Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Keep Swimming

"Just keep swimming, keep swimming..." Dori in Finding Nemo

It's good advice. In one form or another, we've been telling each other to hang in there, keep trying, don't give up, or something similar for centuries. Poets, scholars, clergy, and religious leaders have all exhorted us to continue our endeavors in the face of adversity.

No one has explained why.

What is to be gained from keeping on, keeping on, keeping on? Is there some lesson to be learned, some end goal that will be eventually reached? Is success a matter of persistence? Is it really all about faith? If I had 'truly' desired to be an astronaut, despite poor choices to reach that goal, would I now be an astronaut?

I don't think it's all about keeping on. No, it's about stopping, taking time to reassess the goals and making adjustments in our path to those goals. It's also about assessing whether our goals might have changed.

Truth? Long ago I acknowledged I didn't really have the drive or desire to be an astronaut. That was a goal I ceded to other men and women who were willing to sacrifice everything to reach that goal. That wasn't me.

There are so many things I would like to know. So many places I would like to see. So many experiences I would love to have. Reality intrudes. We are only given so much time on this earth and our choices determine what we will see or participate in or learn. Further, our abilities often hem us in with constraints.

I will never be an opera singer or a country star. But that doesn't keep me from singing for my own enjoyment. If that's mostly in the shower, what of it? Does that negate the enjoyment I receive?

I will never be a Rembrandt or Constable. But I love painting for my own pleasure and if I choose to hang those pictures on the wall, why not? Must perfection always be the goal?

Perhaps the exhortation to 'keep swimming' is not so much about continuing in the SAME direction, but rather to keep moving in SOME direction. Don't stop dead in the water, paralyzed by fear and doubt, thereby making yourself a target for bigger, scarier predators. Keep swimming.

If that means taking a sharp right turn and arrowing off in a new direction, well then, that's still swimming, isn't it? We're still moving, right? Who knows what new wonders we'll discover in the unexpected direction?

Keep swimming.

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