting with simple motorcycling metaphors such has these, Matzdorff guides you along the way, step by logical step, encouraging you to think for yourself and leading you to some startling conclusions.
He will make you look deep inside yourself and question of your own beliefs, using hard scientific knowledge and tried-and-tested motorcycling lore to make the unbelievable not only believable but inevitable. Yet he's not trying to turn your world upside down, he's trying to help you understand it - and yourself.
It's natural that a journey of this nature is an intensely personal one; you'll learn much of Matzdorff the motorcyclist, with his puckish, sly sense of humour and somewhat remote relationship with the rest of humanity. You'll learn why he almost always rides alone and why he believes in dreams.
But, if your motorcycle is more to you than a means of getting to the next pub, you may also learn why you ride and, just maybe, where you're going - and that can be a fascinating journey of discovery.
The Metaphysics of Motorcycling costs R120 from [email protected]