Swimming Vs. Drowning

By , July 9, 2010

A while back, Clair Schwan, the originator of Self Reliance Works, used us as an example of living on reduced resources. He compared us favorably to another friend who also had no job, but who viewed it very differently.

Clair asked me if he could use us as an example. I introduced the prospect to Michelle and Aly one morning as we hiked to town, and as we mulled it over I was struck by one of the peculiarities of Alaskan life that bore a strong resemblance to the comparison Clair intended to make.

I grew up swimming in the ocean in Southeast Alaska. When possible, we chose the warmest days, and proper tides—as the tide rises on a rocky beach, the sun-warmed stones reduce the chill of the water slightly. If those conditions didn’t exist, we sometimes went swimming anyway.

The life expectancy for a “man overboard” in our area, where the summertime water temperatures rarely get higher than the 40s, is about 15 minutes at best. How then can we swim in those same waters, sometimes for up to an hour?

The answer, I believe, is positive mental attitude and intention. Deciding to swim, preparing for and executing that decision bears almost no relation whatsoever to accidentally falling into those same waters. If you had taken me off the beach, dried me off, dressed me, took me out on a boat off that same beach, and shoved me in unexpectedly, I probably wouldn’t have beat any endurance records.

My point is that I wonder if I can really be compared to Clair’s other friend? We took the plunge (if you’ll forgive me) voluntarily, determinedly, even enthusiastically. This did not happen to us while we were making other plans—it was the plan! Clair’s unfortunate friend certainly didn’t plan to lose his job.

It’s all about positive mental attitude, and intention. You see it among fire walkers—they’re out there calmly, coolly doing the impossible. To some, we’re right out there with them.

It humbles me, gives me pause. I doubt it’ll tempt me to try fire walking, though.

You will find a version of the essay above, as well as writing on similar and related topics in Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm by Mark A. Zeiger, available in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. The published version will likely be expanded, clarified, or updated from what you have just read.

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