The Philosophy of Learning
“All men by nature desire knowledge.” -Aristotle
An early Greek philosopher once said, “Change is the most consistent reality.” When I first heard this statement of truth, it didn’t sit well with me. Long story short, my life up to this point has been one big swirl of profoundly damaging and constant change. In fact the extent of my reality, as compared to the expected reality of a nineteen year old girl, would fill a pretty big nutshell.
Now, bear with me. This isn’t a sob story. I’m simply putting into perspective my journey from rejecting change and seeing it as a bad thing, to receiving it as an opportunity for knowledge and dodging the complacent and ignorant route I could have taken instead.
I grew up rejecting any sort of change. Wherever change was most prominent, my parents’ decision to run was not far behind. I was easily influenced by hopeless attempts to stop time, because as a child, the effort was effective as long as my family stayed together. Rather than encouraging healthy responses to the different seasons of life, I was inadvertently trained to see any change as a horrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. As a consequence of my parents’ inability to resist the current, my life was interrupted by the blunt reality of homelessness, alcoholism and death. For a long time, I was under the impression that these were things that just happened, and that I would simply have to deal with the lack of closure I was left with from all three. I was young and naive, relying on television dreams to paint a false reality for me. So no matter where I turned, I had a skewed perception of change. I was either told to run away or wait for prince charming to come fix my life. Now that I’m a little bit older, I’ve become a little bit more aware of the world around me. I know that embracing change is not only logical, but essential.
It seems a bit dramatic to say that surfing saved my life, but to say that it changed my life is undeniable.
The day I began to surf marks the day that I began to embrace the philosophy of learning. To me, this means evaluating each aspect of your life, and in turn, learning how to find meaning and depth in everything you do. You may have read my first article, “What The Ocean Taught Me”, where I wrote about the expectations and inhibitions I had when learning how to surf, and the lessons I learned as a result of having those expectations and inhibitions. Although these lessons were important in shaping my personality as a surfer, their true significance lies in their ability to shape my character as an individual.
If there is one thing I’m really bad at, it’s being vulnerable. This doesn’t mean I’m not vulnerable, it just means I have a really hard time accepting myself when I feel that way. Growing up, I had this false sense of control over everything. I had to feel like I was on top of things, like I had the upper hand in every situation; otherwise I was overtaken by anxiety and left with unbearable insecurity. This was the first lesson I learned from surfing. My feelings of vulnerability in the Ocean are symbolic of those feelings in my everyday life. The only difference is that I can’t even pretend I have control over the Ocean. I can’t just put on my strong face and make the situation lighter, because then I just get smacked over the head by a wall of water, and I’m brought back to the reality that I’m still in the hands of a force greater than I am. This is the aspect of surfing that molded my ability to analyze a situation and determine whether or not I am in control of the outcome, rather than constantly acting like I am.
I know now that being vulnerable is not a bad thing in the right situation. Certain people can be trusted with certain things, and even if opening up doesn’t turn out to be the best possible decision, it doesn’t change the fact that you decided to be real with someone or something. I think that people tend to forget that tragedy can create strong character if you allow it to. Feeling uncomfortable feelings makes you a stronger and more sympathetic person, and getting through them makes you more patient. But if you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable, you’ll never learn from tragedy.
This is a fork in the road that everyone has to come to at some point: the one where you decide whether you’ll open up and allow pain and discomfort to teach you important lessons, or stay closed off and let bitterness take its course. If you’re wondering whether you’ve come to this point, the Ocean can and will boldly bring you to this fork in the road, but it will do so in the same way that a mother would discipline her child: lovingly. And that will not leave you disappointed.
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- Hand-In-Hand: How Surfing and Meditation Bring Me to the Present Moment - July 15, 2014