Monday, February 1, 2010

'My belief is that heaven and hell are metaphorical terms for what you make of your life - in any instant, you have the ability to make your life total pleasure or total hell'. The words of the nine times world surfing champion, Kelly Slater, resonate. We are used to the wisdom of spiritual teachers. We are not, save the odd victory speech in a moment of glory, in the habit of looking to our sporting heroes for spiritual guidance. In an era where sport breeds celebrities, Slater has yet to be conceived. He excels at a sport that has not yet reached the mainstream, though it's on its way. His relative anonymity outside of the surfing world contrasts with footballers like David Beckham, whose empire and lifestyle overshadow his sporting achievements. Slater, born and bred in the sunshine state of Florida, has all the ingredients that would qualify him as a celebrity (good looks and major sporting talent), yet there is a difference. Whilst other sports professionals might bask in the glow of their accumulated material wealth, and the lifestyle it affords them, Slater basks in a positive mental outlook. Surfing for Slater is simultaneously his raison d'etre and his escape. What is it about surfing that makes it an internal, and therefore essentially spiritual experience? Surfers are at the mercy of the ocean, they have to relinquish control to nature, a 'higher' force. Staring down a 10 foot high wave is terrifying, even for the professional and they will experience fear in the same way as you or I. The difference is in how they deal with this fear and their trick is turning it into excitement. Notoriously it is the lack of control, the not knowing what the wave is going to do next, that defines the experience as exciting.Surfing and spirituality have shared 3000 years of history. But it's Slater that spearheads the current revolution. In a world which glorifies physical highs – be they alcoholic, narcotic or materialistic, Slater, whether he realizes it or not, is championing a spiritual form of hedonism. Through surfing Slater shares one of the secrets of the universe: the ability to turn each millisecond on a wave to his own advantage. It is this which at the age of 36, ensures he is invincible in the face of competition, and has been for the past 16 years. It's also a brilliant metaphor for our day to day lives. We also can learn to ride the wave by the moment. We can know that within each a millisecond we know all there is to know about our life. We can have confidence in the choices we will make accordingly, whether to swerve right or to swerve left. All the power we posses is instilled in the current moment: It's ours to champion, to exploit, but ultimately, to make sense of. It's the total hell, or total pleasure, as Slater describes.

Amidst the cooing over Cheryl Cole´s interview in February's Vogue, something appears to have been overlooked. ´Who's That Girl?´ on page 136. Samantha Cameron is that girl and six pages have been devoted to a profile of this multi-dimensional woman as The Political Wife,The Creative Director and The Family Woman. I think I just fell into 1984. The feature, a carefully constructed ´profile´ in spin-laden glory, is bold to the point of gauche in its attempt to present itself as an innocuous portrait of the Modern Tory Women. And as a seemingly worthy feature for Vogue. Overdressed, it sits alongside Christa D´Souza´s well-judged exchange with Cole, and the functional coolness of David Bailey's portraits of ´Women in Uniform´. I can only assume Shulman believed that sandwiched in between the two we might miss the fact that ´Sam´ is being profiled, for want of any creatively original reason, via a kind of outdated political PR medium the magazine sees fit to champion - perhaps to mark this season's return to strong shoulders, a trend that has also been unearthed from the 1980s. This is not to question Samantha Cameron's worth or interest as an individual. It's clear she is worth a great deal, to her husband, her family, her company and her friends. What's questionable is the decision to feature her in such a grandiose manner and dazzling shade of blue. The credit crunch might be diluting the potency of high fashion, but it makes one wonder just how it came so high up the agenda of this publication. In reality though this is neither surprising nor interesting. Politics today is nothing without spin, and we're done with caring about nepotism in the moral maze of media networking. What's really last season is the way in which Cameron has been portrayed. 'She's not a no-carbs sort of girl, she's 'a family woman' it explains, alongside offerings on her time at University, in Bristol. She lived in St Paul's ´...that still had a louche reputation (for) its pivotal role in the city's race riots.' Indeed before today's cocoon coats there were paint-spattered clothes, black leggings with crossbones, even a dolphin tattoo. Amy Winehouse eat your heart out! If this painful-to-read PR speak sticks out like a sore (albeit well manicured) thumb in Vogue, it is surely equally at odds with a modern Tory party who might want to distance themselves from the outdated and patronising 20th century feminist notion of the 'have it all' women, one I imagine Samantha Cameron, like any other woman with children, a career and a life, bemoans the need to quantify and winces at the superwoman connotations. However nice her house and her wardrobe - we've moved on. Ironically, a feature on Baroness Thatcher which appeared in the magazine last year closed with the summation that the Tory Party has taken over a decade to emerge from her shadow. Which leaves me wondering: why Vogue can't ditch the pussy bows and do the same?