Skater Girl

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“Skater Girl”  |  Anthony Satori

When she first showed up at the skate park, everyone thought she was one of the skaters’ girlfriends.  It’s not fair, certainly, but the simple fact is that most skaters are guys.  She didn’t seem to care, though.  She didn’t ask for any special favors.  She just confidently walked out onto the platform and sized up the terrain, leaning her skateboard casually against the side of her leg.  Her expression was steely and focused.  The other skaters whizzed by her with expert speed and indifference.  She just stood calmly, looking out over the drop.  She was taking her time, watching carefully, getting a sense of the rhythm of the place.  Then, when the moment was right, she tightened her pink head-scarf with a tug, placed the tail of her skateboard against the edge, and dropped in.

As she skated, one thing became immediately clear to everyone watching: she was good — really good.  Drop after drop, she continued to more firmly earn her place in the half-pipe the only real way that there is: by bringing it.  After a while, the other skaters began to naturally fold her into the sequence, leaving room and space and time for her to do her thing.  She had done it.  She had been accepted into the eco-system of the skate park.  And, every now and then, after pulling off a particularly difficult maneuver, she would turn to her friends who were watching from the sidelines and yell, “That’s right, I’m a girl!

Dedication, merit, integrity and courage.  These are the measures of a person’s accomplishments, both in the skate park and in life, regardless of your gender, race, or any other superficial classification.  And you don’t have to give up your identity to be in the game.  Be yourself.   Embrace who you are.  Don’t let labels limit you, or hold you back.  Just bring it.  This is the road to becoming a fully-realized, well-rounded human being.  This is the road to success.

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Dropping In

“Dropping In”  |  Anthony Satori

In skate and surf culture, there is something called the “drop in.”  It is when you go directly up to the edge of a half-pipe (or wave), stand on your board, lean your entire body out over the abyss, and then just drop, letting gravity pull you into the slope with full momentum.  It is fast and sudden, and you hit maximum speed almost immediately.  While it might seem dangerous, perhaps even reckless, it is actually one of the most stable ways to start a ride, because a large amount of the stability in skateboarding and surfing comes from forward motion.  Plus, when you drop in, there is no chance for hesitation.  There is no half-way.  It is full focus and full commitment.  Suddenly, all of your decisions become simplified: all that matters is making the most of your ride.

So the next time you are presented with a challenge, an opportunity, or even just the chance to have a new experience… yes, do your homework, make your preparations, and learn all that you can about how you want to proceed… but then, as soon as you’ve done these things, don’t be afraid to simply drop in.  Feel the wind against your face, feel the momentum of gravity pulling you along, feel the exhilaration that comes from unhesitant, unequivocal forward motion.  This is your ride… make the most of it!

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Icarus

"Icarus"  |  Anthony Satori

“Icarus”  |  Anthony Satori

Whoever said that man was not meant to fly must have never been to a skate park.

To see someone get this kind of air on the sheer force of momentum, wheels and skill is exhilarating.  It brings to mind the oft-quoted words of airman and poet John Magee, “I broke the surly bonds of earth, and touched the face of God.”

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American test pilot who tested fighter planes for the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.  His poem High Flight (1941) was inspired by test flights in the U.K. where his task was to fly high-performance planes straight up into the air, as fast and as high as he could, until the engine failed.  He would then recover control of the plane on the way down, restart the engine, and land.  Reaching higher into the sky than probably anyone before them, the pilots who performed these tests certainly had a unique perspective on the heavens.  In fact, the final line of the poem came to Magee just as he was reaching peak altitude of 30,000 feet in a Spitfire Mk1.  Upon safely landing the plane, he returned to his desk and finished writing the poem.  Sadly, only a few months later, during a similar flight test there was a mid-air collision, and, unable to eject because of a mechanical error with the plane’s canopy, Magee died in the crash.  He died doing what he loved, however, and he served the Allies bravely.  He also left us with some immortal lines of poetry.

Interestingly, there is a lesser-known line that Magee also wrote, but which is almost always left out when people quote the poem.  Even though the words as quoted are impactful, the omitted line has always provided an important dimension to the poem’s meaning, for me, so I have decided to include it here for you.  With the additional middle line, Magee’s poem reads,  “I broke the surly bonds of earth, reached out my hand, and touched the face of God.”  [my emphasis]  It seems to me that the reaching out of the hand is a vital part of the act.  We can fly high, yes, but unless we reach out our hand, perhaps we can never hope to touch the face of God.  We should aspire, most definitely, but then we must also take action, take risk, reach out our hand.  It seems to me that there is a very important message contained in this line, namely: the Universe responds to the reach.

So even if we are not leaping through the air on a skateboard, or climbing 30,000 feet in a fighter plane, we can each find inspiration to reach for new heights in our own lives.  And as we do, we should keep this in mind:  It is not the nature of the task, but the quality of the striving, that is of the essence.

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