Monday, March 29, 2010

young and stupid

at its core, growing up is a process of learning about ourselves, the world, and our place in it. so that we can find a dream of the person we want to be, and start making our way towards becoming that person. invariably, this means someone who helps make the world a better place.

only thing is, it's not quite clear how we go about doing so. devoid of experience, bereft of knowledge, lacking in wisdom, we have no points of reference and hence no sense of judgment and thus no clues to understanding just how it is we're supposed to undertake our own growing up.

all we have to guide ourselves is the insights of others who have gone before us. which can be hard, which can be long, and which can be--even worse--uncertain. because growing up is a personal process, meaning that the lessons of others have to be relayed and transposed and adjusted and interpreted through the filters of time and language and culture and perception to make them relevant to us, and unfortunately, while there are truths that may be universal, their manifestation is ultimately very individual. what works for someone sometime somewhere may not work the same way for us.

and so, with the impetuousness and impatience that comes to anyone who feels they have not yet lived, we inevitably abandon the lessons. because we deem them too hard, too long, too uncertain.

instead, we turn to what we deem more easy, more short, more certain: ourselves. to do things our own way. to make our own mistakes. to try our own experiments. and let the process be our own education. because we believe that we can move faster and do more and discover greater on our own. and if anything goes wrong, then we reason that we can always aver responsibility and divert liability and absolve ourselves of all our sins with blithe abandon by simply hiding behind the excuse of just being young and stupid.

in some ways this is fine, because there are some things that can only truly be understood through the depths of personal experience, and experience must be accumulated through time.

in other ways, however, it's a problem, because it tempts us with the fallacy of a free license to do whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want to whoever why ever we want how ever we want.

and that's wrong.

because our lives, while they may be about ourselves, are not just about us. our decisions, our actions, have consequences not just on us but also on the world.

which means our mistakes have consequences on others around us. and so while we may believe that the damage to ourselves in our own youth and stupidity may be subsequently minimal and temporary, it may not be so to others for whom the stakes may be higher--far higher than we in our juvenile state can possibly comprehend.

in which case, our growing up is no longer a journey of development; it's a journey of carnage. it's no longer about improvement, but degradation. it's no longer about progression, but regression. it's no longer about construction, but destruction. not just for ourselves, but for others around us.

and that means we're not making life better; we're making it worse. instead of working to ease the suffering in the world, we're only acting to be the cause of it.

and by hiding behind the fallacy, behind the excuse, behind the lie, we continue it. we never change, we never grow up, we never become the person we were meant to be.

we just stay young and stupid.

growing up is a journey. it's not always easy. it's not always fun. it's not always pleasant. it is hard--at times impossibly so. it is long--at times unbelievably so. and it is most assuredly uncertain--at times incredibly, insanely, incomprehensibly so.

but that's why there can be no fallacies. no excuses. no lies. no shortcuts.

because the journey leads to one basic truth: at some point, you have to stop dreaming of the person you want to be, and you have to start being the person you want to be.

and that person is not about young and stupid and carnage and degradation and regression and destruction in us and others around us. that person is about making life better. that person is about easing the suffering in this world.

that person is about growing up.

and only by this will you find the greater truths that will ultimately make your life worth living--really living: yourself. this world. and your place in it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

earth hour 2010

well, we're coming up on Earth Hour 2010.

it's not really sports-related, but for those of you with a social (environmental) conscience and aspiring for greater things other than yourself this gives an opportunity for selflessness and a global social cause. let's just say it will appeal to the better aspects of your human nature.

on March 27, 2010, from 8:30-9:30 pm the entire planet will turn off all electrical power for 1 hour as a symbol of a collective call to address climate change.

i wrote about it last year:
this year, it's grown. originally started as a home-grown movement in Australia, it's gone global, with an expectation of hundreds of millions of people participating, whether individually, in organizations and corporations, or in cities and communities. leadership for the cause has been assumed by the World Wildlife Fund, which has created an official website:
they've also made a promotional video, which you can see at

participation really appears to have gone mainstream this year. even in a notoriously non-environmentally-friendly place as Southern California, i'm seeing Earth Hour notices on all Wells Fargo ATM screens. so expectations appear high for greater mass involvement this time.

like i said: for those of you with a concern for greater causes other than yourself, this is about as good as any. and it'll help divert your mind from other, more mundane things towards something a little bit better in terms of a social conscience...and that's something positive in a time when something positive is really really really needed most.

so again:
social causes, greater things in life, better aspects of human nature, positive positive positive vibes: hooray.
selfishness, decadent things in life, degraded aspects of human nature, negative negative negative vibes: boooooo.

the choice is yours, kids. only you can decide what you want to be...and only you can act to make your decision real.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

playlist: lost out again

i'm not going to talk about much here, because there's just not that much worth talking about.

i dropped out of Ironman St. George. yeah. i did. race day 6 weeks away.

i'm dropping out for the same reason any man ever drops out of a race he's been training for over the past few months. i just wasn't feeling it. lacking motivation. how so? for the same reason any man ever loses motivation: woman.

yeah, i know, i shouldn't allow someone to have this kind of impact on my life. but if you've ever been in my situation, you know what i'm talking about.

she forced her way into my life and asked that i believe in her. and i did. but then when i needed her the most, when i needed someone who believed in me just as much as i believed in her, she left. once she got what she wanted, she left. she lied all along. she led me on. i could use words like selfish, dishonest, malicious, but right now, they don't really help.

yeah, i know, at least now i know the truth, and can move on. but if you've ever been in my situation, you know how it feels to have something you thought was real turn out to be false.

it hurts. deep. in ways you can't really describe. and it's really hard to move on when you've had your faith taken from you.

so no, no Ironman for now. i guess i'll make it to my brother's wedding a little bit earlier than i thought. and get to remind myself there of what i've lost.

it's a sad day.

see? not much worth talking about. i guess i'll leave some songs for thought. and try to find my way back to life.

jack's mannequin, resolution:

daphne loves derby, the longest story:

joshua radin, closer:

dashboard confessional, screaming infidelities:

tyler hilton, missing you:

isley brothers, this old heart of mine:

james blunt, same mistake:

i9, 7 days of lonely:

the broken hearts academy, next to me:

daphne loves derby, heartbreak for 6 seasons:

e for explosion, reinvent the heartbeat:

jack's mannequin, mixed tape:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

mary setterholm

Mary Setterholm is one of those unforgettable figures you meet too rarely in life. their stories resonate with a power that only comes with truth and with a significance that only comes with reality, in the way that only happens with messages that speak of human transformation and the depths of our transfiguration.

such things can only be described for what they are, bereft of the baggage of hyperbole, exaggeration, or hype. they are better told direct and concise, so as to reveal in clarity the pathos of the human soul.

when i first came to California there were still stories of Mary Setterholm. they were told as legends, part apocryphal, part rumor, part myth. as part of the lore of surfing before my time. the stories were of a world-class champion and standard-bearer of women's surfing whose trajectory had been meteoric, with a breathtaking rise matched only by an equally breathtaking fall. no one i knew could say whatever happened to her; all they could do was offer murmurs of a message most cautionary, almost tragic.

last year, however, she made news again. but this time, it was not cautionary. it was instead in a far different, far more positive way. you can check out the media reports from the LA Times and PBS' Religion & Ethics Weekly:
apparently, she'd gone through quite a few years of trial and tribulations, with her life taking some difficult turns. according to the news, her adult years were cycles of self-destruction, including a problematic marriage and episodes in prostitution, all of it driven by demons from her childhood.

ultimately, however, she finally managed to find some resolution, enough to construct a life that found her at amends with herself, her faith, and her life. she created a surf program for inner-city children, completed a theology degree at Loyola Marymount, and is now pursuing a graduate program in theology affiliated with Columbia University.

what i find so moving about Mary's story is that she was someone afflicted by so much misery, much of it not of her own making and much of it very much of her own making, but still managed to find her way. she broke the cycle of her own suffering, and in so doing transcended the confines of her own self-destruction and engaged the path of her own self-construction, as painful, confused, unpleasant, awful, mistake-filled, halting, faltering, staggering, falling, flat-out hard as it was...and in the process, became a better human being. by any measure of those words.

which is something i think we all--whether consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly, openly or confidentially--are striving to do. with each thought, with each breath, with each step, with each mile, with each day, with each race, we are all trying to find our way and break past the suffering and transcend the confines of our lives, to come to some understanding of who we are and to some sense of this existence and to some revelation of our place within it, and thereby discover the truths that bind the universe together in the serenity that is silence of things significant and the realization of things that we may come to know the meaning of grace.

as deep as the waters of the human soul which was made in the image of the divine.

it's not a surf story. it's not an endurance sports story. it's a human story.

and that story isn't one about victory over others, but rather victory over our demons, over our tragedies, over ourselves.

it's about what it means to be triumphant.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

the shell of our understanding

psychologists and psychiatrists talk about cognitive dissonance: that humans, when confronted by a reality that does not comport with their own sense of understanding, experience a shock to their psyche, and in an effort to save their own sanity manufacture delusions to suppress the truth and hold on to what they know.

humans, in other words, deny reality. sometimes because of the horrors of the larger world, sometimes because of the irrationality of general society, sometimes because of the banality of the individual mundane, but invariably because of the existentialist crises arising from the disjunctures between what we know to be truth and what we insist on clinging to as fantasy. we generate lies and half-truths, make omissions and denials, become blind and deaf to fabricate a sense of existence that preserves our state of being. all so that we can protect our comfort with the known against our discomfort of the unknown.

in so doing, we hide. we hide within a shell of our own understanding demarcating the confines of our own making that we have chosen to be the limits of our own living. and the more we hide the more we harden our shell and the more we constrict our living, until we encase ourselves in our own tomb.

which is more than just unfortunate; it is supremely tragic.

because outside that shell is a universe, vast and infinite, as bright as the day is high and as bold as the night is deep, replete with sights and sounds and smells and flavors and feelings and forms of color and notes and fragrances and tastes and touch and emotions and experiences and sensations that create the glow of creation's echo and fill the void between the stars that shine as the messages of god's eternity as clear as the symphony that arises in the silence before the coming of the dawn gazing upwards to the heavens that know no end.

and that universe waits for us to speak its name and hear its voice and touch its face and feel its hand and enrich the palate of our lives so that we may come to know it is as we are: alive.

but to do so we cannot hide.

instead, we have to venture forth, beyond the known into the unknown.

and to do that, we have to break the shell of our understanding.

and to do that, we have to go outside our comfort zone.

and to do that, we have to accept our journeys of discovery.

so that with each step, each mile, each landmark, each passage into the furthest reaches of the distance that ultimately lead us to ourselves, we make another chink break another chip make another crack in the shell, until it shatters and divides, and finally frees us.

so that we can spread our wings and fly to the all the ends of all the far horizons that lie across all the senses of existence that grow to the sublime mysteries that pass beyond the known and go to the unknown until there is only the revelation of all that is the supremely sacred and all that is the supremely divine.

so that one day, we'll look back, and see once more the shell from whence we came, and hold it within our hands and look upon it and wonder how, once so long ago, we ever fit within it.

and then we'll know that we can never go back...nor would we ever want to.

and then we'll let it go.

and then we'll turn once more to life.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


one of my more pivotal Ironman experiences came around mile 132 of my 2nd Ironman Arizona.

i'd had a tough race, and struggled most of the day, to the point that i found myself among the stragglers of the marathon leg shuffling painfully past nightfall to beat the cut-off time. it was late and so had become quite dark, with very little light to guide competitors along the course. for the most part, we were left to ourselves, in forlorn gatherings of 1s and 2s and sometimes 3, to make our way by following the whispers of the river in the night.

at some point i came upon an old man on the race course. his body tags identified his age as 63. his body language indicated his state as suffering. he was bent over nearly double, his body at a waivering angle, hobbling, limping along on one leg, at a pace that verged on a pedestrian shuffle on a path that staggered haphazardly across the sidewalk. he made for a disturbing figure, made all the more alarming by the incoherent nature of his response when i greeted him.

i knew something was wrong when we reached a crossroads, and instead of following the clearly marked signs to go left along the shoreline he turned towards the right--especially considering that the way left led to the lights of the finish chute discernible in the distance and the way right led to nothing but darkness.

at that moment, i grabbed a hold of him and pulled him with me. he mumbled something about it being okay to leave him, to which i replied with a soft suggestion that i thought i could use his help and it'd great for me to have his company. i ended up staying with him for the remaining miles, and only left when his family spied him at the start of the finish chute and jumped onto the race course to accompany him home.

it had been no big deal to me. i'd pretty much written my race off in terms of performance, and had made up my mind to just try to enjoy it to the finish line. keeping him with me had been a minor act of charity, and something i figured was more important given his condition.

besides, it's something that i've come to realize is quite common in Ironman and all endurance events. unlike so many other competitive sports, ultra-distance races seem to be much less focused on competition in the sense of overcoming others and much more focused on competition in the sense of overcoming the self. and in that process of reaching some resolution with the self, i've witnessed behavior that can only be described as selfless. in ways that are sometimes surprising and almost always profound.

because the distance, in exposing us to our own selves for the sake of finding our own truths, invariably shows us the nature of our own suffering, and thereby makes us realize that one of the greatest things we can do as creatures of free will and intelligent understanding is to act to reduce that suffering...and, if possible, all suffering. in us and in others.

thing is, i've also come to realize that what is so common to endurance events so often isn't so common in ordinary life. so much of what we see in this world is not about being selfless, but instead about being selfish; so much is not about resolving the self, but about conflict with others; so much is not about ensuring that others reach the finish line, but about ensuring that they don't. and because of this, we never discover our own truths, and learn nothing about the nature of our own suffering, and if anything only serve to perpetuate it. in us and in others.

which is why i've come to view that experience with that old man in the last miles of Ironman Arizona as being so pivotal.

because what i learned is that at some moment in our lives--perhaps every moment in our lives--we are confronted by a crossroads, with a choice to go one way or another. one way is to do the right thing, one way is to do something else. one way guides you on a path, one way carries you astray. one way leads you to the lights of the finish, one way leads you to nothing but darkness. sometimes it's easy to tell the difference between the two, sometimes it's impossible. especially when you're just a solitary figure stumbling alone and blind and senseless and dumb in the suffering of the night.

and it doesn't help that this world, this ordinary world keeping an ordinary life, so often stresses that which asks us to do the wrong thing.

which means that one of the lessons of the distance is that we be more than ordinary, and that we remind ourselves that we can do the right thing. even when there's no thanks, no reward, no recognition, no one to even see, no one to ever know. even if it means we forego our own selves and sacrifice our own race.

so that there may be a revelation of truth that addresses the suffering of this world. in us and in others. together. that accompanies us on our way to some sense of home.