Ski learning and philosophy

Ski Learning and philosopy

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, philosopher and statesman. Born at Cordoba c. 4 BC.

Ski learning may not at first seem closely related to Roman philosophy.  The same is not true in reverse because philosophy is a part of everything in life.  Seneca had some very powerful and useful things to say about ski learning.  Take them to heart and you will be happier.

I have now finished converting “the outback” at the back of the house, and built Simon’s new kitchen.  He is completing the barn conversion himself.  Which leaves me time to re-read, Nassim Taleb,  Satyajit Das, and more importantly to re-visit Seneca.  Seneca was of the Stoic school, and was an honorary Roman.  He was born in Spain.  You will not be surprised that as an old man I get more out of it than I did at school, more’s the pity.

He knew a bit about ski learning it seems, or at least how to handle one’s progress through the process.  I found the following in his letter IX to Lucilius in which he critiqued the Epicurean school.  I can do no better than to quote it, any precis of mine would likely be left wanting.  He is referring to an observation by another philosopher, Attalus.

Seneca on ski learning.

It is more of a pleasure to make a friend than to have one.  In the same way as an artist derives more pleasure from painting than from having completed a picture.

When his whole attention is absorbed in concentration on the work he is engaged on, a tremendous sense of satisfaction is created in him by his very absorption.   (My underlining).  There is never quite the same gratification after he has lifted his hand from the finished work.

From then on what he enjoys is the art’s end product,  whereas it was the art itself that he enjoyed while he was actually painting.   So with our children, their growing up brings wider fruits but their infancy was sweeter.

My magic wand.  Nobody wants it.

Quite often my pupils, of any age, will express dissatisfaction and impatience at not yet being as good at skiing as they would like to be.  Sometimes they say as they “ought” to be.

My response is always the same.  Why should your skiing be anywhere else other than where it is?  It is whatever it now is, because of the pathway you have been on.  That pathway started at birth.  Your life took this turn and that.  Eventually you took up skiing.  You met some ski instructors and did this kind of practice and that.  You did the number of hours at it, that you did.  No more, no less.

Why should you be any better or worse at skiing than you are?  There is no reason.   I usually suggest that if I had a magic wand, I could touch them with it and instantly make them the best skier in the resort.  No work.  No effort.  No successes.  No failures.

Nobody wants my magic, they prefer, like Attalus’ artist, to immerse themselves in the really joyous and worthwhile work of “travelling hopefully”.

This necessarily requires some strength of character.  We are all the same,  especially if it is something we dearly want.  Everybody succumbs to impatience.  But in truth, it is the ups and the downs of our journey that make it worthwhile.

I used to do a lot of fly-fishing and put the fish back having caught them on barbless hooks.  I was there for the fishing, not the fish, so it didn’t really matter if I didn’t catch any.  I always went home a happy man either way.

I used to climb.  To be on the top wasn’t half as good as to be scared to death half way up!

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