Thursday, July 21, 2011

Falling Down III

'A man can fall many times in life, but he's only a failure when he refuses to get up' 
5. The build up adrenalin - Geronimo! - approach:

This is the first level of the heavy duty, fast paced, action packed, cut throat, resolute, hardy, daring, bold, intrepid, hardcore, real mean fighting machine, all consumed, no pain no gain, 'skate or die' - phew! - type of skater. And in all seriousness, his readiness to take severe risks is formidable. 

To even begin to understand how this skater functions, lets explore the basic difference between the pain relief afforded by Aspirin to that of Morphine. Aspirin is understood to reduce the sensation of pain by blocking  'pain signals' from travelling to the brain. Morphine, in contrast, is understood to actually allows pain signals to enter the brain but causes the brain to interpret the incoming signals as being other than those of pain. Of course we all know that Morphine is much more powerful than Aspirin.

Analogously, the brain/mind of this calibre of skater seems to have reinterpreted the nature of pain and injury. He has diminished their significance by seeing them in light of the beauty of successfully landing tricks, being or becoming a proficient skater, winning a competition, or becoming a pro. For this individual, skating is such an important and central aspect of life that success must be attained at all cost. Nothing can stand in the way of success - not even suffering and pain. (Of course there are all sorts of ways that one can re-frame danger and pain, but the underlying principle is largely the same in all cases.)                    

That's the crux of it. Success at skating is exceptionally high on his priority list such that even the prospect of falling and suffering takes a back seat. Nonetheless, this skater is still aware of danger and experiences some degree of fear as he sets out to perform difficult tricks. He therefore psyches himself up, is fortified with adrenalin, prepares himself for battle with an internal war cry, ('Geronimo!' was the war cry of U.S. paratroopers, and 'Just do it' was a Nike catchphrase - each to their own!) mobilizes himself, and sets out to  triumph.               

6. The 'I don't think about how dangerous this is' approach:

This is the consummate level. Consummate meaning two things: a) this is the peak in transcending the prospect of falling; b) the skater is utterly consumed with skateboarding. In essence, this state is really a more complete expression of the previous one. Here, the person is so consumed by growing in skating that his acute focus on his goal automatically blocks out any other possibility. Even the prospect of falling becomes insignificant and may not even enter his mind. All he envisions is the smooth execution of a trick. 

This skater may seem completely calm and causal when performing even the most formidable of stunts. He's at ease largely because there's no struggle taking place within him. No fear to overcome, no 'fight or flight' dissonance. He's single minded, fixated, transcendental; there's only one direction: UP. 

Considering that this state of consciousness is the consummation of the previous level, comparable to one affected by morphine, it makes perfect sense to refer to this type of skating as being 'DOPE!'               

Coming up...
Reactions to falling: 
1. The I'm embarrassed that I fell reaction;
2. The I'm tough that I fell and got back up reaction;
3. The 'this is skating' reaction;
4. The blame and bash the skateboard reaction; and
5. The laugh at oneself reaction.


  1. From the epithets you ascribe the latter two categories it seems that these are the ones you admire the most. But in my opinion, these represent the embodiment of arrogance and self-worship. After all, if you are Divine then you are indomitable. Sooner or later, however, their delusions will be shattered when their bodies share the same fate. Only then will they realise that no human is omnipotent. Those of us with a bit of humility know not to idolise these self-aggrandising fools.

  2. On the contrary, I find such skateboarders to be rather humble. They're generally friendly toward, and appreciative of, people who strive to skateboard, even if they're not very adept - like myself.

    In addition, it's arguable that the first few categories above are more concerned with themselves - hence all the protective gear - and are thus the more egostistical. While the last two categories express an ability to risk themselves for what they consider to be a beautiful.

    Finally, my intention is to glean wisdom from all things. For ultimately, everything has good within it. As the verse states: 'and G-d saw ALL that He created, and behold it is GOOD'. It is the one who is focussed on the negative elements of things that is separating himself from G-d's view of existence.

  3. Of course we should try to see the good in everyone and everything. But at the same time, evil must be recognised for what it is. To try and reinterpret a bad character trait as if it is good is a mistake. Rather, the good we can derive from it is to learn how NOT to be.

  4. Kabbalah teaches something different:
    Every quality has goodness at its core; a Divine 'spark'. This spark can become trapped and concealed in a quality on account of two interrelated factors:

    1. excessive expression of a quality;
    2. misappropriation of the quality.

    Take the noble quality of indignation as an example for the above two ideas:

    1. the feeling of indignation builds up to the extent that it breaks the grip of reason and becomes incommensurately harsh.

    2. indignation is directed toward petty things such as the protection of one's own ego rather than the upholding of moral values.

    One should try to see through the one or two layered veil and identify the 'spark' trapped within. One can then learn positive traits from everyone.

    In Chassidic teaching this was famously done by Rabbi Zushia, who learnt many lessons in Divine service from a burglar's manner.

    As a Chassidic Jew, I agree that skateboarding should not be the raison detre of one's life - G-d should be. However, how often do we encounter people who serve G-d with the devotion and focus exhibited by the last category of skater mentioned in the post? What a powerful divine 'spark' lies within such a skaters spirit!

  5. It is precisely because the line between good and evil has become so blurred that the civilised world is losing the war on terror. When our soldiers are told to kill terrorists they are troubled by niggling doubts: "Why should I kill them? If there's really no difference between good and evil then how am I any better than them?" These feelings serve to weaken their resolve, lower their morale, and prevent them from plunging into the foray with wholehearted vigour. Is it any wonder, then, that no decisive victories can be attained?

    The same problem underlies the decadence that plagues society today. "Why should I behave in a moral and ethical fashion," one may ask, "when such conduct is in no way superior to a life of hedonism?"

    Only when the realms of good and evil are clearly delineated can we expect to see good triumph, within both our own personas and the world at large.