You can find beauty in many places. I find it in a body crashing to the pavement.
A few years back, I moved into “The Beach House” which is directly across from the skatepark on Shorefront Parkway and Beach 91st Street. Every day, I witness something that gives me hope for the future. I witness a reminder of the beauty of the human spirit. Every skater in the park, male and female, is usually attempting a move that they have not yet mastered. They are challenging themselves to be better. Even if it means crashing down on the unforgiving cement. Over and over. I remember waking up at 3:30 a.m. and looking out the window. There was a young man out in the skate park, and I could tell he wasn’t very good, but he was out there trying. The next night I woke up again at 4 in the morning and he was out there again. Every couple of nights for a week I would see him, and I realized that he was probably embarrassed to go in the daytime and worked on it every night under the cover of darkness.
For the skateboarders, all the moves that they wanted to learn six months ago, and finally achieved, is a part of them now. But it is never enough. They want to go higher, faster, more flips and twists of the skateboard. They move on to the next move and pay the price in blood, scrapes, and bruises. But it doesn’t deter them. In the 2001 movie Dogtown and Z Boys, the documentary follows the evolution of skateboarding as skating pioneers pushed the perceived limits of what can be done on a piece of wood and steel wheels.
These lessons are not limited to skateboarding. Think of the evolution of skiing, from downhill racing to snowboarders and halfpipes. They fly through the air, with the greatest of ease. Think of basketball from the set shot to Doctor J to Michael. The human spirit drives us to be better, to do more. Our imaginations are our only limit.
The lessons are not limited to sports either. We have rovers on Mars. The Voyager I and II are still sending us images from interstellar space 40 years after we launched them. The James Webb Space Telescope is a million miles away sending us pictures from billions of years ago and the creation of our universe.
Reading the papers can be discouraging. In a society that demands instant gratification, trophies for all, there is no need for improvement. But watching out my window gives me hope. For these kids, failure is unacceptable. Failure is an opportunity to grow. If you are willing to do the work and get a little scraped up in the process. Maybe it’s time to lace up my old skates.