Posted on Thursday 11 May 2006

sense :: hearing // Adham Shaikh – Orcadrift (Turtledub Remix)

You know, David Blane has gotten a little flak in a couple of different places that I’ve read about his “Drowned Alive” stunt, where he essentially dunked himself in body temperature water and is staying submerged in it for something like 8 days. The comments that I’ve heard usually range from “What was the purpose of his week long captivity within a water bubble? Did it advance world peace, or was it to bring attention to a noteworthy cause? Nope – it was all about sheer attention getting.” to “I hope David Blane sucks H2O tonight” to “The stunt … and the piggyback publicity … is all so amazingly shallow and meaningless.”

Wow folks, bitter much? Not everything everyone does in life has to have some sort of grand purpose, or serve to further world peace and tranquility. Seriously; I wish these folks would ask themselves: “does everything I do support world peace and harmony?” “How many malnourished children have I saved today?” Seriously; it’s one thing to do something great, it’s another to demand that other people do great things all the time. Kind of like being an armchair quarterback, but without the guts and nerve necessary.

Personally, I’m intrigued by Blane’s stunts and tricks, and I’m consistently impressed by his attempts to show the world the extent of what the human body can do, pushing that limit, and doing wild and crazy things that other people-especially those complaining-could never do themselves. Sure it’s a publicity stunt, sure it’s an attention-getting trick, but sure, if you hate it that much, change the channel, you don’t need to troll people who are discussing it seriously. But then again, that’s the nature of the internet. Aside from my fascination, this brings up another point, one that I think is very zen.

People have this feeling that everything they do has to have a grand and noble purpose. They believe that everything you do in life has to serve some higher purpose, save lives and make a difference. But in the process of looking for such great, leaping change, in an attempt to find something that they can do to eradicate hunger, or clean the air, or eliminate poverty, we so often forget to do the small things that could contribute more to those same causes: donate to a food bank or work a soup kitchen, drive a fuel-efficient car or get on your feet and walk where you used to drive, donate to a charity that provides job training or builds shelters-or better yet volunteer for one. All we can do is all we can do, and whether it’s a grand stunt that brings the sparkle of amazement to a young person’s eyes when they watch and see what their bodies are capable of or it’s adopting an orphaned child when you know full well that you could have one if you choose, all we can do is all we can do. We make a difference every day, in every moment, with every action, and to judge those actions on a relativistic scale is foolish and in itself meaningless.

For all its worth, someone could easily tell me that the hours I spend bored at work I should be out marching for change instead of writing articles, but then someone else could stand at Mother Teresa’s grave and tell her she should have worked harder. Relativism is a rough road to take, and judging someone from a sanctimonious high-horse only serves to make our own accomplishments more meaningless. You may not have the time or the ability to travel the world feeding children, so all you can do is make a difference in your own way, maybe with one child. Does that make you less than someone else…or in contrast, does the energy and devotion you give to one, as opposed to spreading a little among many, make you better?

But then, isn’t the competition itself meaningless? Why does it matter who’s better or worse, who’s furthering “world peace” and who’s inspiring a few privileged watchers to superhuman dreams? Or even better, who’s “bringing attention to a noteworthy cause” as opposed to who’s helping a beleaguered family relax and sit in awe for a few moments before retiring to bed, or having something to talk about at the dinner table? In the end, all of our actions, regardless of their “cause” or their “difference,” don’t matter at all. And before you take the first step to champion a cause, this is the fact you must come to term with. It may make all the difference in the world, but it won’t matter at all. And yes, if you’re confused, it’s both-it always is. There will always be orphaned children until the day when there are no more children, but that doesn’t change the love and passion and emotion you give to the lives you change. There will be hungry and poor until the day there are no more people to be hungry and poor, but does that stop you from addressing it with your charity dollars and community service efforts? Of course not. Because to those people you help, it can mean a world of difference. The rivers will get dirty, and the air will become sooty, but does that stop you from biking when you could have driven? No-of course not, because you know in your own way, you’re doing something that you care about.

And that’s it-the point-right there; because you care. Even if the rest of the world were to die tomorrow you would still have cared, and you would have still done something. All you can do is all you can do. And it’s the most noble, wholehearted, eyes-open, life-enriching thing you can do, whether it’s to feed a hundred starving countrymen or to submerge yourself in water for 8 days. You do what you can do, what you know you can do.

I think we would all do well to remember it. I try constantly to remind myself.

All I can do is all I can do.

And the best I can do is the best I can do.

But what I need to do is remember to put my best into all that I will do.

And that’s how you make a difference.

2 Comments for 'drowning'

    May 17, 2006 | 10:37 am

    Oh! Quite a challenge in a society that defines our worth and power by what we do.

    May 17, 2006 | 10:54 am


    Some people might consider it a copout; an opportunity to relax on one’s laurels for not “doing” anything in “life,” but I think it’s rather to the contrary; if you’re the type of person who can “do” a lot, and have the drive and energy to keep “doing,” then that’s what you can do, and you should do it with all your might, but if you’re limited by circumstance or position or financial opportunity, you shouldn’t be chained by those things, but you shouldn’t feel like a failure because you didn’t “do” something according to someone else’s standards.

    It all came to my head quite rapidly, actually.

Leave a comment



Information for comment users
Line and paragraph breaks are implemented automatically. Your e-mail address is never displayed. Please consider what you're posting.

Use the buttons below to customise your comment.

RSS feed for comments on this post | TrackBack URI