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West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Length: 270 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 736 KB
  • Print Length: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (1 Dec. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002UM5BXM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #470,884 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and the director of research fro the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works: The Rise of Superman, Abundance, A Small, Furry Prayer, West of Jesus, and the novel, The Angle Quickest For Flight. His articles have appeared in over 70 publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Wired and Forbes. He also writes "Far Frontiers," a blog about innovation and entrepreneurship for Forbes.com, and "The Playing Field," a blog about the science of sport and culture for PsychologyToday.com. He lives in New Mexico, with his wife and too many dogs.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The literary world is awash with surf and adventure books written by childless, middle-aged journalists who have never had a relationship that lasted over a month. The books always start with 'something missing' in their lives.

As the first grey hairs appear they set out on a magazine-funded journey, usually half-accompanied by a new 'girlfriend'. They suddenly realise, around two decades after the rest of us, that the world does not revolve around them and, hey, it might pay to be nice to the people around them for the first time ever. Maybe they will even stick around for longer than a month.

'Kook' is one such book. There is something annoying about a 40-odd year old guy writing the revelations of a nineteen year old: 'If I am nice to the girl she will not leave'. I say this as a 40-year old myself who decided to stop being selfish quite a while ago and reaped all the benefits.

West of Jesus is not one of these books. However, it does share many of the same dynamics: middle-age journo reassessing life, easy and unfettered access to celebrity surfers and pros for lessons and wisdom (just turning up at Bruce Brown's house at the same time as Wingnut, in this case), endless cash and time for world trips, self-deprecating about his surfing ability although he is clearly way above the skill of most of us (i.e. false modesty), a litany of prophet-like friends who had glorious deaths and leave huge legacies of wisdom.

Unlike those other books, however, this one veers into better territory. As it moves along it becomes less about the writer and more about the world. He does not *tell us* that he has learned to become less self-absorbed, rather he lets his focus show us this.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Interesting book about the spiritual journey through surfing. I would recommend this book if you are interested in the philosophy of self discovery through engagement in sport.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great piece of writing, connecting in a very intriguing way science, religion, philosophy and surf! The autobiographical element of the book makes it compelling read and Kotler is never banal - there is some solid background research at the heart of the book. Enlightening!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this as a Xmas present for my husband, who I know will enjoy it greatly. Product was as described and delivery was excellent. Would use vendor again and recommend it to friends.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9a6e30f0) out of 5 stars 63 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5efda4) out of 5 stars A Five Star Wave of a Book 18 July 2006
By Jason Zimmerman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Two friends who happened to be surfers drove their rusted out old car into the outback to chase the rumor of perfect waves on an isolated beach. They rumbled over the bumpy road, turning left, then right, winding around, finally driving off the pavement down pockmarked, dusty lanes, eventually stalling out in a thick muck field just a quarter mile from the ocean. From here they did what any reasonable surfer would do, they untied their boards and started to hike into the beach. Things changed not more than ten feet away from their abandoned car. A blinding light flash and -zap!- a lightning bold charred the car, frying engine and all associated parts.

Miles from civilization, knowing nothing about engines and out of supplies, they did the only sensible thing--they went surfing. When they reached the water they found the surface to be completely flat, no waves to be had. Waiting out most of the afternoon with no change in conditions, they were ready to bail, when again -zap!- another bolt hit the reef and *poof* instant waves. Beautiful surf for hours, they caught waves all day, until suddenly, just as rapidly as they had begun, the waves shut off. Just like that, as sometimes happens.

That's when they saw him. Several hundred yards out was an old man sitting on a surfboard. In his hand was a long white bone. The story is that with this bone he could control the weather, could summon waves, and who knows what other magical stuff.

This is the story of the Conductor. It is the myth who's elusive origins author Steven Kotler seeks in his book "West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief." After hearing the tale of the Conductor years apart in similarly dire circumstances while surfing in Indonesia and later Mexico, Kotler embarks on a journey of the exploration of belief and spirituality. The "logos and "mythos" of human understanding. This is not your average surf book.

Weaving his own personal tale of a struggle with Lyme's Disease and his transformation through a surfing session, he gives us a peepshow look at current scientific thought about the causal reasons behind our spiritual experiences. This is a magical narrative that touches on areas that those of us who explore recognize as familiar. It is a complex, yet simple tale that uses surfing simply as a backdrop, but has relevance to anyone, especially those in love with action sports. Social scientists, psychologists, evolutionary biologists, and many other scientific sorts weigh in on numerous aspects of belief. We are ushered to all corners of the globe, from California to New Zealand to Hawaii on this quest.

Much is revealed. On the marriage of brain evolution and the construction of mythologies:

"Humans often encounter illness, death, odd coincidences, mysterious circumstances--things that do not allow for easy understanding. Yet human evolution designed the human brain to detect meaning, and this mechanism doesn't just shut down when easy answers aren't readily forthcoming. Hence the need to invent meaning--gods, demons, supernatural forces--mythos is how humankind resolves the irresolvable." It is the how and why of this phenomenon, it is the mystery, that Kotler delves deeply into.

And yet there is a more tactile mystery that can be tasted through physical experience, through exertion, through being "in the zone."--surfing, being in animate motion in whatever form. Mythos has its place, emotions are said to be believed to be constantly filtering our reality--meaning quite literally that what we believe may be what we actually see. The question is then begged: What happens to our reality and to a society's reality when belief in the mythological ceases?

While this is heady stuff and the science fascinating, the author makes his words dance; the interplay being tremendously fun to behold.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5f11c8) out of 5 stars Don't let the "J" word scare you off 22 July 2006
By Miss Barbara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't let the "J" word scare you away from this book, or the "surf" word either for that matter. This is a slick and intersting work written by a real smart guy.

The author brings you along on his quest. He's searching for the origin of the "Conductor" lore - the enigmatic chap who controls the weather and the waves and can give a surfer the ride of his life or be the conduit for ending it.

Reading this book is like sitting in an amusement park ride being driven along a path that allows us a peek at Pacific legends, quantum physics, that ol'time religion and psychotropic drug treatments.

I'm a member of a read and release program and can't quite decide if I want to leave this book on a California pier, a roudy fundamentalist church or the local loony bin. But rest assured, anyone who lays claim to this book will find it fascinating. bg
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5effb4) out of 5 stars West of Jesus 6 July 2006
By Debra L. Powless - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Very interesting perspective that deals with a lot of interesting subjects - like out of body experiences, the basis for belief, great story of a personal quest. Often in the book when he touches on an interesting subject he will back it up with previously written data by another author or research that had been done. It was definitely out of the norm of what I usually read and I enjoyed it so much. A friend recommended it to me and I would like to recommend it to you.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5f15d0) out of 5 stars West of Jesus 13 Feb. 2009
By Robina Galford - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I buy many books from Amazon to send to my son who is currently in prison in Texas. He said this is, by far, the best book he has received. He has read it twice and has let other inmates read it as well, who all have loved it. I haven't read it yet, but will be doing so soon.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5f163c) out of 5 stars What's Next Boss? 27 Sept. 2006
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This semi-autobiographical book starts with the author having one of those moments where what comes after will not be like what went before. In his case the determining factor was a bout with Lyme disease. He had the disease a lot harder than most people and was basically bed ridden for two years, he was over the disease but left weak and probably depressed. Solution: Go to Mexico and go surfing.

From here Kotler begins wandering, both in the book and in life. He goes to investigate an old surfing folk tale called the Conductor, about a man who has the ability to control the weather, specifically the surf. With the remains of his life rather messed up, Kotler begins to surf around the world seeking the Conductor. He regains his strength, both physically and mentally. But he also begins to develop mystical experiences. He reports on out-of-body experiences, time stoppages, moments of ecstasy.

It was a delightful trip, it's a delightful story. Only I'm left with a wonder about what he's going to do next.
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