I’ve been skateboarding since 1975 when I bought a mail order banana yellow fiberglass board (Gordon & Smith and yellow Yo-Yo wheels with Tracker trucks) from the back of a skateboarding magazine when I was 13 in Michigan. I think I was the only one in my small town that had one at the time. I used that thing everywhere and eventually wore it out but one of the things I distinctly remember was the combined feeling of freedom, excitement and fear that engulfed me every time I tried something new, something big or different.
I still skateboard (it’s a Chris Cole Zero model with Victory trucks and Bones wheels) and when I do (as well as when I look back at skating as a kid), I typically create a 3D visual model of what I’m doing, or what I did. Everything is related to that model…the sounds, the feel of the board underneath, the sway of inertia, the pull of gravity…everything follows from what I have envisioned. The street or the park contours, the drops, the stairs…everything is modeled and there to reference in my head, behind my eyes.
It’s the measure I use to get better, to improve…to keep myself safe, to avoid danger…but what if that model didn’t exist?
This kid, the one in the video, who’s been blind since very soon after birth, doesn’t have the ability to reference that visual model yet he’s been skateboarding since 10. Before I watched this, it never even occurred to me that a blind kid could skate in a skate park let alone on the street. WTF I thought, because I am so beholden, so dependent upon that visual model that I could not fathom skating (or doing much or anything) without it.
But then, I thought, I am dependent upon that model because that is what I grew up with…it was the best adapted and available capability model that I could took advantage of, but…it wasn’t the only one. I can’t imagine, literally I cannot physically imagine, the model that this kid uses to manage the spatial relationship between himself and the outside world but I know that it’s not vision based…and I know that somehow using it he perceives the world in 3 dimensions. He has to and, in fact, I would argue that he has the added dimension of time as well.
We all grow up with what we consider to be the best adapted and available capability model with which we control our lives in this 3D space we call life and we assume that everyone else is using the same model. Why shouldn’t we? It is just natural that we do but, there are other models out there and they are just as capable however different they seem to us. They allow people to control their lives in the same 3D space as us. With the same success and failure rates as us…with the same fallibilities and superiorities as us.
Think about that the next time you’re faced with someone who is different than you, someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to use the same capability model…
…and think how they perceive you. After all, you suck according to their model.
Believe. Go. Do.