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Jan 14, 2013

The Metaphysics of Surfing



I once had the opportunity to watch a surfer as he fought his way to the pages of a spiritual book. I know it was a spiritual book because beautiful sunbeams radiated from its cover. The book was not a weighty tome, nor was it hard to read: spiritual books are never hard to read – if they really are spiritual, that is. (I’m sorry; my English is failing me here.) The fighting was all about the surfer’s cross-legged, upright seating position. You can’t keep focus on a narrative, even if it is a spiritual one, when you just broke another intermediate cuneiform bone. Not all of us have the Stoic abilities of an Epictetus, who, just to make a philosophical point, happily watched as his antagonist broke his leg.

I remember thinking that this surfer probably wasn’t a very good surfer, but what did I know?

I had quite the opposite sensation with that kid on the left of the picture. I watched, camera in hand, as he trained and gave a display of grace and agility on the sand. When the other kid made his appearance on the beach, it became obvious that the first one was some kind of a spiritual guru. ‘And rightly so,’ I said to myself. I now understand what surfers mean when they say they feel grateful for their first good wave. It’s not that different with photographers, is it?

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