Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Depth of Subjective Experience

I wanted to comment on something not related to education or students. Rather, I wanted to talk about my other life as a diver. I come from a background of scuba diving that started basic and moved into more and more diving, which resulted in deeper technical diving. All that means is that the diving became deeper, more equipment laden, and need a lot more contingency plans.

The more I pursued diving the more I took different types of risk. And I was content taking those risks. I saw some very exciting things, but I also pushed the limits of my personal safety. As I get older, I feel like I want to pull back from some of those risks. I want to be in the ocean more, but reduce risks.

In exploring the idea of free diving (also known as apnea diving), I realized that this was a world that held some risk, but also seemed more natural and made more sense. I wasn't closing out scuba diving, I was just readjusting my lens. I want to swim more, encounter more sea life, and move away from the need to dive deep.

I started reading and following the world of apnea diving. This is a fascinating sport. My approach to breath-holding diving was to basically push snorkeling into exploration. As I discovered, apnea diving has a wide range of ability and on the far end, is the extreme record holders that are breath holding to 200+ feet for more than 3 minutes. There is also different types of breath holding diving, like sitting idly in a pool and seeing how long you can hold your breath. It is competitive and takes a skilled athlete.

In terms of learning and understanding your own place in free diving, it takes some serious introspection, body control, and focus. In the end, when something doesn't work (like in thinking about academics) it can feel confusing and lost. World champion free diver Annelie Pompe discuss the reality of what it means to be the world champion, and realize that you can't dive any more. She explains in her post on her blog "I am one of the world's deepest freediving women soon to be in a freediving competition, and I can't freedive deep anymore."

She describes the experience as "When you freedive you close your eyes and dive into yourself. When you freedive you are utterly alone with yourself, your thoughts, memories and emotions." And that is a place where you can equally achieve and equally fail. The difficulty in subjective learning is the level of honesty in the reflection process. The closer we come to being truthful, the more refined we come to understanding the process. This article comes very close to the complicated nature of pushing yourself, pushing the limits of what is possible and reconciling that to what is doubtful, what is fearful, and what might stop you. That is a strange place to ponder the world, on the razor edge of great accomplishment, and failure.

The article ends with a very simple idea. "Freediving is difficult that way. 'You know why it is difficult?' my coach would ask. 'Because you have decided that it is difficult.' What if it's really that simple?"

Link to article:


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