Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Skateboarding, Solitude, and Socializing

One of the advantages of skateboarding, which distinguishes it from many other sports and activities, is that one can skate either socially or alone.
This reflects the dual nature of a person who is both a private and sociable creature and for whom both elements are  indispensable for psychological well being(despite people's proclivities toward introversion or extroversion).

In his book, "Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore", Rabbi Mannis Friedman compares these two dimensions of a human to animal types: the land and the aquatic. Land animals are naturally visible to the human eye; aquatic life is concealed beneath the ocean waters. The social dimension of a person, the way she presents herself and interacts with others thus parallels the land animal, while the private self, who a person is within, what one believes, thinks, and feels when alone, is the aquatic animal.

As land animals cannot survive in water, and aquatic life perishes on dry land, analogously, the private self flounders without solitude and the social self languishes without company. Both states are required to maintain the respective dimensions of a person.

Unfortunately, there are individuals that are not in touch with themselves. Their thoughts are perpetually preoccupied with how they will appear in public, who they will go out with, and the like. When alone, they seldom reflect on life and develop their own understanding of things, nor do they introspect and attempt to discover their own inner nature and identity. Even when alone, they seem to be in the company of others.

At the other extreme are individuals that have lost the ability to interact with others, to enter into shared experiences or exchange thoughts and feelings, to develop intimacy and camaraderie. They're preoccupied with their own formulation of things and endlessly plumb the depths of their inner selves. Even when among people, such individuals are isolated and alone.

Often, such lopsidedness occurs because people erroneously -typically subconsciously - believe that the opposite mode will somehow detract from their preferred style of being. The contrary is true:

a) The extrovert who lacks a genuine identity is shallow when relating to others. She cannot share of herself in any profound, potent, or genuinely interesting manner as there's effectively no 'self' to share; only 'Still waters run deep'.

b) On the other hand, the introvert who feels that socializing diminishes her ability to make sense of outer and inner reality, is majorly handicapped, for often the best way to learn about oneself is through explicit or implicit feedback from others. Additionally, when one's understanding of things are challenged by others, one is forced to reformulate, modify, or strengthen their beliefs.  

The opposite mode of being is not an adversary but a complement.  

Sometimes I prefer to skate on my own, especially at night when it's quiet. The tranquility not only allows me to analyse why I'm failing to land particular tricks and to imagine ways of improving them, but affords me the opportunity to learn about myself: my learning style, how I manage fear, and what really makes me tick, etc.

On the other hand, late afternoons at the skate park are amazing opportunities to share new tricks and experiences with others, to learn from better skaters, to cheer and support - or get supported by - other skaters, to compete, and to generally enjoy socializing and meeting interesting people.  

It is important for people to exist as amphibians, regardless whether they are predominantly land or water oriented...  

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