June 20, 2014

Rodney Mullen: Skater, Thinker, Creator, Teacher

Rodney Mullen has always struck me not only as an immensely talented skater (obviously) but also as extraordinarily talented individual generally. His brilliance in skateboarding comes across through his skating of course, while his obvious intellectual gifts come across through his speech and through his ideas.

I remember seeing a video shot of him (I'm not certain where, it may have been the Bones Brigade documentary) when he was in his later teenage years (or possibly early 20's) and there he was in the video, shown working on his studies, holding a copy of René Descartes Meditations -- Descartes was one of the primary philosophers of the Enlightenment and his Meditations was one of his core writings. As one who loves both skateboarding and philosophy, I took great pleasure in seeing this -- but it also didn't surprise me one bit, particularly in Rodney's regard.

So what's the point in all this you might ask? In the first instance, I find it personally interesting and, in the second instance, I believe skaters are often wrongly perceived by outsiders in a very stereotypical, one-dimensional way. Ask your typical person on the street about their view of the kind of person who is a skateboarder (or even just interested in skateboarding) and my own sense is that they'll likely come up with all sorts of images, but I am betting that very few of them will relate to skaters as innovators, creators, or thinkers. Well this is not the skate scene that I know. Skate culture is by its very nature extraordinarily creative, packed with creative thought and creative impulses. People need to think more deeply about skating, skate culture and skateboarders.

Rodney Mullen has certainly been an excellent ambassador in this regard, speaking at least twice at the famous TED Talks. For those who are unfamiliar, TED is a non-profit organization which is focused on the spread of ideas; it is focused upon thought, culture and the life of the intellect. Here are Rodney's TED talks.




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