Saturday, January 03, 2009


De Oppresso Liber. The motto of the United States Army Special Forces; it is Latin for liberators of the oppressed. For me, it means much more than freedom from tyrannical governments, much more. Liber is obviously the root for our word liberty and, to the Romans, also means free, independent, unrestricted, and book. Book becomes obvious when you understand that true knowledge is necessary for freedom. The real surprise came when I learned that liber also means child. This definition baffled me for a long time until one day, while I was riding my motorcycle to work, an observation made it perfectly clear. I was approaching an intersection that had an overhead walkway that connected a residential neighborhood to an elementary school on the other side of a major traffic artery. On that walkway was a single child; not walking but skipping just a couple dozen feet about a dangerous highway. At that moment, in a world of difficulty and danger, that child was the freest person on Earth.

The observation brought to mind a personal struggle I had just a few months before. I had been in a motorcycle accident that shattered my left ankle and left me unable to walk or work for many months. The morning after I remember asking the nurse to open the window shades in my hospital room so I could watch the sunrise; a sunrise I came very close to not seeing with my mortal eyes. I felt immense gratitude that morning for the opportunity to have survived to see a new day however; the severity of the accident caused many to recommend that I never buy another motorcycle. At first, I agreed.

As time progressed I found my eyes following anything on two wheels. I was even rubber-necking at scooters. My wife must have noticed my sad puppy dog eyes, or she also missed our occasional rides together, and one day suggested that we look at some good looking bikes she had seen on Grant Road. She had never shown much interest in bikes before and I'm pretty sure she didn't know what brand of bikes were sold on Grant Road but just stated that they had some nice looking blue bikes. I knew exactly who had a dealership on Grant Road and agreed immediately to the opportunity to look at Harley Davidsons. I walked right by the pretty bikes she had seen from the street – a color I later learned was called Cobalt Blue – and found a still gorgeous but more masculine Black Pearl. I looked at a number of bikes and even sat on a few, and then I sat on The Bike. It was a Road King with fuel injection, hard bags, and a windshield. It immediately gave me a shot of dopamine, an exhilaration that had been absent for far too long. On that day I learned that, although I had survived the accident, I had not been living.

To the child on the walkway overhead, living had nothing to do with waking up to a new day; it meant finding enjoyment in life. A fellow Special Forces soldier on the PGR forums has a tag line that I would like to steal. It reads, "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, BUT rather to SKID IN BROADSIDE, completely used up, totally worn out, and SCREAMING 'WOW---WHAT A RIDE!!'" What could be more liberating than dying without regrets?

Now, whenever occasion permits, I back the bike out of the garage and feel its rumble penetrate my lungs while the wind tries to rip the hair out of my head and my butt steers 800 pounds of highly chromed steel around the corners. Meanwhile, everyone behind me can see my license plate yell, "LIBER." Then, about the time I'm leaning the bike toward the driveway, the thought crosses my mind, "Wow, what a ride!"

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