Planning as drowning

Antonio Dias offers a fascinating description of what goes wrong when drowning:

What separates a swimmer from someone drowning is the way a swimmer acknowledges and respects the limitations of immersion in water. A person drowning rejects them. It is this rejection of their situation and its constraints that puts them in danger. A swimmer is immersed. A drowning person is not just in denial but actively rejecting where they are and insisting that the same “rules” that work on land should apply. They attempt to climb out of the water. They close themselves off from any possibility of learning from their situation, from learning how to adapt to what almost any human body will do on its own if left to its nature. A body floats. With little trouble it can float in such a way that one can maintain breathing and maintain life. A drowning person for whatever reasons that lead up to their being overwhelmed by their condition closes themselves off from these possibilities.

The real kicker is that he offers this as a metaphor: when we become over attached to planning and stability, we are in effect making the same error:

Solid ground, under the most stable of circumstances is still at most a convenient fiction. We are all, always immersed in turbulent flows that will overwhelm us if we lock-up and refuse to engage, to recognize the fact of our immersion. The habit of turning away from our direct experience, looking for “leadership,” for directions, for some plan to show us how to proceed; will only get us drowned as they divert our attention from the turbulent flow.

1 thought on “Planning as drowning

  1. Earl Mardle

    My metaphor is sailing, even though I have never been interested in the boating thing. A sailor has an idea of where they want to go but no idea of how they will get there, sometimes having to tack away or even turn around and outrun a storm.

    Sometimes you have to take shelter in a port you never intended to visit.

    Sometimes that turns out to be more interesting than your original plan.

    I have a good friend who was very ambitious and who had a plan to get to her goal. She wasted years of her life trying to implement that plan, turning down many great opportunities in the meantime. She was always unhappy because she was never present. She always wanted to be somewhere else, doing something else.

    She never reached her goal of being an actress, but when she finally gave it up, she became a published writer with several plays to her name, one performed in the UK by a Shepherd’s Bush company, a couple of radio plays and a masters in writing.

    My wife said last night that one of the things she likes about me is an ability to give up even apparently good things. I used to travel the world, do computery/internetty stuff; now I’m learning to be a farmer. I always take good memories but leave behind as many regrets as possible. Sometimes, however good the port has been, you need to weigh anchor and move on.

    Health warning: I have also been married 3 times; that comes with the territory.


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