Experiencing Epiphany & Paradox
If in our earthly physical world, the laws of physics rule, we sailors, surfers, snow and kite boarders adapt and grow accustomed to nature's characteristics - its atmosphere, gravity, buoyancy, resistance, weather, geography and topography, etc. Most moments pass by us insignificantly, but some float and fly with deeper importance and significance. If attentive and observant, often the mundane mutes into a myriad of interesting meanings, messages, possibilities, paradoxes and ironies. They becomes a constant barrage of wake-up calls.
In a previous post I wrote about how important tension was for human vitality. This post will explore the challenge of understanding human opposites, ironies, contradictions and human truths via board sports. My implied message, if it is not otherwise obvious, is that we humans could face our challenges better if we woke up to a more meaningful understanding of who we are. And I would also be a contradiction as I am if I did not in some way relate this through sailing. This blog article, however, adds surfing, snowboarding and ski jumping references to reinforce the idea that awareness is about honestly facing our intricacies and inconsistencies. Becoming better human betters ourselves. Maybe we might become more by being less full of ourselves. Maybe we become more or less.
Baking a body with solar panels or a promotion stunt?
When the sea waves at us, some catch its curl; some catch a "rail banger", some catch its meaning. For many, the message may be cloudy; for some, it may be a clear and meaningful calling.
Experience what I am!
Know my rush!
Feel my power!
Understand my limits!
Discover who I am!
Know my secrets!
Find out what I am made of!"
Any serious surfer confronts a number of opposing forces and challenging contradictions. Catching his wave, he catches his courage. "Dropping in" on a wave is about catching it just right while staying close enough to avoid it catching him. He knows his board must not outrun his wave or the wave will overrun and envelope him. His challenge is reading the approaching swells. And identifying and relating to one in mere seconds. Each curl or tube is unique so his understanding eventually becomes more instinctive. The less he thinks and the more he feels, the more in tune he is with his sea.
Spills, plunges, wipe-outs and full rides teach the hardcore lessons. Flops, falls and failures feed the soul as much as the successes. Pace, spacing and positioning often become more important than speed. He knows if his timing and positioning are slightly off, he takes a breathless plunge where undertow or rip tide spin, twist and twirl him head over heals where the wave treats him like dirty laundry in a washing machine. If his fears outweigh his instincts, his ride may be feel all too brief or nonexistent. Or his plunge may feel interminable. A successful surfer stays board balanced in his turbulent sea. If he survives, he learns lessons of respect, trust, courage and confidence.
Like any language, surf terms confuse or clarify the experience. Like a set of approaching waves, words also carry power and potency. And any good surfer's reads, interprets and determines which one resonates and rates worthy of a ride.
Awakenings so compel and captivate, humans will often risk life, limb and liberty and libido to test and stretch their limits. Whether on a board or aboard a boat, humans ride the rush of highs and lows. When eureka effects, wake-up calls, epiphanies, insights or aha moments reach our consciousness our souls change forever. Awakenings alter experience and our individual reality; they bring light to our darkness. Confidence to our fears. If we are really ready and receptive, they open our minds to new perspectives and awarenesses. Certainly the more realizations we encounter, the greater our learning. The time has to be right to absorb what is beyond our knowing.
But understanding can be limited if our fears blind our common sense. "Common", of course, is not "extraordinary" understanding. Blissful ignorance may feel safe, but it can be a delusion and illusion that leads to a distortion or worse, a disaster. It is usually those who possess extraordinary will power, courage and preparation who will push off and push off. But it is curiosity and maturity that often opens us to a world of understanding our world's opposites and contradictions. What becomes painfully obvious after a while is that the truth is often hidden until we examine our own inconsistencies more closely.
Paradoxes / Ironies:
- You shouldn't go in the water until you know how to swim.
- Using a whaling ship to save marine animals after a tsunami.
- In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.
- Age doesn't always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.
- Light travels faster than sound...is that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?
- What's the speed of dark?
- If it's zero degrees outside today and it's supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?
- Just think how much deeper the ocean would be if sponges didn't live and breed there.
- If a sailboat is powered by wind, how can it sail faster than the wind?
- If a sailboat "makes its own wind" when it moves, why does it need any other wind?
- If a sailboat is powered by wind, how can it sail into the wind?
- How can the wind blow two ways at once?
- Why is it called cargo if it is carried on a ship and a shipment is carried by a car or van?
- When two boats or things almost collide, why do they call it a "near miss"?
- Why is Iceland green, and Greenland ice?
- Why does Hawaii have interstate highways?
As the early morning mist(?) burns off a distant power plant
spews pollution into the atmosphere.
Contrasts / Dichotomies:
Contrasts and dichotomies do not exist unless humans interpret them as such. If we did not exist, these features would certainly not surface. The trouble is that sometimes our instincts and feelings lead us astray, and we don't realize until it is too late that our truth wakes us up...or NOT.
- You shouldn't go in the water until you know how to swim.
- Standing is more tiring than walking.
- jumbo shrimp (also called an oxymoron)
- Is a river or stream the same if it continues to replace itself with different water?
- a ship that had been restored by replacing every single wooden part remained the same ship. Ship of Theseus
- The shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line - beating (tacking) upwind
- Slower is sometimes faster - especially when gaining a favorable position on the starting line of a race
- Being behind in a sailing race can sometimes be advantageous - position is frequently more important than speed especially around a leeward mark
- Turn the tiller *but not the wheel) towards the danger to avoid it.
- Ease sails to the point of luff to increase spend.
- Tack when headed to reach your destination sooner.
- Flatten boat to move faster.
- Use wind as a brake to dock vessel.
- A balanced boat sails faster flatter. (A heeling boat is usually much slower though it feels and sounds faster.)
- A balanced and flatter boat steers easier. (There is less rudder in the water when a boat is heeling and more pressure against it when the hull is titled.)
- The shortest distance between two points isn’t always the shortest or fastest route (A sailboat beating to windward has to tack back and forth.)
- If a skipper pushes the tiller towards the danger, his vessel will avoid a collision.
- If a skipper tacks (comes about) on headers, he will reach to his destination sooner. (When the wind heads your sails away from where you want to go.)
- If the winds send you lifts, your boat will reach to your destination sooner.
- A moving sailboat creates its own wind yet a moving sailboat is powered by the wind.
It isn't a coincidence that great literature about the sea is rich with figurative rhetoric. More than a few sea story-tellers / writers such as Homer, Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, Robert Lewis Stephenson, C. S. Forester, Earnest Hemingway, Patrick O’Brian, Ann Lindberg and Joshua Slocum must have realized how the sea and sailing have always possessed, by their very nature, a wealth of contradictions and intriguing opposites. For example. Stephen Crane's
"What's the point of rowing to survive if you die just as you reach the beach?"
- Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.
- Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.
- An optimist thinks this is the best possible world; A pessimist fears this is true.
- You don't stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stopped laughing.
- Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever.
- Life not only begins at forty, it also begins to show.
- The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.