Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 2)

                                  The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 2)

See this post for introduction.


We join seven steal balls together in a bearing
but it is the center hole
that allows us to roll;

We shape concrete into a pool
but the emptiness inside
is what we occupy

We hammer wood for a DIY
but it is the space between features
that make it skateable

We work with Being,
but non-Being is what we skate.


Colors (of graphics) blind the eye.
Sounds (of grinds) deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts (of skating) weaken the mind.
Desires (to improve) wither the heart.

The Master skates, and observes, the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His Stoke is open as the sky.


Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the Session as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the Stoke as your self;
then you can care for all that skateboarding offers.


Look for the Stoke, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.

Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease on your board, and in your own life.
Just realize where your skating first came from; The Original Stoke.
This is the essence of wisdom.


The first skaters were profound and subtle.
Their Stoke was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it.
all we can describe is their appearance.

They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unrolling
till the right line arises by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
he is present in the session, and welcomes all things.


Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate skater in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where your skating first came from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Stoke,
you can deal with whatever a session, and life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.


When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
skaters say, "Amazing:
we made a DIY, all by ourselves!"


When the great Stoke is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the community falls into chaos,
competition and comparison are born.


Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won't be any thieves.

If these three aren't enough,
just stay at the center of the bearing*
and let all things roll on their course.

*See Chapter 11


Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value the trends, tricks, and style that others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a product toss.
I alone don't care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don't know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary skaters.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke (Part 1)

                             The Tao Te Chin(g) of Skateboarding: A Guide to Stoke

     The Tao Te Ching is a mind-blowing piece of Eastern literature and philosophy. It was written circa 6th century BCE, and speaks to the true nature of the universe, and humans’ place within it. In English the title roughly translates as “The Book of the Way of Virtue.” Anyone who has ever ridden a skateboard, and read the Tao Te Ching, will observe that the Tao also speaks to some of skateboarding’s deeper “spiritual” aspects. In turn, these are guidelines for a meaningful existence. For a long time I’ve wanted to revise the original Tao text into a skater’s version of the Tao. This post is the first part of that project. The original Tao has 81 “chapters,” which are more like short poems. I will post these in groups of ten chapters at a time (e.g. one post containing ten chapters). My adaptations are all based off Stephen Mitchell’s translation from the original Chinese, should anyone want to compare the original translation to mine. On this note, where Mitchell uses the word Tao, I use the word “Stoke.”  Once I have completed/posted all 81 chapters, I hope to compile all of them into a ‘zine or booklet format. I’ll burn that bridge to the ground once I come to it.  

NOTES ON SEQUENCING: When it comes to the Tao/skateboard comparison, parts of the Tao text almost rewrite itself. Other parts are much harder, if not impossible, to correlate to skateboarding without twisting, torturing, and bending the meaning of the original text. In such spots, I have no intention of distorting the original meanings by forcing a square peg (skateboarding) into a round hole (the Tao). For now, those chapters will not be included in my adaptation. I may rework them at some point in the future, but I do not want a few tough chapters to hold up the entire project. If a chapter is omitted, I will make note of it in my posts.

Onward we go…


The stoke that can be told
is not the eternal Stoke.
The session that can be named
is not the eternal Session

The unnamable first trick of a child is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from competition, you realize the mystery.
Caught in competition, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all skateboarding.


When people see a style as beautiful,
others become ugly.
When people see tricks as good,
others become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short grinds define each other.
High and low ollies depend on each other.
Before and after a session follow each other.

Therefore, the Master
skates without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
New tricks arise and he lets them come;
some tricks disappear and he lets them go;
He has but does not possess,
skates but does not expect.
When his session is done, he forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.


If you oversteem great skaters,
others become devalued.
If you overvalue certain styles,
others begin to emulate, and lose their own essence.

The Master skates
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
And toughing their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,
And everything will roll into place.


The Stoke is like a skatepark:
Used but never used up.
It is like an endless curb:
Filled with infinite possibilities.

It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.


The Stoke does not take sides;
it gives birth to all forms of skateboarding.
The Master does not take sides;
he skates all that is before him.

The Stoke is like an unridden deck:
It is unused, yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold to the center.


The Stoke is sometimes called Chin,
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite sessions.

It is always present within you.
You can use it at any skate spot, in any way, you want.


The Stoke is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desire for itself;
thus it is present for all skaters.

The Master stays behind;
that is why he is ahead.
He is detached from all skate trends;
that is why he is one with skateboarding.
Because he has let go of himself,
he is perfectly fulfilled.


The supreme good is like a curb,
that nourishes all skaters without trying to.
It is content with the low, gutter-places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Stoke.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work and skating, do what you enjoy.
On your board, and in family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t skate to compare or compete,
everybody will respect you. 


Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after fame, money, and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval of your skating
and you will forever be their prisoner, and the true Stoke
will never be found.

Skate your session, then step back, and roll away.
The only path to serenity.


Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original Stoke?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love skaters and lead a DIY project
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand the Stoke in all things?

Giving birth to, and nourishing, your skating,
having style and tricks without possessing them,
skating without expectations,
leading and not trying to control;
this is the supreme virtue of the Stoke.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

29 Years of Wall Rides

These two wall rides photos were taken 29 years apart. One was in 1988. The other was taken today, in 2017. When I think about the 30+ years of joy that my skateboard(s) have given me, I am humbled in gratitude that I have been so lucky to have been doing it this long. Find what you love, and follow it to the grave.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Life Parable From Skateboarding

I went skating tonight w/two friends. Didn't have much energy. We were just tooling around at a basketball court doing flatland. Seemed like it was taking me *forever* to get warmed-up, and pull any of my "warm-up" tricks. None of them were coming consistently. Noticed a trash can in the corner. Pulled it out, and laid it down. Took me a few tries get a clean ollie over it. Not a good sign. Likewise with f/s 180s.

For some totally unknown reason, despite feeling really sluggish, despite not skating all that well so that session, and despite the fact that I hadn't done one over anything that large in almost 20 years, I decided to try a b/s 180 ollie over the trash can. First try, I chickened out, and was like "Old man, there is no fucking way you're ever doing a b/s 180 that high/big again. That ship sailed a looong time ago." A few minutes later, I was riding away from one, as clean as can be. 

Skating, and life, work in mysterious ways. You never know what you will, and will not, be able to do on any given day. I wouldn't have it any other way. Go with the flow, and be glad you're still rolling.