Monday, October 9, 2006

Taking risks

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Writers have for a long time described the extreme nature of surfing big waves. For example, Mark Twain in Roughing It, “It did not seem that a lightning express train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed.” Herman Melville in Mardi, “Snatching them up, it hurries them landward, volume and speed both increasing, till it races along a watery wall, like the smooth, awful verge of Niagra.” Jack London in The Cruise of the Snark, “Why, they are a mile long, these bull-mouthed monsters, and they weigh a thousand tons, and they charge in to shore faster than a man can run.” Drew Kampion in The Book of Waves described a big wave rider as “like a matador to an avalanche”.

Big waves as the forces of life itself. Sometimes bearing down, at other times careering us forward as if floating on air. Big waves directing us through life’s mysteries. Longfellow wrote, “’Wouldst thou’ – so the helmsman answered.- / ‘Learn the secret of the sea? / Only those who brave its dangers / Comprehend its mystery!’” Kampion points to Rainer Maria Rilke: “We are the bees of the invisible. / We distractedly plunder / the honey of the visible in order to / accumulate it within / the golden hive of the invisible.”

We don’t all need to be big wave riders. But they can teach us not to fear the unknown. To rise to the challenge and see the benefits of taking some risks. To feel alive. To realise that through acts of courage, facing fear, insight can flourish. In You Should Have Been Here An Hour Ago, Phil Edwards explained the need for “controlled danger” in the modern age of health and safety: “There are, as you read this, uncounted millions of people who now go through life without any sort of real, vibrant kick. The legions of the unjazzed…The answer is surfing.”

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