Why Open Water Swimmers Are Like Richard Feynman

Why Open Water Swimmers Are Like Richard Feynman

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California. Richard P. Feynman was a revolutionary thinker who won the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. He once said, “I have a friend who’s an artist…He’ll hold up a flower and say ‘look how beautiful it is,’ and I’ll agree. Then he says ‘I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,’ and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color.  It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms?  Why is it aesthetic?  All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds.” Like a scientist who sees things in a profoundly deeper realm than non-scientists, open water swimmers can see and appreciate things at a much more profound level when they observe another swimmer in the open water. Imagine a person who crosses the English Channel.  A non-swimmer is suitably impressed. But an open water swimmer can understand the crossing on a different, more internal, deeply profound level. Swimmers can… …easily comprehend the feeling of hypothermia… …empathize with the pull of the tides and the push of the currents… …imagine the pain of venom entering the skin through jellyfish tentacles… …visualize the early morning hours driving to the pool or the seaside to train… …fathom the frustration of swimming in place or getting sloshed around in turbulent seas… …identify with the discomfort of seasickness, the annoyance of chafing, and the fear of swimming at night and among sharks… …know the beauty of bioluminescence and the glory of the sun rising above the horizon. Open water swimmers understand the training, sacrifice, costs, logistics, decisions, marine life…and fate and the myriad dynamic, unpredictable phenomena…that are involved in the sport. They know, they feel, they conceptualize at a significantly deep, profound, innate level that ultimately creates a community of like-minded athletes. Like Feynman speaking among knowledgeable physicists, discussions among open water swimmers includes a special lexicon that involves the mind as much as the body. Copyright © 2008 – 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association