Playing Again

Slow Mother Blog
Playing Again…
“In the 21st century, adults shall learn from the wonderful qualities of children, such as their purity, innocence, radiance, wisdom and intuition, to inspire and uplift one another. The young generation shall play a leading role in the creation of peace for a bright future.

May Peace Prevail on Earth”
Last weekend, I watched as the children and young people showed glimpses of a bright future, full of peace and purpose…
On Friday evening the kids and I helped our good friends hold a movie showing of the documentary ‘Play Again’ (http://playagainfilm.com/). It follows the experience of American teenagers experiencing nature again (after a lifetime of the digital world) with commentaries by such inspiring people as David Suzuki, Bill McKibben and Richard Louv.  It was a little sad that every member of the rather small audience were already very much aware of the problem - with modern children spending up to 15 hours per day on digital technology – and that most people who really needed to watch it were probably at home - inside - watching TV or playing computer games. All of us there had already made lifestyle choices to spend as much time as possible outside in nature, living a ‘real-time’ life. It was also ironic that we were hoping that watching a movie would help us wake people up to spending less time watching screens! 
But to me, the children there were the real stars of the evening and the example we need to inspire positive change. As we were waiting for the audience to gather, Pacha volunteered to be at the front counter, welcoming people and receiving their donation for the viewing. Yani spotted some macadamia nuts that needed peeling and politely asked the hosts if he could help. All the kids that came in from that time had a practical, rewarding thing to do then - working together to peel macadamias and put them in a bowl to share with the audience.
Out of the corner of my eye, as we were meeting and greeting and ‘catching-up’ with the adults, I saw all the kids (10 in all) playing together – none had an electronic device of any kind. Pacha was teaching the younger girls some dance moves, Yani was diligently cracking nuts outside with the boys. As the event started, Pacha entertained our friend’s one year old baby while Yani began braiding the hair of the girl who sat beside him, and all the kids just settled down in trust and in physical contact with each other – so peaceful, so right.
It was just such a lovely reassurance that despite the intense influences of the modern, global, digital culture – the deeper instincts of connection with each other, with practical purpose, with nature - were alive and present. If we can just gently support our children, do our best to limit the electronic ‘noise’, be honest that it is there in their world and we all have to somehow make sense of it  - there is still hope in finding a way forward.
The next morning we set off at 5am to travel 2 and a half hours south to Scotts Head for Pacha to participate in a regional surf competition. It’s a pretty big commitment to get there – but the kids seem happy to do with less so that we can make this a priority. I prepared lentil dahl and rice to bring along so we wouldn’t need to spend any money on buying food.
As a family we have decided that surfing is our favourite ‘sport’. For me it is one of the most profound experiences of connection with nature, in that great salty ocean – blood of Mother Earth. Everytime we surf magic happens; dolphins, turtles, whales, raging tides, the changing moods of the sea. Sometimes there is pain involved; fin chops, bumps on the head, aching arms from paddling… Sometimes there is fear as we face the power of the mighty waves and wonder what lurks underneath us way out ‘the back’ in the deep sea. It can be uncomfortable and sandy and cold and notoriously unpredictable – but it always makes us feel fully ‘alive’. And every time we surf we get that little bit better, which makes us want to go out again and again. Our muscles strengthen, our balance improves, our courage and our humility develops, our circulation stimulated by the cool water and the warm sun…Yes; we are smitten by surfing!
The competition side of surfing is always a little complicated – in truth competition is the antithesis of the love of surfing – that’s so intensely personal and mysterious. Yet, being part of the local boardriders club, watching and learning and wanting to improve, motivates us all to want to do better (ah the contradictions of our human existence!).  As Pacha and Yani improve they influence the kids around them to give it a try - or to try harder, to nag their parents to take them to the beach instead of sitting in front of their flat screens…this has to be a good thing?
So there we were, full of anticipation, in a new place with new people, walking up to the main tent and realising that Pacha was the only competitor for the under 12 girls division – there was only one other girl in the under 18s competition!  There were heaps of boys, with many heats taking place for the under 18s, 16s, 14s and 12s…but there was Pacha, rearing to go, left to compete against herself! It didn’t stop the kids from spending at least 5 hours in the water taking full advantage of the waves with the special collective energy of many young kids in the water all surfing together.
Finally, the great highlight of the day came when it was time for the girl’s heat. The organisers sent Pacha and the girls under 18 year old competitor, Coco, out together  - and even let Yani out to join in their 20 minute heat. Coco spent almost the whole time helping Yani and Pacha get onto waves instead of worrying about impressing the judges with her own surfing prowess. The influence of that selfless behaviour on every person who was at the competition that day, was priceless. Pacha and Yani have had a deep lesson in what makes a really good surfer and a real human being. 

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