I have read the novel “Tapping the Source” numerous times. The novel is a fascinating read into the dark side of man’s misuse of Free Will. Its never received the acclaim it deserves. Perhaps it strikes too close to home for comfort.
The setting is Southern California in the 1980’s and revolves around the youths living within a certain beach community. The place is beautiful with warm weather, sandy beaches and some of the best surfing in the world. Tucker , a young teen has come there to find his sister who has disappeared.
At the outset, Tucker falls in love with the beaches, the women and the parties; but, after a few months, he becomes disillusioned with the whole scene. This seems odd to him because he cannot seem to understand how someone could tire of such a place. Yet he does. As he begins to peel off the veneer of the whole scene, he notices that the overall environment is run by a group of men who are living exactly as he has been living: working menial jobs, getting drunk, chasing girls and spending the rest of the time surfing.
These men prey on youngsters who are new to the scene. They bully the young boys, seduce the young women and control the activities of the community. He observes that, like him, they are disillusioned by it all yet cannot seem to leave. They are, quite literally, forever stuck here, ensnared by its seductive beauty yet unable able to get the original “high” they once had from the place and the lifestyle.
Life moves on while they remain trying to “Tap The Source” of the pure pleasure the place once gave them. As the book unfolds, Tucker begins to notice the darkness that engulfs everyone and everything. In trying to tap this vein of pleasure, the older surfers have become corrupted, twisted and evil.
The notion of capturing beauty, forever locking it in place, has always fascinated me. Perhaps because it is impossible to do. Life always moves and changes. Nothing stays the same. Its akin to the drug addict who chases one more hit to recapture the high that never comes.
In economics there is a term for this. Its “The Marginal Declining Utility” which states that there is a decline in the marginal utility that a person derives from consuming each additional unit of that product. Think of it this way: for coffee drinkers, there is nothing like that first cup of coffee. Yet, each additional cup lacks a little more and tastes a little worse to the point you can’t drink it any more.
Personally, I have experienced this idea of trying to capture or recreate the past. When I first finished my training as an Infantry Officer, the Major who commanded the unit suggested that none of us go back home or see our old friends. He cautioned that what we had become was no longer compatible with our former settings. Only years later did I fully understand what he had meant, Today, the friendships from my youth are no longer the same. Most of them stayed where they were, figuratively and/or literally. They never assumed a new identity. In fact, the city I grew up in and loved now feels strangely foreign to me…just as he said it would.
But “Tapping the Source” takes this element of recapturing beauty and pleasure into a new realm. Pleasure, in and of itself, is not a drug. However, the author proposes the notion that when pleasure is experienced excessively, for its own sake, it takes on some of the characteristics of an addictive drug. The characters in the story are pleasure-seekers and, as they sacrifice more and more for the sake of pleasure, they find themselves completely spent. In the end, they are drained of both health and happiness while left morally corrupted. The only thing that sustains them now is a weird, evil perversion of pleasure that has, quite literally, destroyed them.
As the story goes on, the older surfers delve into darker and darker material…pornography, sex trafficking and, finally, snuff films. Once Tucker realizes what happened to his sister, he exacts his revenge then leaves the beach community before it happens to him.
I lived in a beach community for years. It seems that there is always a seedy underbelly that infests these towns. As in the novel, that infestation is populated by its older members who have stayed in the community too long. The contribute nothing but remain in search of the promise of the pleasures that beach life can offer.
Perhaps its human nature to seek pleasure and, as with everything else, it can do no harm in moderation. But when we forego the responsibilities of adulthood, resisting change in order to be no more than partakers in self-gratifying behavior, then we sow the seeds of our own destruction. As it was in art…so it is in life.