Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wisdom From the Acient Masters of Alt.Skate-Board

In the early and mid-90s the Internet was just forming within the public sphere. The concept of modern web "forums" was non-existent. Instead, Usenet and the various alt.___ groups were the initial glue of "internet communities." IRC chat rooms added to this. One such group, the precursor to all modern skateboard internet presence, was alt.skate-board on Usenet and #skate on IRC.

The regular contributors to these two entities actually had a bigger impact on than most would imagine. For instance, prior to becoming a pop icon, Nancy Whang was a regular (I take credit for introducing her to the band Big Black). Richard Wang formed Blair Mag, one of the first popular "web zines" that both celebrated and lambasted pop culture. It is still hilarious in 2015. Rick V. and others went on to form Journal Magazine (now defunct). Lucas Wisenthal went on to become the editor-in-chief or The Ride Chanel. These are just to name a select few people/things that came from the community of alt.skate-board.

I was in my middle/late teens during this time period. Remnants of that cyber-skate culture are still with me today. One of the most memorable components was the writing of Thoai Tran. He wrote a number of brilliant posts on alt.skate-board called Zen and Skateboarding. These were later archived on Dansworld. In the world of modern skateboarding and the Internet, Thoai's writing can easily be lost to time, and more contemporary web sites than Dansworld. Unless of course, you were there when Thaoi first posted his articles, like I was. His writing always stuck with me, like skateboarding, because it is so...pure. Rereading his teachings on Zen and Skating in 2015 illuminates how real wisdom is timeless. His observations are as relevant today as they were in the mid-1990s. Maybe even more so. If you are a skateboarder, then you will immediately see the brilliance that is Thaoi Tran. He wrote 14 installments of Zen and Skateboarding, over the course of a few years. I will eventually post all of them on this blog. For now, I give you the one that started it all off...



A Note from the author

I know.. I know. Call me the biggest Schmuck or geek or loser for trying to correlate skating to life with metaphors and stories. Those of you who may have read some of my writings might have noticed that I am notorious for this... But to many of us (including myself), skating is life...it is the nourishment that keeps my soul fresh and fulfilled..It makes me happy when my days are mediocre and sad. It makes me happier even on my better days. It provides the fulfilment that goes beyond anything this apathetic world can offer.

I will be posting a series of articles, collectively called "Zen," in which I will *attempt* to describe this profound beauty, this harmony with oneself and with the universe whenever I step on that board. Please forgive me if I sound like the biggest loser (I am!) for contributing such writings here, but I hope that you will find my some of my ideas enjoyable to read...and if you enjoy them, drop me a line or few. Ideas or constructive criticisms are always welcome too.

Thank you,
"skate to live...live to skate"

Part One: Autumn Foliage

An impatient skater once cried out to master Ch'an..."I have skated for almost a year now, and yet I can't get any better. I cannot do a kickflip. My ollie is not as high as my friend's. I practice and practice, but I just can't do these tricks. I see all these maneuvers in magazines and videos, and it seems that everybody is doing them...except for me. All these little kids do these complex flips and make them look so easy. I see people doing crazy things down huge flight of stairs. Every other skater is getting better and better, developing more and more intricate tricks with each passing day; but not I! I am so frustrated!"

Master Ch'ian picked up an orange leaf that had fallen from a tree and said:

"This leaf that has fallen down from the autumn skies...does this leaf chose to come down whenever it wants? Why does it wait for this time of the season to change its colors, to lose its green lushness, to fall from the tree that has given it life?"

"Why do the blacknecked geese begin to make their annual migration during this time...and not during the summer or spring? Why must they wait for this exact moment; when, in fact, they have the ability to do it anytime of the year?"

"Time takes its natural course...Just as this leaf is patient to wait for fall to change into its illustrious colors, so you too must be patient when you skate. A trick will blossom into its magnificent colors as inevitably as this fall foliage when you have patience with time...when you build it slowly and perfectly. You cannot backside ollie without first learning to ollie straight...and you cannot ollie successfully if you can't roll away smoothly...Time takes its natural and inevitable course."

"Look at this leaf: it is unique, it is special. It is completely different from the other leaves that surround our feet. There is no other leaf that has the same patchwork of colors, the same patterns of vasculature, the same feel. Your skating should be like this leaf...it should be special and strictly your own. No other person can dictate to you what is beautiful in skating...because beauty is within your own soul. Once you realize this, your skating will blossom as inevitably as this fall foliage."

So spoke Master Ch'ian.

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