Saturday, July 9, 2011

Skateboarding into Wonderland

Central to Einstein's Theory of Relativity is that there's no fixed frame of reference on reality - everything is relative. Thus, from the vantage point of someone throwing a ball Southward while on a train that's travelling North, the ball would seem to be moving toward the South. But from the frame of reference of an observer standing at some distance from the train, watching it whiz by, the ball appears to be travelling North.

Similarly, the faster we travel, the smaller the world appears. If we could travel at super-speed, the world would be no more than a dot, for we'd pass it by so quickly. As we'd gradually slow down, however, the world would appear increasingly larger, until, at the walking pace that we're familiar with, it seems gigantic. 

Thus, though we assume that the world around us is stable, in fact it is constantly changing as our frame of reference shifts. This is beautifully and simply illustrated by Alice's experience in Wonderland where she drinks a potion and rapidly shrinks and then shoots up in size. The same furniture in the room appears enormous when her size is reduced, and tiny when she's enlarged.
I experienced this acutely at Prahran skate park. When I first visited the park, all of its obstacles appeared exceptionally large and intimidating, and the tricks that skaters were performing struck me as incredible. But this was largely due to my poor skill level. Because I was 'small' the park looked 'big'. As I practiced and improved, I gradually saw the skate park shrink in size and the skills of many of the other skaters became significantly less impressive. But there was one incident where the shift was striking.

Raph and I had visited an indoor skate park called 'Ramp It'. A large metal warehouse with different sized ramps and street course obstacles, including a hand rail. Though I'd never board slid [where one slides along a rail perpendicular to it using the wooden underside of the skateboard] along a hand rail before, since the hand rail at 'Ramp It' was quite short and seemed smaller than the one at Prahran, I decided to give it a shot. After many failed attempts - and thank Heaven, without any serious injuries - I succeeded to land the trick. Most surprising was that Raph helped me realize that, contrary to my initial impression, the 'Ramp It' handrail was steeper and higher than the one at Prahran.

On my next visit to Prahran, the park had changed dramatically. In particular, the hand rail which I'd never even thought of attempting, suddenly came within my reach. I started to use the park in a completely new manner and felt as though I had literally increased in size; things were clearly smaller than they used to be.

This encounter has helped me realize that reality is not as fixed as it seems. Every aspect of my life - vocational, spiritual, psychological, etc - is not as permanent as it may appear. If I put effort into improving myself, the mountains blocking my path to success can be reduced to hills, and eventually, to molehills. Though I understood this principle long before I resumed skateboarding, it was skateboarding that allowed me to experience it so lucidly that its become a palpable part of my worldview. Indeed, I have skateboarded into Wonderland...                                            

1 comment:

  1. I really like this article. The relevance to life is extremely poignant and the way that we view thing and react to them can indeed be very heavily based on how we see it at that point in time. The more we are aware of it the more we are able to improve the way we deal with obstacles in whatever form they present themselves.