Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

December, 2001

Surfing

Perhaps December is not the most appropriate month to write about surfing. On the other hand, it is one of the few times of the year when only the very serious and dedicated surfers come to the waves.

When I watch surfers, I am inspired by the way they brave the weather and waters, and head straight into the ocean. They don't look back at the beach. They only see what is coming their way.

They paddle for a while on their boards, going up and down and through the waves, until they feel they are far enough into the ocean. And then they focus on the waves and simply wait. They wait until the "right" wave comes their way, and they spot it.

Once they spot the wave, they position themselves, ready to catch it. And then when the time comes, they give it everything they've got. They paddle hard to gain momentum in the direction of the wave, they use the slope and movement of the wave itself, and as soon as they pick up speed, they stand up on their boards and ride the wave with presence of mind, balance and exhilaration.

They ride the wave until either they reach close enough to the shore and the wave can no longer carry them, or until they lose their balance or get knocked down by the wave. They fall in the water, find their board again, and paddle outward into the ocean, for another ride.

But sometimes, when they try to catch the wave, they simply don't gain enough speed and the wave passes them by. What do they do then? They simply turn around and get ready for the next "right" wave.

Other times, they catch the wave, but very early on, they get knocked down or they lose their balance and fall in the water. Again, all they do is find their board and back to position themselves for the next "right" wave.

Whenever I talk to surfers, they talk about the perfect rides. They never talk about how they got knocked down by a wave early on, or how they miscalculated and missed the perfect wave, or how the wave got to the shore too soon and their ride ended. And invariably they talk about the next time they are going to go surfing. The eternal optimists that they are, they know that the ocean will bring the next "right" wave, if only they are willing to surf...

This brought my thoughts to the internet and how we surf the Net. We generally go to our favorite search engines and key in the words that we have in mind. Then we browse up and down the list of the sites that are returned, and from the titles and descriptions we decide to select something to visit.

More often than not, we find the site to be inappropriate. So we hit the back button and try another. Perhaps we refine our search criteria and select something else. We sift through a lot of useless or repetitive information, until we come across something appropriate. We enjoy the site for some time, and then back to visit the next site.

When we are done, we always talk about the great site that we found and how useful and beneficial it was. We rarely, if at all, talk about the irrelevant sites, or the garbage that we had to sift through before we found the gem. The eternal optimists that we are, we know that the internet will provide us the information, if only we are willing to surf through it...

And then I thought of life.

Just like the ocean and the internet, life brings us wave after wave of opportunity and adversity. Life throws a lot of irrelevance and even garbage our way. But life also presents us with the "right" wave, time after time.

Yet in life, it is our human tendency to focus on the garbage and the bruises and the missed opportunities. When we miss a wave, instead of turning back and positioning ourselves for the next "right" wave, we tend to curse ourselves, and the world. We blame fate and circumstances and our parents and our upbringing and the unfairness of society and life itself.

When we miscalculate and get knocked down by a wave early on, we tend to withdraw and feel sorry for ourselves, instead of turning around and moving on to the next "right" wave.

When our perfect ride is over and we have reached the shore on that wave, we tend to sit back and either brag about our perfect ride incessantly, or complain that it finished too soon. That we were just beginning to enjoy it, and it ended... instead of turning around and heading back into the ocean of life.

Why is it that with other things we are the eternal optimists, but somehow when it comes to life itself, we tend to think that there is only one "right" wave for us? Why do we persist with the ocean and the internet, but give up with life? Why is it that when it comes to the wave and the site, we talk about the gems, but when it comes to life, we talk about the trash?

Could it be that we take life too seriously? And is that how we miss the joy and exhilaration of life?

Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
December 2001


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