So, as I may have mentioned, I recently rediscovered an extremely cool little skateboarding clip right out of my past: Mr. Kirchart and Mr. Klein tearing up the night dressed in Armani suits, all set to Queen’s “Under Pressure”.
This piece of unadulterated epic is taken from Birhouse’s “The End” skate film. Vintage. I’m talking 1999 VHS here. As a group of friends, we watched this tape (thanks Clinton!) probably half a hundred times, and this section was always our favorite. Understandably, when I saw it again after ten years, I got a bit misty-eyed, especially since I never did make good on my threats to join the skateboarding fraternity while in high school.
So, in a fit of perhaps ill-advised impulsiveness brought along by a quarter-life crisis, I went out that very next day and bought myself a starter board, along with the necessary padding and helmet to (hopefully) not kill myself. After some quick YouTube instruction, I suited up and headed to the nearest skate friendly area (which is surprisingly quite a challenge). All alone in the park on a Sunday morning, I took my first tremulous steps onto a slippery piece of wood as wide as a CD tray and not nearly stable enough for my (thusfar) landbound legs. With a few tentative jabs of my right leg (apparently, I’m “regular footed” which means that my left foot stays forward on the board while the other pushes me along), I was off and rolling, wobbling like a lime jelly.
After managing to ride in at least a nominal straight line, and with my confidence growing ever so slightly, I pointed my board in the direction of a gentle ramp, eager to see what I could do. It turns out that while I was not yet any good at skateboarding, I was exceedingly skilled at slipping and crashing to the ground shoulder first. Did I mention the parking lot was abandoned? It was at about this time that I was incredibly grateful that it was so.
As I lay on the ground, certain I had dislocated something (my ego at the very least), I wondered what the hell I was doing. A 26 year old man with no ball skills and zero physical aptitude taking up an extreme sport like skating? I was just going to hurt myself! This board was just an expensive mistake that would gather dust in my cupboard. I was ready to pack in my skateboarding career after less than thirty minutes.
But then something strange happened. I got back up. I retrieved my errant deck. Gingerly, I set a foot in its center, laying in a course over a long, flat piece of tarmac. I pushed off… And spent the next two hours tooling around, barely noticing the time go by. Did I almost fall a bunch more times? Yes. Even went down again. Did I steer well clear of anything NOT perfectly level, smooth ground? Most assuredly. I probably looked like a complete idiot as I wobbled my way around and around. Did I care? Hell. No.
Since then, I’ve been out skating every few days, grabbing an hour here and there. Slow progress is being made, and while I doubt I’ll ever be one with the board, or pull off a triple kickflip (look it up ), I’m enjoying it more and more. Cross one off the bucket list then!
Is there a point to this little tale? Not really, but if you take anything from this it would be to go for it. Whatever you want to do, or wanted to do, the time is now. Today is never coming back.
Also. Really cool clip huh?
Ah yes nostalgia. “Back in the good old days things were better yaddayaddayadda.” We immediately picture a curmudgeonly old man on his veranda yelling at the neighbourhood kids to get out of his yard. But is this really accurate? Is nostalgia truly the sole preserve of the age advanced? I don’t think so.
Sometimes, we get ambushed by a photo, a phrase, some video on YouTube, a snatch of music, and suddenly we’re back in whatever era of our lives we think were the best. For me, this is high school. Good old Brandwag, straight out of Benoni. Five years of friends, fun, memories and blissful irresponsibility. High school is where my best friend became my best friend, where we pranked teachers, where I had my first serious crush (ahh Janine…).
Where my university degree years are largely a blur of trivial memories, and where the ones that stuck with me are sometimes horrible, my school memories are crystal and distinct. Ninth grade and the epicness that was ten player handball. Tenth grade and the War of the Bench, veldschool, and the beginnings of our five year Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Eleven and our legendary holiday in Mosselbay. Matric and the incredible school spirit our year had. The list goes on and on.
Perhaps the only thing about school that I regret, the thing that I was too close to the forest at the time to see, is that I didn’t DO more. Sports, parties, hell-raising… I was never the most adventurous student, and the things I missed out on still leave a bitter taste whenever I think on it too long. I’ll never be able to break into the school on the weekend and skateboard with my three best friends. There probably won’t be any more fifty person house parties that will last until 4AM for me to go to. The odds of me getting into a stage production of any kind are exceedingly low.
I’m not saying life right now is bad. It’s not. In fact, it’s looking a lot better by the day. I just got a new job (that’s halfway to my dream one). I can actually talk to women now (ok, like 50% of the time). I just bought a skateboard (more on that next week). If I had a choice though… 1 January 1999 baby. Have it all over again. If I were prone to depression, nostalgia would be my worst enemy, paralysing me in an endless loop of regret and longing. As it is, I sometimes think the best bits of my life are in the past, and that I missed out on many of them. Quite a shocking attitude for a dashing young man of 26 don’t you think?
Best not to dwell. That way madness lies.
I did a double take, the marker hovering in place above the whiteboard.
The puzzled expressions on my class’s faces told me that no, they weren’t just messing with me. They genuinely had no idea what the off-hand comment concerning looming exams I had just made was referring to. Out of thirty-odd bright young medical students, not a one had an inkling of the significance of the day, nor its meaning in modern culture. How was this possible? In an age where every person has access to almost limitless information, how could one be so limited?
“What’s the point?” I hear you cry (or maybe not). “Why would medical students know about prominent dates in World War 2?”
That, I’m afraid, is the wrong question to ask. See, it’s not about knowing the history, the war, or the date. Not to me at least. It’s about knowing the impact that it had on the Western psyche, the way it shaped our world, our culture. It’s not about this one day, this one reference, but about all the small things that brought us to this point. The things we take for granted. The things every one knows. D-day, to be or not to be, the apple falling on Newton’s head, being as smart as Einstein…the little references that litter our every day lives. Call it historical pop culture if you will. And its passing us by more and more. The anecdote above is just one of many such experiences I’ve had in my time. I’d wager a guess that this is a by-product of modern education. Not so long ago, it was taken as read that one would be exposed to classical history, literature, Latin and philosophy as part of your formal education. Much of this has fallen by the wayside in modern times, where we focus on covering the bare minimum in our schools, learning only that which directly applies to a subject. In math, you learn about Pythagoras as only a mathematical relation, never about the man himself. In English we rush through Shakespeare’s plays as fast as possible, cramming set questions and formulaic answers in order to pass standard tests. Even this is being left behind as classical literature is being substituted more and more by ‘alternative’ curricula (Short stories. Yuck. Give me a break). Never do we stop and question where the knowledge we are stuffing into our brains comes from, who its originator was, nor how it fits into a bigger picture.
I’m not saying that one should know everything about a subject, nor that we should go back to ancient schooling systems and superfluous subjects (Latin IS a bit situational dontcherknow). What I am suggesting is that by focusing almost exclusively on the bare essentials in our education, we are doing ourselves and the world a disservice. What I am suggesting is that we need to cultivate curiousity in our daily lives, the desire to know more. The NEED to know more. How can one truly understand something if you do not know at least a bit of its background? How can you truly understand yourself if you don’t know anything about where you came from? And how can you ever appreciate all the delicious in-jokes and catchphrases that a wide knowledge base affords if your mind is never exposed to it? That’s why I feel that Wikipedia is God’s gift to mankind. Instant background knowledge at the touch of a button. It’s just sad that nobody seems to use it. For my own part, I will continue to quote obscure poetry and quotes on Facebook, to write trivia on my students’ class notes, to attempt to plow my way through the complete works of William Shakespeare, and to know as much as I can about everything. It’s what makes me human.
Hmmm. Bit of a disjointed post there. Apologies. Taking me a while to get back into writing cohesively. Technical reports don’t count… Until later, stay frosty.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein
To keep you (my non-existent readers) tided over until I get some real content up, here’s a breakdown of what I envisage the next few blog posts to contain!
First off, there will be a discussion on the well rounded mind, and the loss of knowledge concerning things that were once taken for granted. Call it an indictment of modern education and you won’t be far wrong, but it will go further than that, delving into the obligation, nay, need to know more about our world and ourselves.
On a lighter note, I feel a Geekout coming on, so I’ll be writing about the mystery topic that’s gotten my undivided (almost) attention lately. After that, it’s right down the serious path again with some thoughts on nostalgia and how the past comes around to hit you with a large hammer upside the head when you least expect it.
Until then, jog on.
I finally bit the bullet and started a blog! Yes, it totally stole its title from Deus Ex : Human Revolution. Since Eidos probably stole the title from anthropology, I don’t feel in the least ashamed. Plus it’s really cool…
So. What will this blog broadcast into the wide world yonder? Profound insights? Life changing articles? Commentary that makes you go “He has a point…”?
Perhaps. But probably not. Mostly it’s going to be about things that matter to me today (but maybe won’t tomorrow). So buckle up. It should at least be entertaining.