is professor of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. His books include Assholes (2012), Surfing with Sartre (2017) and the coauthored Money from Nothing: Why We Should Learn to Stop Worrying About Debt and Love the Federal Reserve (2020).
Consider a wave rising from the ocean’s depth, which is about to crest and peel along a reef or beach. What does it take to be carried along by that wave’s natural propulsive force, let alone surf it well, doing turns with speed, power and flow?
Speaking as a surfer myself, I can say that the beginning of wisdom here is to firmly accept one’s limited power over the ocean and its waves. Mother Ocean does as she does, whether I like it or not. And yet I’m not entirely powerless, when I can trust the world enough to act and skilfully react, in a sort of adaptive attunement.
To stay attuned, I’ll pay very close attention to the changing moments of the wave. I’ll try to make the right bodily adjustments as each new moment of the wave presents itself, a shift in weight, a low crouch, a decisive break in one direction and then another. And I’ll just keep doing the next right thing, without thinking too much about it.