This article was originally printed in the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club monthly newsletter.

Grand Rapids Guzzi - Nothing Grand For Me, by James Muller

From the unique vantage point of the motorcycle saddle I see a vast cross-section of human life. I'm a detail person, so I study the towns, neighborhoods, cities, and villages I ride through. And more often than not the roads which the Guzzi and I use are small secondaries, which bring me even closer to the people. I see a lot of things, but it's not the grand things that will ever capture me. I love the living of these days, and it could even be said that I have been able to enjoy a few of the finer things in life, but I truly do not aspire to anything great for myself.

I appreciate simple lives in others too. I see many regular people living those simple lives, but I also see a whole lot of wealth in my travels. In fact, I see a fair amount of the higher strata in my other life too, apart from motorcycles. Believe me, none of it impresses me.

I took two wonderful four day solo jaunts recently. On each I rambled around the northern parts of our Great Lakes States, spending some time in fancy resort areas. Being a car nut since my earliest teens, I notice what people drive, and, for good or ill, I happen to know the general price ranges of each. It's fun to at least see some of the ways that people spend their money - be it their income, or a bit of their accumulated wealth. But I don't always find these people themselves of much interest.

And then there are the homes that I see. If our material possessions have a tendency to own us, and not the other way around, that must be pretty much what's going on with all of these over-built cottages and fancy vacation places I see, each heavily imbued with the personality and identity of its respective owner. You have to wonder if these people somehow have come to believe that they will never die. Their properties are testaments to - no surprise here - themselves! Imagine that. And if they are not simply admiring their homes or cottages for the alleged statements these structures make about them as people, then they are busy entertaining others and making the same social statements to as many as will hear it. They lure the unsuspecting to their castle homes so that they can impress these hapless guests with their achievements. The guests think that they have been invited for their own worth or appeal, but the joke is on them: the invitation is mostly about the homeowner, not the guest. But really. Have these so-called high achievers no awareness yet, at 50 or 60, or even 70 years old, that this is all transitory, that someone else - the tax man maybe, or children who don't even like them - will someday get the place, that by owning it they have added not a single centimeter to their height or a single point to their IQ? Have they no sense of their own smallness in the larger scheme of things?

Who knows? But watching such folk in the fancy restaurants I sometimes sneak into, or seeing them out and about making a public show, leaves me with a distinct distaste for all things material and vain. I haven't the slightest interest in the accumulation of things . . . save, I must confess, for one nice Moto Guzzi, and a modest home and car. Not only do I have little interest in having more, I can't imagine wasting time chasing after it. There's so much more to do with one's life. I can't imagine being so self-absorbed as to think that the main endeavor of my entire adult life should be the acquisition of money and power and status. Whoa. From where do such foolish notions come? You'd have to be an ignoramus to think that this is what life is about. But, alas, a ton of people seem to think exactly that, and they don't seem embarrassed a bit by their ignorance.

No. For me it's not the grand stuff in life - the so-called grand stuff - which excites. Perhaps if I had the money to buy a bunch of it, then I'd find it of more interest. Perhaps. But having been providentially saved from the burden of excess cash, I have learned instead to savor the simpler things, and the moment at hand. Especially the moment at hand. I have been marvelously freed from the prison of striving. A person can steal many things from me, but there is a good chance that I can regain most of it, one way or another, if I really wanted to. But if someone steals time from me - or if I waste the time I have pursuing foolish things - there simply is no getting it back, ever. We only pass this way but once.

Time, and the opportunity to live this one day that I have, is a most generous gift that has been given to me. I find it strange that others don't often see it this way. Most folk I meet seem to be in a huge hurry to get somewhere, to have something they still do not have, to get the big thing, the thing that will finally fulfill them and give their life meaning. But, all the while they do not seem to even notice where they are, or what they already have.

If I claim to prefer simplicity, the first way that I live out that testament is to be present in the here and now, and to notice the things around me. Those things around me are most often going to be pedestrian and ordinary and of little apparent distinction . . . until I look more deeply. Then I notice that there is often great beauty in these basic things, as well as in the grander things. The fresh air that comes in Fall. The turn of a road through a forest landscape or as it twists and turns through lake country, or over a series of soft hills off into the unknown. A smile from a stranger who somehow, in the moment, really sees you. The steady pulse of a well tuned Guzzi . . . and the desire and ability to ride that Guzzi through the twists and turns of an afternoon or early morning of your life... These are the simple things one should never take for granted, or ever underestimate.

Most who pursue the dream of material accumulation do not even get out in the world on such wonderful pursuits as motorcycle riding, or hiking an overland trail in an undeveloped corner of the land, or sharing a laugh with another traveling soul along the way. They're too busy chasing. And once they have caught their material quarry, they are too busy keeping it to ever consider idle time spent simply enjoying one's existence, and the wonder of the people and things that populate that life, the only life we'll ever have.

You can have all that grand stuff, O Aspiring One. Your taking of it leaves all the more of the regular stuff for me to enjoy, as I learn again and again to be alive in the present. This is a grand life, if you ask me.

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