Symbiosis and the Chopper Machine

The definition of ‘Symbiosis’ in the true sense was coined by biologists to refer to two or more organisms that existed by ‘living’ off of one another. In effect each individual depended for their life by the cooperation of the other party to continue their mutual existence. I’d like to extend this definition a little further and have it encompass what happens when a human and a machine are involved. Cyber-psychologists are already talking about this phenomena but I think that the relationship of men and machines is actually very old. There is probably some ‘new’ word to describe this relationship but I haven’t found it yet. Somebody told me that ‘Cybernetics’ was one new form of man/machine interface.

Since a prehistoric man or a woman first ‘made’ some kind of ‘object’ there was a symbolic link made between that object and it’s creator. At one time that link was considered to be ‘magic’. There was an invisible connection between the created and the creator. Moving ahead about a million years there is still a link made between any fabricator and the parts that he or she creates. Anybody involved in handcrafting almost anything can tell you that this invisible link exists. Part of the story involves the ‘handcrafted’ aspect of the work being undertaken.

With respect to what we do, building bikes, a hint about that old invisible link was first published in the old Chopper rags back in 1967 when Cliff Vaughs was quoted as saying that “The cycle is the one thing that you can build from virtually nothing, just a basket of junk, and make into something very beautiful, and really put yourself into it“.

Another builder once said that “A chopper starts out from nothing but a picture in somebody’s mind and with skill and daring they bring it into being by bending steel as it’s foundation“.

Many of us sincerely believe that building bikes is indeed an act of creation and each and every cycle we build contains part of our personal creative expression that goes beyond just an artistic endeavor and verges on a spiritual undertaking.

This link or connection between the human and the machine transfers some kind of ‘soul’ into the object or objects being created, whether it’s just a small handmade part or an entire cycle. It’s what brings ‘life’ to an inanimate object.

Even naysayers have to admit that some bikes do seem different than others but they can’t say why. There is just ‘something’ about certain scooters that ‘calls’ to a person and I’d like to think that ‘something’ is the spirit of the bikes fabricator/creator contained within the parts that they have made and assembled into a ‘working’ piece of art. That is exactly what these machines are. They ‘work’, mechanically, and they are utilitarian since they are a mode of transportation but they’re also rolling pieces of artistic expression. At least some are.

Unfortunately some bikes are just a collection of nuts and bolts and store bought parts assembled in an almost cookie-cutter fashion and the builder contributed nothing of his or her own ‘spirit’ into the construction of the cycle. The end result is just another motorcycle, no matter how ‘fancy’ or ‘custom’ it may appear from a visual standpoint it will never have a soul or personality of it’s own.

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