Living Off the Slab Blog
Our Constant Companion

It often amazes me, how wisdom can be found in the strangest places. There are certain events or experiences in life that at the time seem insignificant, but as life rolls on they stick with you. I don’t know about you, but I find myself reflecting back on these lessons over and over again as life continues to throw tests and challenges in my path.

For me, one of these strange teachers is the "Billy Jack" series of movies that ran from 1967 to 1974. There were three movies released in this series "The Born Losers," "Billy Jack" and "The Trial of Billy Jack." A forth film was produced "Billy Jack, Goes to Washington" but it was never released to the theaters.

Looking back on these movies, they were pretty bad, filled with tacky dialog and the writer, director and star, Tom Laughlin’s, particular brand of politics. However at the time they were among the first of the independently produced films to be successful at the box office. Laughlin basically created—or at least popularized—the now time honored action movie formula of the soft spoken hero, trying to live a simple life outside of the mainstream, but in the end, is forced to defend himself and his loved ones against the evildoers. The prototypical “hero’s journey” described by Joseph Campbell.

This formula, which was first introduced in the Born Losers, has been utilized over and over again as a vehicle for action stars such as Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme etc. In fact, these guys owe at least a portion of their success to Tom Laughlin for creating the genre.

It was these films that first introduced me to the martial arts. I saw Billy Jack kicking butt and wanted to learn how to do that myself. From this introduction I went on to earn my black belt in Isshinryu karate at 19 years of age—what now seems like a very long time ago.

But the particular piece of wisdom that was recently brought to mind is from the second movie in the series, "The Trial of Billy Jack." In the beginning of this movie the hero is being tried for the death of a deputy sheriff (one of the bad guys). While on the stand he is asked about his American Indian belief system. In particular the character is discussing his personal relationship with "Death." Billy Jack goes on to explain how death is our constant companion, walking beside us at all times. At first, this can be disconcerting or even depressing, but as we embrace the idea it becomes freeing.

As much as we try to avoid it, death truly is our constant companion. It waits for all of us; there is no getting around it, no deal that can be made. Death can come at any time, walking down the street, driving in your car, slipping in the bathtub, or riding your motorcycle.

In fact, this walk with death is especially prescient to we motorcyclists. Just riding a bike is a balance between risk and reward. We do what we can to limit the risk, by wearing the right gear or making sure that our skill levels remain high, however, the possibility of mishap remains.

But even with these realizations of life’s fragility, we basically have two choices; either we pull back from living and avoid those things that increase our risk of injury and our possible demise, or we embrace the possibility of death and realize that we are here for a limited amount of time. We don’t know when death may come, and we do not seek it out. We learn to live each day as if it is our last, pursuing our passions and being with the people we love.

Ride safe my friends!
--Craig Ripley

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