Before you run to get a bar of soap to wash my mouth out with you should know that pulchraphilia is not a bad word. If you try looking it up in the dictionary you are not likely to find the word there since the word itself is a rather new creation coined by a Jason McLennan sometime in 2010. I tried Googling it and as near as I can tell the exact definition is still somewhat fluid so I will go with the definition provided by a brilliant man and long time friend.
Pulchraphilia (noun): The innate need to be surrounded by beautiful and well-designed environments with a particular connection to nature.
It was this definition posted on Facebook by my friend that got me to thinking how those who design motorbikes and ride them are probably pulchraphiliacs at heart. (Hey if someone else can create a word, Why can't I?) . Now given that the word “pulchraphilia” has it roots in the latin with ‘pulchra’, meaning ‘beauty’, and ‘philia’, meaning ‘love of’, pulchraphilia would be a love of beauty. This would of course be in direct opposition to those who design enclosed environments that seal us of from the world around us, which based on my minimal command of latin would be coerceophilia, and those who lean towards those environments would by extension be coerceophiliacs, or as bikers know them, cagers.
With my little aside on the entomology and creation of words aside, there is a point to this blog post that does have to do with one of my favourite things, motorbikes.
There isn't much I haven't driven or rode in from a horse to a horse and buggy, to bikes (manual and motorized), to cars, to trucks, to big rigs and tractors. The equine modes of transportation provide you with a real connection to nature of course but the next best thing to me are motorbikes. As soon as you close yourself in a car, or truck similar modes of transportation you loose that connection with nature and the environment around you. These vehicles are designed to surround and enclose you (coerceo) and “protect” you from what is outside. They close you off from the sounds as radios blast while you are driving down the road. They close you off from the scents as closed windows and dangling air fresheners lock you in a private world of odours. They close you off from sights as your vision is obscured by both the size of the vehicle and the structure surrounding you.
There is of course a trend among some bike designers towards coerceophilia as they create shrouds to surround and enclose you on your motorbike, add stereos that blast so loud the biker and every vehicle within 100 yards can hear the music, and embed ipods and phones into helmets. Perhaps I am a purest, but that feeling of the wind blowing by me, the sound of it rushing by and the sounds of the environment around me, the smells of the fields and forests as I pass through (the smell of smog and exhaust perhaps not so pleasurable), and the unobstructed sight of everything around me – these are the things that make riding my motorbike a truly spiritual experience.
The realization that I am not surrounded by a wall of protection encourages me, perhaps even forces me to be aware or my environment and engage it and interact with it. When a passenger joins me on my bike I have to react and respond to their small movements, creating communication and interaction on a level totally different from everyday communication. As I cruise down the road I am forced to analyze and assess the possible actions of those around me in their mobile cages, a level of thought and concentration as we normally move through our environment.
Could motorbike designers have anything but pulchraphilia in mind, even though their creations were launched long before the word? Pulchraphiliacs of the world unite – let those coerceophiliacs of the world know what they are missing. Or perhaps not. Maybe we should just keep the secret to ourselves.