West of Jesus

    Review by Robert Woliver

    Cell 2 Soul. 2006 {for Fall edition}

    Bloombury Publishing (2006); 261 pages; ISBN: 1596910518

    I won’t pretend to be objective. I loved it. What’s not to love about the book? I surf (or try to) and live in Hawaii in
    large part because of the surf. To me, there can be something spiritual about surfing. On the right day, on the
    right wave, with the wind flapping what’s left of my hair, as I reach out and drag my hand across the wall of a wave
    at Pops, I feel that maybe I’ve touched God or the Force.

    Like the author, I suffered a physical problem that had me questioning if I could surf again. The author was
    literally laid out by Lyme’s disease. My problem was more man-made. An orthopedic surgeon assured me that my
    shoulder, diagnosed with impingement syndrome would be “better than new” with his surgical trifecta—remove
    calcium, shave a bone spur and put three stitches in a labral tear.

    Unfortunately, his definition of “better than new” included a new problem of biceps tendinitis after the surgery. The
    biceps tendon ruptured a few weeks after he injected it with cortisone. After waiting nine months to get back to
    surfing, I found myself worse off than before surgery. I decided not to give him another cut at me and cancelled
    the biceps reattachment surgery that he had scheduled.

    It took another year, a new outlook and philosophy, Chinese medicine (acupuncture, moxie, cupping and herbs),
    and visits to an osteopathic doctor to get back a percentage of what I used to have—surfing included.

    The author Steve Kotler’s quest to regain his life parallels the Grail quest we may find ourselves on at one point
    or another. Skillfully, he pieces together the elements of surfing that trigger the spiritual and the metaphysical. His
    book is a surfing safari of neurobiology, theology, quantum physics, science, Eastern philosophy, belief, Jungian
    psychology and medicine that reveal what is most human and what is most divine in us.

    If you liked the movie, “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” you will like the book.

    Steven Kotler writes in a direct and unpretentious style, “My bag weighed a fucking ton.” (p.4). Early on you
    discover—here’s a guy you can have a conversation with about life and its meaning and still keep it in perspective.

    The author is direct, personal and takes risks in revealing himself. Just the kind of style that works as well in print
    as in the water. If you surf, or if you’ve ever wondered about surfing or if you’ve ever asked, “What does it all
    mean? or, “Why am I here?” then spend some time with this book. The book is as enjoyable as talking to a buddy
    while you bob up and down on your surfboards between sets sitting waiting for that next wave.

    PS West of Jesus has a much wider range of appeal than just surfers.  I offered my wife, an English teacher and
    prolific reader, the book. Since this fell outside her usual material, I doubted that she would be interested.
    Although she was born in Hawaii, she does not surf, much less even go to the beach. Me: “How come you won’t
    go to the beach or get in the water. After all, we are surrounded by water and it’s almost the same temperature as
    the air? Her: “Yuck, fish f*** in it!”

    She finished the book quicker than I did and said that she really, really, really liked it. She even took notes, asked
    questions about surfing, and was moved and inspired by the book.

    Robert Woliver
    Kaneohe, Hawaii

    Robert Woliver recently published a novel, The China Clones, available at http://www.lulu.com/content/182342