“Do you think your Wu Tang sword can defeat me?”
And so begins the greatest album to rip a concrete bowl on 100 degree summer days. There’s something about early 90’s hip hop and late-90’s skateboarding that combines to create something sublime. Playing this album on repeat on an absurdly primitive mp3 player, and I could skate ten hours straight .. I reached a zone in those days, very close to what Dierdre McCloskey meant by “flow”:
“In fact, the “positive psychology movement” created in the ’90s by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (I will just call him “Mike”) and Martin E.P. Seligman and now hundreds of other psychologists do useful research on the good life with full attention to what we know. It is “positive,” concerned with psychological strengths, as against the steadily growing number of alleged weaknesses (once homosexuality, now still gender crossing) proposed in successive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Mike, for example, discovered around 1974 that good lives involve what he calls “flow,” the absorption in a task just within our competence: “in the zone,” as we say, or indeed “feeling flow,” which is how he came up with the word. I remember him in the early ’70s explaining to me his technique for spotting it, by having people carry pagers, a recent invention, which Mike would randomly activate and have the subject write down in a notebook what she was doing and thinking right at that moment. Brilliant. The idea of flow has been fruitful as science, and it deeply acknowledges the humanities, too. The researchers have mercifully never attempted in a Benthamite manner to compare the amounts of flow achieved by Roger Federer at break point with the flow achieved by Miles Davis on Kind of Blue.”
It’s worth reading her entire essay, “Happyism“, because it captures the state of mind that emerges from those difficult-yet-doable tasks where true happiness emerges.
My point, I think, is that “flow” in an unknown concept today, in this age of digital instant gratification and the social validation feedback loop that’s been hijacked by Big Tech, as Sean Parker presciently, and ominously, observed. Our tech has become a crutch we can turn to when things become too boring, or too hard. We prefer to avoid pain when possible, and tech, social media, and the internet has become the perfect outlet to avoid that previously inescapable boredom, which is actually a crucial experience for the development of our psyches.
Strapping on the headphones as I lower to the ground a miracle of engineering; the 7.5″, double kick tail with Destructos, Bones Reds, four black Pigs, and Black Magic grip (has there been any man made creation that becomes so much an extension of our physical selves?). The back truck locks over the lip of a concrete bowl, 110 degrees. I start the music, lean in, become vertical, and weightless, and in that very instant I believe I descended into the Self, and the universe blinked out of existence. It was only me, my board, and Flow, an endless ballet in an endless concrete inferno. Who experiences that today?
The point of this post, if there is one, is that true happiness lies in Flow. Or at least that ‘Flow’ is essential to living a fulfilling life. And the bigger point I’m apparently trying to make is that opportunities to experiencing Flow are diminishing, due directly to the galloping advance of instant technological gratification. Yet I don’t want to do away with the internet, or gadgets, or anything else. It’s a tool for some, but a vice for most. Or a drug.
Who feels as Ishmael did? The real Ishmael, not the long-winded commie ape who bought into the population-bomb propaganda that an alarmingly large number of people regard as “deep”. That monkey could never have spoken as his namesake, who said, “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”
We should lose the ape and return to Ishmael the sailor, the one who embarked on a voyage with a madman, not the one content to sit in a cage.
And this is what happens when I attempt to write at 3am, to the sound of my quasi-silent guardian, a snoring pit bull, who for some reason has one ear always cocked, and probably one eye always open. I shall leave it as is.
Rantings and ravings can be sent to email@example.com. I have a feeling I’ll never get to working out the comments section.