Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Problem Of Evil

Hijo Numero Uno, giving some fingers to all you hypocritical naysayers.

The problem of evil has ever been with us. Leibniz pontificated that, in fact, we are living in the best of all possible worlds as apology for that conundrum, the sort of progressively practical solution that has been pretty much used ever since to justify all sorts of personal and communal insecurities. (And really, as in the Beiber v Bloom, one must really choose a side in the Newton v Leibniz.)(I'll take Leibniz and Bloom thanks.) 

Many mathematicians continually pursue the "all possible worlds" bit of that equation, espousing a kind of multiverse of every conceivable action and its resulting effects, random becoming a by-word for completely predictable in any other given format.

There exists worlds out there in which I might not have just drank half a bottle of rosé with my Sunday bowl of midday pasta; a world in which Hitler would become the heralded (and ultimately tame) Broadway costume designer he secretly dreamed he'd be; a world in which Da Vinci's flying machine successfully launched  the aeronautics (and thus the surf) industry hundreds of years before the Marx Brothers.

This is not that world. And that begs some questions.

There are two enjoyable articles I've read today that approach this co-existential crisis (granted from obtuse angles.) One by Sean Dogherty about surfing hipsterism, the other by Elizabeth Rosenthal about a cultural hucksterism.

Each of these tackles in their way the question of authenticity, in which our entirely complexitized, consumerized and atheisticized culture finds the de rigeuer apelate replacement for that earlier problem of simple badness.

For some time the boiling, roiling point of semiotic no return angry finger pointing barometer has been eking closer to a near total and wantonly broad condemnation of all things hipster. And I see it, I really do. Because what did hipsterism do other than rob me of my self respect as a long-time ukulele plucker; as a long-time collector of stripy sailor shirts; as long time rider of single-fin surfboards? As a 40 year old tattooed guy living in Williamsburg Brooklyn, sporting a sometime beard and a serious alignment with the localvore movement, I am ostensibly a guy with a target on my forehead. And yet with a considerable deficit in knowing exactly what might be actually hip at any moment and the adverse affliction of never wanting to buy anything, I find myself as useless to those who'd gun me down as to those who might presumptively prop me up.

The always engaging Cyrus Sutton reacts to this sort of thing this way:

Within surfing, hipster culture in my opinion often confused and entangled with the DIY culture that started in the punk era. DIY culture is about facing the world as it is, instead of rebelling, hiding or submitting, it's about choosing to participate where appropriate.
It's about being interested, not being interesting.
The fun comes from looking at culture, not as good or evil, but as a game where certain pockets are opening and closing all around us. In our frantic march for progress and marketing's decades long propensity to celebrate the newest and best there's a lot of these pockets which if re-engaged can be inhabited and worked to create a more diverse, interesting and joyful world.
Pro surfing as it progresses is becoming increasingly formulaic. The boards break quickly and need to replaced, good waves need to be traveled to, food devoid of chemicals need to be purchased, trainers, gyms, contests, free time... All of this isn't going to stop kids who really love surfing but who've might not have had the support or resolve to jump through all of the above hoops from giving their best to surfing. And this is what you are seeing today- kids who can shape their own equipment, respect bodysurfing, as much as trimming and noseriding, as much as carving and doing big airs. They are doing this by defining for themselves what is good surfing and striving to raise themselves to that standard.
I'm glad I live in a time when these surfers are supported to explore areas of the surfing experience that the contest thoroughbreds need to overlook in order to achieve their specific performance goals. The truth is that most of these kids don't care whether their inspiration comes from Mick in a red singlet at J Bay, or the old vegan bodysurfer dawn patroller down the street.
Hipster culture, from what I've observed has always been preoccupied with rebelling against a flawed system through an obsessive tendency to define themselves through every purchase. It's about the result more than the process. To me it's sad that subcultures are always celebrated and then judged in the popular eye as the actions of each generation's most self-absorbed participants.
I just hope my kids have surfing in their lives, and that along with other immersions in nature, it helps them to connect them with their gifts and serve as a jumping off point for exploits that aren't exploitive as generations prior.

Me, I'd probably just as soon (or maybe not so soon) return to my musical roots listening to my dad's cassette favorites as we'd head up the Cascades for one of our weekends of skiing. A couple of admittedly cheesy, perfectly tuned classics that might just explain what it is I'm talking about in the most embarrassingly self-revealing way possible:

In the end I can only appeal to evolution to make it all make sense. I can't second guess anything as everything has been given. Thank the mathematicians for that one.


Anonymous said...

If this was any gooder, it'd be worse...

EditorialBoard said...

I reckon that means I stopped at the right moment, or I never should have started.