Commentary courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
The recent acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon is evidence that the entire retail shopping experience is rapidly changing in America – and another indirect indication that open water swimming will continue to provide a valuable outlet for humans.
From books and clothing to electronic goods and foods, retail shopping is becoming increasingly dependent upon interactive websites, smart phones and delivery services both in America and around the world. Similar to the effect of escalators and elevators, microwaves and broadband, teleconferences and the social media, there is every motivation in all walks of life for Americans to become (or remain) increasingly sedentary.
With modern conveniences, people simply do not have to move either to enjoy meals or entertainment or to conduct business or share laughs or experiences with friends.
Never before in mankind’s history has this been possible for the average person.
With the growth of virtual reality and many other technologies undoubtedly to be developed in the future, we will be able to “travel” around the world, communicate with whomever we wish wherever we wish with automatic translations. And as we all know, humans can maintain relative healthfulness with an increasing array of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and artificial or replacement body parts.
But is this what the human body is meant to do: just sit around? Haven’t humans developed as dynamic organisms that require movement and activity? Nowadays, we can psychologically experience adventure through videos, films and virtual reality. But humans are geared towards physicality and emotional excitement.
Often we seek peer and parental recognition and at least some degree of physical attractiveness and prowess. We have an inherent sense of achievement and pride when we are face and overcome physiological, psychological and emotional challenges.
So if humans simply sit and wait for life to come at us via smartphones, virtual reality and teleconferences – all with a click of a button while sitting in cubicles or home offices, society can rapidly lose its edge, reduce its overall dynamism, and erode its true potential.
Conversely, humans cannot stop the advance of these modern technological conveniences. If the last several decades have proved to be a precursor, mankind will become more and more deconditioned and soft as technological breakthroughs continue.
Look at photos of people in the previous centuries. The inactivity of modern-day homo sapiens have most dramatically changed the shape and vigor of mankind at the same time the average lifespan has increased fairly significantly due to medical and pharmaceutical innovations.
This is where open water swimming can help. There is uncertainty, inherent risks, and the dynamism of Mother Nature in the open water. To step beyond the shoreline and head offshore, it requires a sense of adventure and a sense of purpose. These physical and psychological challenges can help swimmers maintain their physiological edge, kickstart their adrenalin rushes, and improve their dynamism both in and out of the water.
So while technology moves mankind closer to less movement and inactivity, open water swimming – or any kind of outdoor extreme activities – can move us towards physiological wellness and an improved sense of being.
This musing is theoretical and abstract, but somehow as our dryland colleagues sit more and more, allowing their fingers to move more on a keyboard or smartphone, and doing less with their major muscle groups, open water swimming can offer its own niche opportunities to risk-takers, outdoor types, adventurers, health advocates and dynamic individuals in society.
The tools are in place at our disposal: oceans, lakes and river; swimsuits, caps and goggles.
We just need to keep plugging away in the 70% of Planet Earth covered in water. That is our mission.
Photos above show Tiffany McQueen, Ingemar Patiño Macarine, Frank Lacson, Henri Kaarma, and Amy Appelhans Gubser – swimmers who simply get up and get after life in a relentlessly purposeful, meaningful way.
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