Those of us who work and play out there on the edge – be it physically or intellectually – fully appreciate the challenge in self-motivation. There is often no ‘competiton’ per se to drive us along. Our mission comes from within, and we must do all we can to challenge ourselves and make progress. When a good idea comes about, we teach it how to crawl. When it finally grows some legs of is own, we hold its hand and take it for the run towards
mainstream acceptance. Every now and again – we run out of steam. It happens, and it has to be dealt with.
My tendency to run out of steam comes from a decision I made more than ten years ago – I made the very conscious decision to NOT pursue a career in academia in exchange for this life aquatic. I made that decision because I saw something in the experience of venturing to a new ocean frontier, and realized there was a mission that needed to be met. I am fortunate to have had that opportunity…a ‘moment’ if you will.
I realized in that brief moment that to take human intervention to a new frontier in the ocean, the diving had to come first – not the science. That was something my family, peers, and scientist friends have choked on for every second of this last decade. In fact, I’ve been plainly asked…
For the serial entrepreneur, we bother because that’s what we’re engineered to do. We have no choice. I explain this in a bit more detail in my book entitled ‘Black Beans, Mean Business’. Though, it goes without saying that doing something different is always viewed as a stray from mass conformity, and that effort is often skeptically met…time after time, after time, after time. It is easy to be occasionally beat down, and struggle with oneself to find value in what you’ve spent your entire life doing. I go through it all the time, and for reasons unknown, I am going through it now.
The choice I made to follow the life aquatic, rather than the academic route is because frankly, there is no existing academic path to follow that would provide the body of knowledge coupled with this degree of field immersion that would have left me expert enough to do the exploration work I am doing. The body of work needs to be created, and perhaps in time, it will find a home in an academic context so that the next guy has a path to follow. I have taken this perspective so far as to have been offered academic positrons in peripherally related areas of interest, only to turn them down because it would mean not staying focused on the bigger picture to the extent necessary.
So, as a ‘blue’ collar tradesman of the water world by day, I refocus energies at night to write about these aquatic experiences, design and fabricate new tools to make my day job more efficient, and take steps toward developing projects and programs that illustrate why humans need to take steps towards a new life in the sea, and document everything with data to back it up – basically the life of an academic; how ironic.
Without an institutional home, a Phd in something (anything!), or an administration to float my work, I’ve experienced both benefits and setbacks in my mission. The setbacks are obvious and all revolve around the uphill battle to distinguish my work within circles of relatively high intellectual capacity – where funders lurk about. The benefits is of course being able to self-direct my pursuit, ever-evolving a body of work that helps attract some visibility and the bits and pieces of support to keep moving forward. The latter however, comes with occasionally running out of steam.
Perhaps after 30 or 40 years, the cumulative sum of academic field experiences may have afforded me the same place as I stand (or swim) today. In reality however, I am in the water nearly every single day, spending hours upon hours in an environment that is foreign to even many of those who extract a living from its resources, the resulting industries, and fields of study. The need for this level of immersion is why I felt the need to stray away from the convention.
I believe, to this day, that to take human intervention of our oceans to new depths (excuse the play on words), an entirely new worldly body of knowledge needs to be extracted from the limited undersea experiences that we humans have had. Indeed, doors have been opened, but in practice, we have not yet taken steps through those doors…not even close.
I can say with great certainty that while I am challenged by my contemporaries, critics, and even question myself from time to time, the life experience that has come with full and total immersion into diving cannot be re-created. Beyond the equipment, the physics, the physiology – all of the knowns of operating in two dimensions – there lies another dimension that was only discovered through realizing two things – aptitude and composure. I have written about those two things previously, and they stand true to every test I’ve had in operating underwater. These come only with time in the water; and massive amounts of it at that.
Experiencing ocean space with the aptitude earned after a serious decade of immersion in the field changes everything. Experiencing not just depth and time, but also space, with great composure allows the diver to accomplish the unimaginable and realize a sense of human worth in pursuing something much greater than we have here on land – in the ocean.
Why bother? For the few out there that have had the calling, share that experience. For humans to evolve in to our Blue Planet, the masses need to not just understand, but feel he experience for themselves. The constant push to deliver results and products is a means to quantify a process, but we cannot lose site of that process. It is the human experience through the passage of time that steers and directs those deliverables. That body of work within the undersea realm lies there for the taking, and that’s why I bother.