Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Philosophical Biker Dudes

I really need to re-examine any and all subconscious stereotypes I may have about bikers (as in, Harley Dudes). Seriously.

Friends may recall me telling the story of how surprised my wife and I were last summer, when on a hiking trip to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and while enjoying the panoramic view at an overlook (nice pictures of the spot available here), we happened to overhear the conversation of some leather-bound bikers who were also enjoying the view. They were having a nice discussion on, of all things, the intricacies of Eucharistic theology, as expressed in various Christian denominations. Every time they dropped a term like "the real presence" my jaw would drop. That's the kind of thing you only expect to hear from the mouths of priests, or perhaps nerdy religion geeks like myself. But here it was, coming straight from the lips of biker dudes clad in black leather.

So today, as I type this, I'm sitting at the J&S Bean Factory coffee shop, in St. Paul. I like the place for its funky ambiance and free wi-fi internet access. But aside from that, it's the kind of place that is, shall we say, friendly to left-leaning chaps of all stripes. They prominently feature a "Vote out the Bush Republicans" sign and play host to left-of-center political groups like this and let's just say I'm dragging down the statistics a little on the average number of body piercings per customer. It's also a popular place for bikers to hang out. So today, I'm sitting here diligently doing my homework, and I overhear this biker guy getting into a conversation with the cashier lady on how, even if the state doesn't endore a religion, we still need some sort of universal to appeal to, that is above the state. If not, then we just have a relativistic universe where the only thing that matters is one's will to power (or worse - the state's), which is the worldview that Nietsche held. So this biker dude was going on and on, dropping names like Aristotle and Dostoyevsky to make his case, and ripping apart Enlightenment philosophies. So I was left thinking to myself, has this guy been sitting through my Fundamental Theology class? This is exactly what we've been talking about all semester! (And remember this post, where I mentioned George Weigel's observation about William of Ockham and how the denial of Universals in his Nominalist philosophy is at odds with, say Thomas Aquinas' view?)

And the best part was that, even though this guy was clearly no religious proponent (he even admitted so), he had a very clear view of the necessity of a universal moral code, and was unafraid to speak about it (a "righteous pagan", so to speak, like Aristotle was). And he was being rather successful in convincing the cashier to agree. It was a sight to behold.

So it would appear that, since I don't really know any personally, I have allowed all the pictures of the Sturgis bike rally to create a false stereotype in my mind of bikers. My bad. If my experience is any guide, many of them are erudite warriors on this side of the culture wars. Consider this a lesson in not judging someone based upon their appearance...


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