Monday, August 20, 2012

An Egg is an Egg is an Egg is an Egg

The Problem of Universals is an ageless philosophical dilemma. It asks, quite innocently, do universals exist?
This simple question is peppered with brain-busting convolutions, and all the mathematical and philosophical heavies have weighed in on the dilemma since Plato first proposed it two-and-a-half thousand years ago.
Basically, it points out that in order to have a universal, there must be an ideal, and the closer you examine the ideal, the further from the ideal you get.
Example: we all have an image of a triangle that pops into our heads when someone says triangle. What does it look like? For some it’s an isosceles (at least two sides equal), for some a scalene (no two sides equal), and others an equilateral (all sides equal). Three very different triangles, so an ideal triangle would have to be all three, which is impossible.
Dan's new 6'5 Egg
Most things in the world confuse me, and I try to make sense of them through surfboards. So let’s use surfboard design—specifically, the Egg shape—to explore The Problem of Universals.
First, we need an ideal egg surfboard. Without opening up the argument about who first designed the egg, let’s just say, for efficiency’s sake, the ideal is a 7’0” Skip Frye.
What, then, does the ideal look like besides being seven feet long? Round tail. Roundish bottom, single fin, flat rocker, 50/50 ‘egg’ rails all the way around. The ideal egg.
Let’s look closely. What if one of the rails were a fraction of a millimeter thicker than the other? Would it still be an ideal? Is symmetry part of the ideal egg surfboard? I assume that it is, but we all know the more closely we inspect a surfboard, the further from symmetrical it becomes. So can an ideal be flawed?
If so, what about other ‘flaws’? What if it were a 7’1” instead of a 7’0”, can we no longer consider it an egg? What about adding another fin? Or two? Three? Four? What if we shrunk it and increased the nose rocker? What if we lengthened it and flattened the tail rocker, narrowed the widepoint and moved it aft? Squared the tail? Put a pointy nose on? Made asymetrical?
If we open the door to variation, then all variations must be eggs, and, therefore, everything could be considered an egg. The term Egg, itself, would become meaningless.
Nose isn't quite as shovel-y in real life
How about another one: a fish, according so a certain sect of surfers and surfboard designers, must be in accordance with Steve Lis’ ideal—the 5’6 twin fin, deep swallow tail, flat, thick, wide, downrailed, beaknosed, glassed-on fins with no cant and no toe and foiled from marine plywood.
Cool, but a lot has happened in the forty years since the ‘ideal’ was born, including major adjustments in volume, width, outline, rocker, rails, foil, and number and placement of fins.
Every single design aspect has changed, and all refinements are currently being enjoyed by Lis’ current customers.
So if he created the ideal, then changed it, do we still have an ideal? If an ideal is fluid, how can we use it as a foundation?
When surfboards begin to confuse me I turn to poetry. Poets tend to stick their fingers deep into the swirling masses of gray area that upset mathematicians and philosophers and make me feel better about being a dimwit.
Thruster. Thumby-dummy tail.
In her 1913 poem Sacred Emily, Gertrude Stein wrote, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” A wonderfully elegant entry into the Problem of Universals discussion.
Stein repeats “rose” with the existence-confirming preposition, “is.” This suggests that a rose “is” many things. Many roses exist, and there is no single ideal. A rose is a red flower. A rose is a yellow flower. A white flower. A rose symbolizes life. A rose symbolizes death. It can symbolize both change and constancy, life and death, nature and man.
And then, finally, it becomes just a mindless syllable that means absolutely nothing but a reminder that words themselves are just rough tools—that by meaning one thing, and its opposite, they can mean nothing.
This is why surfboards are such fascinating objects—they are most certainly a thing. Plastic. Round, flat, and sharp. And they are most certainly not things—ideas, concepts, promises, hopes. Art.
A surfboard is a surfboard is a surfboard is a surfboard.
Or in the case of this post, an egg is an egg is an egg is an egg. This is Dan’s Salmon Egg, which is different than a Pleasure Point Egg, or Swami’s Egg, San Juanico Egg. Nauset Egg. Nobadeer Egg. Matunick, Ogunquit, Tofino, Maunganui, Vanuatu, Yallingup, Kewalos.
Foiled tail and cedar stringer.
Dan ordered this board and had a baby boy on the same day, so the dude clearly goes huge. 


goofykook said...

So, two points.

(1) My 15-year-old son has just been lecturing me fiercely over dinner about how philosophy is 3000-year-long failed experiment. He's had to read Sophie's World for summer reading. Can he be cured?

(2) I love the look of your 8' broadswords and have often wondered how a broadsword differs from my friendly 8' fun-board. Would a broadsword bring more subtlety to my beach break? I imagine that this is an irritating question, but it is sincere.


Glenn said...

Plato was the arch Universalist. Leibniz' "monads" fixed that. Taken up by Gilles Deleuze who views the universe as discreet "differences". This would be right up your alley I'd say. His co-authored "A Thousand Plateaus" is heavy going but probably the greatest philosophy of the 20th century.

BD said...

That board looks like 6'5 feet of endless fun brah!

HeadHighGlassy said...

Hey GK, he can be cured!
But it's going to be a long recovery (this applies to all of teenagerism). Buckle up.
The Broadsword is a trim-and-glide beachbreak machine. Think big swooping turns in high, tight lines rather than vertical hacks. It wants to get in early, go fast, and cover lots of space.

Anonymous said...

You are getting Wayne Rich thin on your noses and tails! Looks good!