Monday, February 7, 2011

The Boat Moves

Rowing is all about working without working. It is a judo match, using all the energy that is already there to succeed. The boat moves under you as you row. The body doesn’t move until the boat does; when the oar catches the water, everything but the boat is in a fixed position.

Sometimes that’s how life feels. Everything moves around me while I am planted in place. All the forward momentum—the things I cannot control—are stuck in drive while I have to look back, moving in a fixed position just to keep up. I was looking at pictures of me as a ten year old. I don’t feel I have aged a day, I don’t feel like I know significantly more than I did then. If I look back I can see the changes. A slowly passing scene fading into the vanishing point. I can never really look forward; never get more than a glimpse over my shoulder. I have to have confidence in where I was to know where I’m going.

It’s exhausting. Life. And it requires enormous courage. It’s one of those things that everyone has to go through, but to make it proudly to the end is bravery of the utmost magnitude. To row past the finish line is a huge relief and an exhausting proposition. It also offers no catharsis; there is always plenty of water to keep rowing, you never see it coming, and it feels like everyone around you has done much better. The real success comes in knowing that you have gone from point A to point B with confidence and determination. To see the start line in the distance; so far away but you were there only a moment ago.

Let the boat move under you. Let the boat move forward with all of your energy in the moment, the precise point where the oars are dug into the water. Let it shoot forward, accelerating to the finish mechanically, methodically. Enjoy the view. Look back with an eye constantly to the future. A careful relaxation of the body as it recovers, the oars come to catch the water, and the body exerts a stronger push than before. Let the boat move under you; a constant rhythm, always giving everything, and then giving more.