"That is life, that is man."
Did you know there are 2024 lines of dialogue in Hamlet?
But, would Shakespeare have felt inclined to spill so much ink and time if he’d ever had the privilege of witnessing the sport of kings?
Specifically this clip in particular?
I doubt it.
He would have lain down his quill with the words,“See that there? That is life, that is man.”
What is exhibited in this one thirty-second clip is nothing less than the full spectrum of humanity itself.
What’s encapsulated in this narrative is, in a word, literally, Everything.
Needless to say then it warrants a closer look.
The work opens with a familiar scene (Act one scene one: establish normality), a crowded line-up. The supporting cast. A wave approaches. Several figures scratch for the drop. Four make it.
Thus we have our leading men, our major characters. Three surfers and a bodyboarder. Questions of priority we will leave for ensuing generations of critics and scholars to mull over. For now we’ll concern ourselves principally with plot. The surfer furthest on the inside is lost early, call it timing, positioning, bad faith snaking – we can’t know. Save it for the prequel.
Regardless, his story is lost. Hopelessness.
That leaves three.
One, all in white, struggles in the foam, not gone, but lost. His cause looks futile.
The bodyboarder looks to have it. He pops to a drop-knee position. Does he know of the surfer on his inside, further towards the pocket and to whom many an observer might say the wave belongs? He seems oblivious, concerned only with his own ensuing gratification: Solipsism. Egocentricity.
The inside surfer looks back seemingly concerned with the fate of The Lost One: Compassion. Empathy. Curiosity.
Regardless of motive Inside Surfer’s focus on “the other” will prove fatal.
The Bodyboarder, either through hubris, a desire to get back further towards the pocket or out of territorial malevolence, cuts back into the path of Inside Surfer. Villainy.
The audience holds its breath.
Inside Surfer ploughs into Bodyboarder and stacks it over the lip. Out of shot. Out of existence. “Nice guys finish last,” the universe seems to tell us. Bodyboarder must surely have it now.
Inside Surfer’s board pounces like a conscious animal still loyal to its fallen master and tonks Bodyboarder on the head. He could take the hit, hold his line, ride on. Instead he puts up his hands to guard himself against the blow and in doing so loses said line and swerves off up and over the lip! Vanity. Cowardice. Lulz. Justice.
And thus ends the tragedy?
Sweep to stage right to reveal: The Lost One, our angel all in white, once assumed to have gone the way of Hopelessness is resurrected, muscling through the foam, thanklessly and inexplicably chasing the lost cause. A picture of patience. Lazarus and Sisyphus combined. Tenacity.
But there’s still work to be done. No Bodyboard hubris here. He waits. After all, what’s another half-second compared to the previous twenty?
The wave jacks slightly.
He carves out of the foam and at last he’s on the wave!
And then suddenly the universe obliges further. From nowhere a barrel, and he’s in it, bent at the waist, slightly ungainly, a touch of poo-stance, but hey, who’s judging?
He emerges. Only a scoundrel would resent the claim: arms aloft in victory, in gratitude.
Effort. Reward. Vindication.