The current technological superboom has completely changed the way in which we think, plan, act and react.
So much occurs now in such real-time that a new standard of value has been achieved, ramping up our expectations that anything we want must be given to us at this very moment, and that anything that we want to do must happen at a moment’s notice.
Technophobic pundits have posited that this superboom has had the consequence of giving us "new emotions" -- such as the worried feeling we get if the recipient of a text message does not immediately answer a sent text, or the strange new feeling of receiving a letter in the mail and wondering how this person could have gotten our address, and the shifty-eyed paranoia that immediately follows that.
If your computer screen hiccupped for a second before this very article fully loaded, that quick twang of confusion as to why things are so slow is another emotion added to the repertoire.
There has been much talk and recognition about these emotions that we have gained (not really "gained", I guess, but added), yet there has been little discussion about the emotions that we have lost. First and foremost (and this is just my opinion), I believe that the key emotion we are being robbed of is – wait for it – wait for it –
A theory: Our emotion of anticipation has been chipped away bit by bit, and the I-need-to-be-pleased-right-this-second standard has allowed for this unintended consequence.
So why is it that I bring this up in a column primarily about surfing?
Surfing, especially here on fickle Long Beach Island, offers me a dual refuge from the above mentioned "new" mindset and from the very products that have supposedly caused this. Hear me out:
First off, surfing, and just as importantly not surfing, consumes me with such anticipation that it verges on giddy, childlike obsessiveness (this is a good thing).
The surfing community of New Jersey is the collective poster children for lost hope, and yet at the same time we keep ourselves ready with a drop-everything attitude (again, this is a good thing) for when the ocean lights up and gives us these short windows of opportunity to escape this strange new technological and emotional standard.
Secondly, surfing seems to be the only thing I can do – the ocean the only place I can be – where I can escape these bizarre new fangled emotions that the tech superboom has bestowed on us.
Surfing may very well be one of my last remaining vestiges for the guaranteed feeling of anticipation. I anticipate every next swell and the initial sprint down the beach that takes me from terra firma to liquid. I revel in the anticipation that I get from scanning the open and uninhibited horizon, hoping beyond hope that the next bump I see is coming directly my way and will present itself to no one else other than me.
We can’t deny that being totally calm while sitting in the lineup makes our hearts beat just a little faster than the usual land-based resting-heart-rate. This feeling you are feeling out there is, you guessed it: anticipation – to an almost overbearing extent.
Being out of the water robs me of this not-much-discussed emotion, of that mixture of both adrenaline and serotonin (that feel-good brain chemical) that floods my brain at the faintest inkling of new swell or the sight of the next approaching wave that will inevitably be offered directly to me and to no one else.
I think surfing is all about never being completely satisfied. It’s about hovering somewhere around 99 percent satisfaction, and being in a location that can randomly produce swell in a temporally erratic matter keeps us coming back for more time and time again.
To be able to always have something to look forward to, and to be held only to the laws of nature and the incapacity for man to readily produce waves that slam the Eastern seaboard, is to have the chance to always froth at the mouth for the side effects of constant anticipation.
LBI may be incredibly fickle, yes, but by holding on to this sacred emotion of always being a part of the unknown and the uncertain, we gain much more renowned character in the process.
I still get as frustrated as anyone else rightfully does when it comes to how spare our swell can be, and I definitely do not mean to devalue the coveted concept of perfect waves all the time.
All I am really saying is that right now, in the midst of this unprecedented technological overload that feels almost inescapable, maybe our retention of anticipation is what is keeping us sane and more grounded than the next guy.
Perhaps not having surf is ultimately just as good for our heads as finally having it.
Just a thought.