“The world is its own magic.”
My earliest memories as a child have never left me; colourful. I grew up in a village somewhere in the creeks of the Niger-Delta, surrounded by exotic water creatures and the sweet smell of fresh wood been felled on a cool harmattan evening. Those images have never left me. I would remember walking around the pond in our backyard, through the rain, transfixing my attention on the bright yellow tip of the cane pole, for when it moved, it was a call to action in the anticipation of an acquisition—frisky tilapia and the occasional foul tempered bass.
I learned early that our world is as alive as we are, animated by the dynamic signs of energy at work. All life continues from life and gives chase to that which is most active. Nature pursues what moves and derives from it power, progeny or pleasure. This is the essence of fishing…and meaningful creative endeavours. Rural life taught me that a successful outing starts with wishful thinking but is reliant upon our ability to anticipate, attract and act on that which is already animated. To believe otherwise is to be victim of coincidence or perpetrator of outrageous fortune. We are part of nature which compels us to go with it and grow with it.
It was The Beach Boys who sang, “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.” I have never surfed (and probably never will) in my life, but I find it fascinating. I have been able to learn some lessons as I watched accomplished and novice surfers test their skills of timing and balance against the temperamental ocean.
The amateurs jump on their boards too early and the skulking waves pass under foot before cresting behind them and gently rolling them along as if in a wading pool. Other unlucky novices rise up too late when the towering wave is in full decent and plunges them with indifference to the steep rocks below. However, the master surfer dude, by some combination of skill and intuition, recognises the potency of a wave in the distance and times its ascent perfectly to propel them effortlessly to the shore.
Action is the interplay of these forces, the ocean and the surfer, and on occasion unwelcomes intruders like tiger sharks, operating in an ancient dance where all participants are beings within a common ecosystem looking to prosper in an environment that decidedly moves towards a greater form of balance.
We cannot control the ocean, those ubiquitous and unseen forces that are more compelling and powerful than ourselves: Science and technology, politics, conflicts, economics, social mores, and such. If there is storm on the water, or the market, your puny little surf board will be thrashed about until you make landfall intact or not. The ludicrous believe that they will outwit the totality of nature by some special providence, while the naysayers are certain that all manoeuvring is futile for in the end we inevitably succumb. Though we see these perspectives as oppositional, they are delusional in the same way. We can engage our ingenuity to make our situation a positive one, but we have a limited ability to change the circumstances. Yes, we must acknowledge the power and presence of the ocean, ride what moves, but we have our agency, our ability to navigate, to move our feet.
If we are to ride the choice waves that propel us to our aspirations our thoughts must flow with the twisting torrents that surround us but are so often missed or even worse dismissed. We must take a higher point of view while never forgetting our precarious and temporal presence in this marvellous and dangerous world.
We all have the capacity to become the surfer dude or dudette with a unique ability to recognise the force and trajectory of our circumstances and employ them for our betterment. We harness these powers by shifting our beliefs, developing new skills, making better plans and choices, and ultimately, taking more effective action. We are the cleverest of adaptors, albeit mostly avowed pedestrians, we walk on water. Still, we have little ability to change others. They too are aquatic dancers looking for their own choice waves.
In order to advance ourselves we must first recognise that which is progressing around us and harness, to the best of our opportunities and abilities, its vitality—to surf where the big waves are rolling in…or will be soon. We progress when we are in sync with the generative forces all around us.
Joseph E. Parker now spends his time in a transformational leadership think-tank, TheReposition in Benin City. You can follow him on Twitter: @JosephEParker
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