The only thing Buddha-like about me is my belly, but sitting in Starbucks tapping thoughts into my iphone Notes app I achieve a somewhat altered state. I string together letters and words and sentences that come across as wisdom, or at least that’s what some extremely wisdom-deprived people have told me. Somehow, my ideas have made people who don’t ordinarily think, think. Incredibly, this has all happened not because I did something, but because I quit doing something. As I’ve learned recently, the quitting=enlightenment equation is no coincidence.
“In order to understand something clearly, one must first give it up.” This is the closing line of Turtle Feet, a memoir I just read about a piano prodigy who quit Berklee College of Music to become a monk in India. Had I been given the book prior to this year, I may not have made it beyond the first chapter. It happened to be introduced to me at a time I could grasp the concept, and I devoured the whole thing, thinking at times of Dylan’s line, “Every one of those words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal, pourin’ off of every page like it was written in my soul.” Well, not every word rang true, but at least two of them did – I quit.
Not surfing has given me nothing if not perspective. (That sentence was a triple negative, which is okay. I checked.) What I’ve replaced surfing with has turned out to be writing. Not quite as good of a physical workout as surfing, I’ll admit, but it’s more exercise than “monking,” whatever that entails. Through this blog, and the contemplation that goes into it, I understand surfing in a way I never did before, and never could have while I was neck deep in my 3/2 fullsuit.
The question that keeps popping into my mind, right after Do any of the girls who hit Starbucks in workout wear ever actually make it to the gym?, is Why am I not surfing? Like Buddha, who allegedly vowed to sit under the bohdi tree until he discovered the truth, I refuse to vacate my seat until I find the answer.
This is where the wisdom of Turtle Feet struck home. “Suddenly it occurred to me,” author Nikolai Grozni wrote, “how incredible it was that, despite having free will, people were often incapable of altering the course of their lives or even straying from a purely circumstantial narrative.” Which is the sentiment that led me to consider emerging from the primordial Atlantic ooze. He went on, “In a world where some people didn’t live past thirty, and the entire human population was recycled every hundred years, there had to be something that could account for the widespread clinging to prefabricated narratives, or the universal penchant for repetition. I didn’t have to be the person everyone expected me to be.”
This was news to me. I leapt from my seat, or at least my insides did. My body, anchored by the aforementioned Buddha belly, only jiggled. Prefabricated narratives! Penchant for repetition! I didn’t have to be the person everyone expected me to be! Nokolai Grozni, you’re speaking my language.
Quitting surfing and becoming a monk never crossed my mind. Besides, brown is such a blah color. Instead, I took to blogging since I can do it in my underwear. Still, we have that whole contemplation thing in common. Does the fact that some pianist dude had a thought that was sort of like mine mean anything? Does it validate my decision to quit surfing? Not in the slightest. But at least I’m not the only guy to abandon something really cool in favor of sitting around and thinking about stuff.
I’d love to go beyond the shallow issue of why I quit, to flip the question into Why WAS I surfing? But my cup is empty and I can only sit here for so long pretending I’m doing something important. I may have stopped surfing, but other prefabricated narratives (family, work, Starbucks) aren’t so easy to quit.