Recently, someone criticised me for socializing with skateboarders. 'They will have a bad influence on you!', he cautioned...'Be careful Dovid!', he continued, 'If you associate with hooligans you will become a hooligan!'
Do I agree? Yes and No.
On the one hand, it is clear that skateboarding culture is 'rough on the edges' and rebellious. Many skaters are disrespectful of private property, sit around and smoke Marijuana or get drunk, use vulgar language, treat woman as objects, cover themselves in tattoos, behave wildly on public transport, and sit around and waste precious time. These are undeniable facts which I have observed first hand on several occasions.
On the other hand, the extent of their 'hooliganism' is often exaggerated and blinds people to their many positive elements. On one occasion, I invited a Jewish orthodox friend of mine to accompany me to a skate park. When we arrived there, he initially felt intimidated by the appearance of those skating there. Yet, in no time, he entered into conversations with a small group of them and discovered them to be very polite and respectful, non-judgemental and accepting. He also observed how a few skaters - which I'd never met before - kindly helped me learn a certain trick. On our drive home from the skate park he initiated a discussion about 'not judging a book by its cover.'
The Talmud describes Rabbi Meir, who continued to learn from his teacher, Acher, even after Acher became a heretic. The Talmud relates that he would, 'eat the dates and throw out the pips', and 'eat the pomegranate seeds and discard the peel.' This means that Rabbi Meir separated the truth from the falsehood in Acher’s teachings in two distinct ways: when Acher would teach a truth with an admixture of falsehood, Rabbi Meir would accept the truth and reject the falsehood hidden within it; he would ‘eat the date and discard the pip.’ And, when Acher taught a falsehood with some truth contained within it, Rabbi Meir would pierce through the layer of falsehood and extract the elements of truth contained within it; he would 'eat the pomegranate seeds and discard the peel.'
Hence though skate culture has a significant amount of 'peel and pips', I needn't eat them. I can discard them and consume only the edible delicious fruit, of which there is certainly plenty to enjoy. I have much to learn and gain from skateboarding and my encounters with skateboarders - as my blog demonstrates.
Furthermore, many of these young people have never been exposed to spiritual teachings and their life enriching properties. Nor have they been brought to realize the tremendous potential that they contain to improve the world. And how will they ever be exposed to them - and more so, find them engaging - except through a medium which they already find consummately interesting: skateboarding.
Hence, since I'm definitely not sagacious like Rabbi Meir, and dismally lack his level of discernment, I'm still not afraid of imbibing some 'pips and peel' - if only I can assist a few younger people discover and tap their spiritual potential...