The John Sutherlands of the World

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Beng Kidney is just like you. He eats the whole packet of biscuits and is concerned that his perception of self is derived from external prescription.

There’s a little Kidney in us all.

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If you’ve waddled your way through the turning-age-tome “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” you might remember a character called John Sutherland, the rider who accompanies the narrator on his cross-country motorcycle journey chasing the consciousness he lost to insanity and electro-convulsive therapy.

The contrasting attitudes of the narrator and Sutherland towards the upkeep of their rides form the book's matrices. The narrator rides an old iron horse, likes to maintain and regulate it religiously and the machinations swell his plum. He initially regards Sutherland as a bit of a diddle as Sutherland owns an expensive ride, maintains it by actively hoping for the best, and gets mad at it when it breaks down.

The difference between the two intends to illustrate the conflict between romantic and classical modes of thoughts, between which the narrator tries to find a common ground, a familiar compromise I'm sure you have already tucked away between your glossy brain cheeks.

 

I’m a bit of a Sutherland and it has always felt natural for me to be this way. I talk to bikes, revere them for their mystical reliability and function and love them as unrequiting women with long, tubular legs (kiss). I’ve also thrown malfunctioning bikes bushwards while lacing together cusses. Expecting the world to operate in a particular way tends to result in disappointment and is not recommended for ages 8+, but it does air out the cords (assbutt-dickeyes-scroatcrumb...titsegment).

I tend to neglect bikes, an unfortunate extension of the complete notion of romanticism. If I try to sell you a regularly maintained bike I am probably lying because I need the money for red wine (Sutherlands tend to have irregular incomings and outgoings due to their ever-shifting expiration dates). Inbetween slurps I will look over the top of a faded Camus and raise an eyebrow at the bourgeoisie rust encroaching on my rights of property. I will note the problematic nature of oxidisation in a carefully considered thinkpiece. The rust will remain, but now it shalt be fleshed out in the post-modern paradigm.

 

A bike is a machine and an assembly of human will and intention. It is inert, but its design is so task specific and fitted to form that its lack of autonomy is camouflaged. It is the product of a thousand good ideas and ten thousand evolutions, it changes and adapts to its conditions, and although it is us that forces the change upon it, it accedes to will. It gives up its bolts under torque forces, shims and spacers slide out with a gentle teasing. It works with us, carries our flying weight and hauls us up before we sail off into the eternal green sea.

 

So I suppose it’s in the interests of self-preservation that I started shuffling towards Pirsig’s common ground, selling my old single speed and learning the art of bicycle maintenance.

I picked up a few tools and blue-flavoured grease and now I sit in my garage in the quiet evenings beside a little desk light and fiddle with bits until I pinch my finger or get sweaty trying to put something together. I have a little glass of beer and my small corner of the city is practical and reducible for the while. I can imagine many people doing this to escape their insufferable spouses as they enter the “long-walks-taken-alone” period of their relationship.

I will take note for future wives.