Why should a piece of wood with four wheels, ridden largely by children and teens, capture the interest of a 33 year old hassidic Kabbalah scholar? Whereas I skated for the sheer fun of it in my teens, at 33 years of age, after 16 years study of Jewish mysticism and philosophy, I resumed for a combination of both practical and spiritual reasons.
Under heavy stress, I needed a constructive way to vent my built up tension and found the heavy self exertion and the explosive movements of skateboarding to be highly cathartic. Additionally, I wanted to distract my mind from personal issues and found skateboarding to be exceptionally absorbing. It pulls me into the present moment so that I'm temporarily oblivious to everything else. Of course one reason for this is obvious: losing focus while skating can be perilous! In addition, however, the challenge of landing or perfecting a new trick, be it the overcoming of fear or the refinement of technique, demands full concentration. Not to mention that the thrill and enjoyment of skating is engrossing in its own right.
As a researcher and lecturer sitting most of the day in a chair, exercising very little, I observed my body become unduly weak and stiff, my muscles often cramped during basic movements. And, with remarks about my weight gain becoming quite frequent I realized I needed regular exercise. Cognizant of my inability to sustain activities that I do not enjoy, I needed to find a pleasurable and rewarding form of exercise. I knew that I had always had fun skateboarding as a teen.
But I also find skateboarding spiritually appealing. In Kabbalah it is taught that 'a strong inner light is needed to dispel thick external darkness'. One must learn to glean wisdom from every aspect of life, and not only from teachers and texts where wisdom is apparent. One should be able to perceive wisdom even in ostensibly mundane and trivial matters which obscure what people conventionally define as spirituality and wisdom. Skateboarding challenges me to develop such depth perception, to increase the potency of my 'inner light', in one such aspect of life.
The Kabbalah also asserts that the most transcendental concepts are best understood from their expression in concrete reality where they take on a solid, well defined form. As the parable goes: the jewels in the king's crown are dug up from the lowly earth. And so I picked up a skateboard to dig for jewels; to uncover the sublime secrets hidden beneath its earthly exterior. And I have already unearthed a veritable treasure...