“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world” (The Beach Boys)


Near Santa Cruz, on beautiful Monterey Bay, there is a marvelous place called Steamers Lane where the accomplished and novice surfers test their skills of balance and timing against the temperamental Pacific Ocean. The rookies jump on their boards too early and the skulking waves pass under foot before cresting behind them and gently rolling them along as if in a wading pool. Other unlucky amateurs rise up too late when the towering wave is in full decent and plunges them with indifference to the craggy rocks below. However, the master surfer dude, by some combination of skill and intuition, recognizes the potency of a wave in the distance and times its ascent perfectly to propel them effortlessly to the shore. “Ride what moves…and move your feet” is rightfully the surfer dude's mantra for becoming part of a greater generative force. Action is the interplay of these forces, the ocean and the surfer, and on occasion unwelcome intruders like tiger sharks, operating in an ancient dance where all participants are beings within a common ecosystem looking to prosper in an environment that decidedly moves towards a greater form of balance.

We cannot control the ocean, those ubiquitous and unseen forces that are more compelling and powerful than ourselves: Science and technology, politics, conflicts, economics, social mores, and such. If there is a storm on the water, or the market, your puny little surf board will be thrashed about until you make landfall intact or not. The ludicrous believe that they will outwit the totality of nature by some special providence, while the naysayers are certain that all maneuvering is futile for in the end we inevitably succumb. Though we see these perspectives as oppositional, they are delusional in the same way. We can engage our ingenuity to make our situation a positive one, but we have a limited ability to change the circumstances. Yes, we must acknowledge the power and presence of the ocean, ride what moves, but we have our agency, our ability to navigate, to move our feet.

If we are to ride the choice waves that propel us to our aspirations our thoughts must flow with the twisting torrents that surround us but are so often missed or even worse dismissed. We must take a higher point of view while never forgetting our precarious and temporal presence in this marvelous and dangerous world.

We all have the capacity to become the surfer dude or dudette with a unique ability to recognize the force and trajectory of our circumstances and employ them for our betterment. We harness these powers by shifting our beliefs, developing new skills, making better plans and choices, and ultimately, taking more effective action. We are the cleverest of adaptors, albeit mostly avowed pedestrians, we walk on water. Still, we have little ability to change others. They too are aquatic dancers looking for their own choice waves.

In order to advance ourselves we must first recognize that which is progressing around us and harness, to the best of our opportunities and abilities, its vitality – to surf where the big waves are rolling in…or will be soon.

We grow when we are connected to the growing world around us.

Jeff DeGraff

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