This blog is called Confessions Of an Idiot for a reason. Don’t expect what follows to be a high level discussion of politics and society, that is not where I live. I try to keep things simple and practical, it is the only way I am able to make any sense of the world.
For 18 months my job was to administer a diving test that had absolutely nothing to do with diving. A test of adversity, in the most unforgiving environment imaginable. I learned an immense amount by watching people work, struggle, panic, and thrive in the water. I occasionally invited friends and family to observe, most left slightly disturbed if not speechless by what they saw. It was not for the timid or faint of heart.
It was a simple test. One student crawls along the bottom of the pool while an instructor “introduces” failures into the equipment. Some problems are as easy, like turning off the air. Some problems are complex, knots and kinks in hoses, restricting the ability to inhale and exhale. Every problem has a solution. Sometimes you can take your tanks off to fix a problem, sometimes you cannot. If you follow the procedures, it will be an extremely difficult test, but you will pass. If you deviate, you will fail. Once the stopwatch begins, it can be the longest twenty minutes of your life. You will never have as much air as you want, and you will be holding your breath for long periods of time. Just when you think you have solved a problem and are expecting a reprieve, another problem, at the most inconvenient time for you. The student attempts to remain calm, the instructor attempts to induce panic. Simple, right? The structure for Democracy sounds simple too.
As a student, you learn that nothing is impossible. You are the master of your fate. You learn that the ability to control your emotions and stay calm, regardless of what is happening around you, is all that matters. Adversity begins to look different, it starts to look like motivation. The things in life that have value come at a cost, the things that are valueless come easy. This lesson cannot be learned in a “safe space.”
As an instructor, you learn that an impossible test is simple, you can break anyone you want. Administering a fair, yet difficult test is much harder to do. You eventually learn that the students often have as much to teach you as you have to teach them. Some are harder, more dedicated, more intelligent, and more capable than you will ever be. You realize that your role is more than gatekeeper, it is mentor. You realize that there is something to be learned from everyone, you just have to get out of your own way to see it. You realize, that the students will one day become your peers.
Water enhances stress. After a few weeks of teaching in the pool, you are able to recognize the signs of panic. First are rapid movements and wide eyes, generally followed by poor control of the air escaping your mouth, then muscular tension and gritting your teeth. Next comes planting the soles of your feet on the pool floor, in preparation for a launch to the surface. Others choose to fight a problem longer than they should, and end up passing out under water. You can see this coming as well. The “chicken neck”, uncontrollable gulping that occurs when you hold your breath for a long time. Try it above the water, it will happen right before you gasp for air. Underwater, when this happens, and is accompanied by air escaping from the mouth, you are a few seconds, if not less, from passing out. When you pass out under water, some interesting things happen. Upon reaching the surface you often sound like a blue whale sending out mating calls, and you generally lose control of your bladder and bowels. Its messy.
I see a lot of people on the verge of panic right now.
The rights and freedoms we have don’t come with an asterisk. No one owes me an explanation as to who they voted for and why. Quite frankly, I don’t want it or care. I am not going to gain, or lose friends over your beliefs. I don’t care how passionate you are; you do not have a crystal ball. There was, and is, something to be learned from both sides. The diversity of choice and belief is one of the things I love the most about this country.
People are afraid of waking up in a world where corruption, inequality, racism, bigotry, rape, riots, murder, discrimination of religion, sexual preference, race and gender exist. Where a health care system is failing, with the threat of deportation, a wall on our border, and let’s not forget terrorism. I hate to break it to you, but if you woke up this morning and are reading this, that is the world we live in NOW. None of these problems are new. Whether they get worse, or better will only be determined with time. These aren’t government problems; they are people problems. If you get enough of us together, historically, we act like a pack of idiots. Stop looking to the government to fix these problems, and start looking at yourself.
Be a contributing member of society. Raise children who become successful, who understand the value of hard work, who respect others. Be an example to your family, lead in your community, and stand up for what is right. Instead of stepping on someone’s head to get your own above water, help those around you. Extend your hand and pull someone else to the surface, so we all can survive and thrive. There is more than enough room for everyone. Stop acting like victims. Start acting like Americans.
When cooler heads prevail, and they will, we will all realize that we are still in the pool together. There is a line of people waiting to join us, because even with our flaws and warts, we are one of the best places to be on earth. We are far from perfect, and we never will be, but you cannot ignore the progress we have made as a nation. If you don’t believe me, go dip your toes in some other pools. It does not take long to realize that we often take more for granted than most are afforded, in their entire life.
A closing thought. Once a student is refreshed on the side of the pool, we send them back into the water with a mask and plastic bag. They get to pick up the mess they left behind for everyone else to swim in. It is not a glamorous job; I would imagine it is embarrassing. The world is watching us, and looking for bags to hand out.
I would appreciate it if people stopped shitting in the pool.