Professor Aaron James is a surfer and a philosophy professor at the University of California at Irvine.
He wrote an eye-catching and provocative book after noticing a certain kind of behavior among surfers in the Pacific Ocean. Selfish surfers would ignore the etiquette of surfing and cut him off on a wave. After considering this kind of rude behavior of entitlement, he realized there were many others who exhibited this kind of self-centered attitude among others on terra firma.
It was not hard for the professor to find belligerent people who cut off others on the highways or in lines at the supermarket or act as bullies in bars or offices.
So the surfer side in Professor James turned to his philosopher side. He not only teaches a university course called Introduction to Moral Philosophy: Outlaws, Pyschopaths and Assholes, but he also wrote an eye-catching book entitled Assholes: A Theory.
The Amazon book review describes his work as “…Much as Machiavelli illuminated political strategy for princes, this book finally gives us the concepts to think or say why assholes disturb us so, and explains why such people seem part of the human social condition, especially in an age of raging narcissism and unbridled capitalism. These concepts are also practically useful, as understanding the asshole we are stuck with helps us think constructively about how to handle problems he (and they are mostly all men) presents. We get a better sense of when the asshole is best resisted, and when he is best ignored — a better sense of what is, and what is not, worth fighting for.”
What strikes us about this book is how the entire sport of open water swimming is an athletic showplace where the antithesis of Professor Aaron’s descriptions of dubious and devious behavior presents itself.
The open water world is like an oasis of niceness.
It is perennially a pool of pleasantness where compassion, camaraderie and collegiality exists in abundance.
Participate in a lake swim, volunteer at an ocean race, escort a channel swimmer and the sport will present itself as a venue of virtue.
Unlike the boorish surfers in the ocean or the completed jerks at the office, the athletes, coaches, officials, administrators, volunteers, pilots and safety personnel of the open water world are helpful, encouraging and selfless individuals, nearly always ready to lend a hand or provide support in big ways and in small.
Need sunscreen? A swimmer will always offer it.
Need a swim buddy or escort? Just fire off an email.
Need words of advice or desire encouragement? Talk to a swimmer.
The individuals we observe in the open water world are the type of people who Professor James did not write about in his latest book. Rather they are the type of people who you wish as friends, neighbors, siblings or co-workers: hard-working individuals with an attitude of mutual respect, serious athletes with a sense of humor, friendly mates with a constant twinkle in their eye and genuine smile on their face.
The open water community is a big world and, fortunately, it is always getting better on the backs of its hard-working enthusiasts with hearts of gold.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
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