Sunday, August 06, 2006

Getting introspective "West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief"

I first met Steven Kotler in the late 80s. I had asked our mutual friend Wahru to introduce us and I still remember a few bits and pieces of our first conversation. In spite of being in a loud and crowded nightclub, we ended up discussing quantum physics, Taoism, Alan Watts and I believe, Fugazi... I was intellectually enamored and a bit relieved to learn that someone else shared my somewhat eclectic interests.

One of the things that has always impressed me about Steven is his ability to achieve the goals that he sets for himself. Beyond "Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief," setting and achieving personal goals is the current that propels "West of Jesus" through its point breaks and eddies.

Disillusioned by modern medicine after a lengthy and debilitating battle with Lyme disease, Steven found himself searching for a reason to live... He finds a reason in a rather unexpected place for a still fragile, born and bred Midwesterner - surfing. However, the journalist and skeptic in Steven can't just accept the new raison d'ĂȘtre at face value. So, he consigns himself over to curiosity, reserves a spot on the quest and proceeds to rack up frequent flyer miles in search of the holy "why."

Early sections of the book contain some of the most precise and insightful sentences that I have ever read. The very first paragraph ends, "...because the stories I told myself had begun to fail;" a realization that has its roots in not only in Steven's personal life but in the politics of creation and Joan Didian's "White Album." The first chapter ends with, "I can say that at the time that I went to Mexico I was thirty-six years old and the things that I was choosing not to do were starting to add up into a whole other life that I was choosing not to live." At the time I read them, those sentences synthesized for me aspects of my own life. Although, I could not have expressed them so succinctly. And, if you'll indulge me just one more quote, "I am now thirty-eight years old and often find a direct and peculiar conflict between my personal mythology and the real world."

The book is a well-crafted, free-associating combination of thirty-something coming of age story, adventure travelogue, forensic history, myth study and scientific inquiry. The book is well... a lot like a conversation with a good friend. One of those conversations where you don't even realize that you've been awake all night talking until you notice the sun coming up.

To purchase the book through Powell's Books, click on the word "link" below. You can buy it through Amazon but I prefer to support Powell's; an independent book store based in Portland, OR and I think, one of the happiest places on earth. My luggage is always 50 lbs heavier whenever I return from a trip to Portland.



Anonymous Larry said...

Do you know where I can pick up a copy in Long Island?

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Raine said...

Did you read Angle Quickest For Flight? Its totally deep!

8:20 PM  

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