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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chasing Dust

The film was shot in locations around the world on a budget of $50,000. 

When it opened in 1964, it played for an entire year in New York City. 

The movie’s poster became part of the Design Collection at New York’s Museum Of Modern Art. 

More than $30 million gross later, “The Endless Summer” is a classic.

The film is a simple documentary that follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave -- chasing the sun in a quest for perpetual summer.

Now, 50 years later, as one vacation season ends at Casa Cascadas in Vieques and another begins at The Sandpiper on Cape Cod, I ask why. Why are we so compelled as a species to seek sun, sand and surf?

Perhaps it’s because we image perpetual summer in both Eden, our first home, and in Paradise, our last.

But journeying to tropical climates is only part of the story.

International tourism surpassed the billion-person mark in 2012 … reached a record 1.87 billion last year, … and is forecast to grow more than four percent during 2014. By a wide margin, France is the most visited country on the planet -- hardly a tropical destination.

For a possible answer, I have to look back 2,300 years to Aristotle’s definition of happiness.

Aristotle, 384-322 B. C.

The philosopher enshrined happiness as the ultimate purpose of human existence.

We desire travel, vacation, leisure – you name it -- because we believe that these will make us happy.

Happiness is often conceived of as a subjective state of mind, as when we say we’re happy when we are enjoying a cold drink on a hot day, or when we get a promotion or a raise, or when our love is reciprocated.

For Aristotle, however, happiness is always an end in itself.

It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations.  Instead, it encompasses the totality of one’s life.

“One swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day,” he says.

Happiness is the ultimate value of our life, a measure of how well we have lived up to our full potential.

Happiness, in other words, cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. It is a goal that continuously recedes before our grasp – like the horizon.

Here on the Los Chivos mountain where Casa Cascadas perches, the prevailing easterlies blow hard. So sweeping our courtyard clean amid the swirls and gusts is frustrating labor.

But the task helps me appreciate the ancient insight: Made of dust ourselves, we spend our days chasing dust.

In my next blog, "A Bout with Gout"

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