Surface Nuisance?

surfers learn to dive under when going against...

Tonight, in three acts, we present the story of why this blog is named ‘surface nuisance’. And I need to make my self-imposed deadline, so let’s not dally…

Act I

It’s the mid ’80s or so, and I am flunking out of the College of Charleston because I am my somewhat basket case self, and perhaps because I am spending a bit too much time in my first-wife-to-be’s dorm room instead of class. Seeing as how her parents expected any husband of their daughter to have some sort of traditional means of support, and being a navy brat myself, I decided that the military might be a viable way to pull some kind of rabbit out of the hat. I thought the Army would be a wise choice to start, seeing how I didn’t care for being on the ocean all that much, the Marines were a bit more gung-ho than I envisioned for myself, and everybody wanted to be a fly-boy. I figured the Army would offer me more choices as to what I would actually be learning and doing. After taking their tests, the recruiter told me I could almost pick whatever I wanted.  With my typical knack for lack of much forethought at that age, I briefly thought of my Dad’s involvement with communications equipment as a hobby and decided to go into the fairly newfangled satellite communications MOS.

After doing basic training on Tank Hill in Ft. Jackson, SC, I went to electronics and communications school at Fort Gordon near Augusta, GA. for 18 months of school; 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It was here that one of my friends, whose name I lament not being able to recall, introduced me to the books by Carlos Castaneda. He was a smart, soft-spoken, always-great-with-the-ladies, Puerto Rican young man who one night told me he knew of these books he thought I would be able to appreciate. He explained that when he was told about them, it was considered to be a gift passed on to those who could understand it, and he thought I was the proper person to pay it forward to. I felt honored.

His intuition seemed spot on because I loved them. I devoured each in succession. What mattered to me was not whether these were real or great allegorical story telling, what mattered were the deeper concepts being conveyed regardless of cultural context. I felt a connection to other concepts I was beginning to learn about, such as Buddhism. Felt, but did not understand.

In order to get back to the point of this story, and seeing how the deadline quickly approaches, let me present the tie-in for Act I: In ‘The Fire From Within’ Castaneda presents the concept of the petty tyrant. The petty tyrant is to be seen as a gift for the warrior, as they provide the abuse and irritation that the warrior can use to hone his ‘stalking’ skills and lose his/her sense of self-importance.

Act II

Jump forward roughly 10 years. It is the early to mid-’90s, and I am now single and dating this mysterious little angel with a broken wing named Lisa. I remember taking a drive on my motorcycle out to the marsh’s edge one day back then and offering up a little deal to whatever might be listening: let me spend my life with this one, and I will try my best to always listen to that little voice in me and never ask for anything else. I guess it worked. Anyway, one day early on I am telling her about these books and doing my best to describe what a petty tyrant was in some probably show-off, profound way. After a little bit of this Lisa offers, “Like a surface nuisance?” Both of us being fans, I’m sure we had both seen George Carlin’s use of the term before then, but we both lit up like Christmas trees and laughed, nonetheless. From that point on, it became an endearing and poignant term for me. A little talisman of a phrase….


As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently been reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. In an early section the Dalai Lama states, “No matter what activity or practice we are pursuing, there isn’t anything that isn’t made easier through constant familiarity and training. Through training, we can change; we can transform ourselves. Within Buddhist practice there are various methods of trying to sustain a calm mind when some disturbing event happens. Through repeated practice of these methods we can get to the point where some disturbance may occur but the negative effects on our mind remain on the surface, like the waves that may ripple on the surface of an ocean but don’t have much of an effect deep down.”

Now I don’t know if His Holiness is a Carlin fan too, but I could not help but break out into a wide grin and glow a little as the circle came back around after all this time…

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