It’s just a ride

Greenland skills on Loch EckSpending time with other kayakers, I realise that there is often quite a contrast of opposites being balanced in our lives. The opposites might manifest as: sitting in an office versus going out in a kayak; wearing a business suit versus a drysuit; cubicle walls and striplights versus undulating seas and vast, changing skies; counting down the hours versus losing track of time; numbing our senses versus heightening them … etc. In the “normal” world, we are engulfed by the trappings of civilisation – electronics, home comforts, entertainment and so on. It’s all quite nice, but somehow it’s not enough. On the sea, we set out with our kayaks, whatever we can stash in our hatches and the skills we have worked to acquire. Yet we return with so much more, all of which can be placed firmly in the “Money Can’t Buy” category –  things like perspective, self-confidence, creativity and connection. Importantly, we get out to play!

So, why is there often a little soupcon of guilt lacing our pleasure, especially if we have the audacity to go out playing during what might not be strictly considered as our spare time? Is it some puritanical streak in our culture that views play as merely a luxury or indulgence that we are only “allowed” after we’ve finished the important business of work (a bit like no dessert without first eating vegetables?). The culture many of us were raised in programs us to believe that we can’t afford to be too frivolous, we must conform to a schedule. Our worth is rooted in devoting our time to earning a living which, in today’s society, justifies our right to exist.

After some rolling practiceYet could it be that play is something quite natural? We might more readily associate it with children, yet it’s very much how children learn and create, explore their limits, engage with their environment and let go of boundaries. Is that such a bad thing for adults to do?  Can anyone argue that humanity has become ever so slightly disengaged from “the environment” (which is over there somewhere), from nature (as seen on TV), indeed from itself ? Perhaps this isn’t working out so well – just read the papers! (Of course, I’m not including non-creative  imitations of play in this discussion, such as computer games and entertainment, where we rely on others to create experiences for us to consume).

A great rideSome days, I look out on the water and there is simply a need to connect with it, to bounce around on the waves and whoop, to see what I can do with my kayak, to get a little ecstatic and a little scared, to chat to the seals, to “waste” time, to be an unbroken spirit. It doesn’t earn me a living.  Instead perhaps – to put it grandly – I get to feel like I’m a part of the universe’s creative force, as opposed to a cog in a human-made machine.

Does that mean that we kayakers should just spend all our time out having fun on the water then? Well, unless you have a particularly fortuitous job, most of us have to come ashore and stare at a computer screen for a while. Ray Mears programmes and veggie gardens aside, it is still necessary to participate in the world and work within its structures (at least to some extent) in order to eat, amongst other things. The trick is not to be numbed or betrayed by it. At the end of the day, it’s just a ride – and we can change it any time we want.

The World is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real, because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round, and it has thrills and chills and is very brightly colored, and it’s very loud. And it’s fun, for a while.

Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they’ve begun to question, ‘Is this real, or is this just a ride?’, and other people have remembered, and they’ve come back to us and they say, ‘Hey, don’t worry. Don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.’ and we KILL THOSE PEOPLE.

“Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride! SHUT HIM UP! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account, and my family. This just has to be real.”

It’s just a ride.

But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that. You ever noticed that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because … It’s just a ride.

And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead see all of us as one.”

— Bill Hicks (1961 – 1994)