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Diana Nyad: Inspiration to baby boomers everywhere

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Diana Nyad: Inspiration to baby boomers everywhere

 

“You’re never too old” to follow your dreams, Diana Nyad told the crowd waiting for her on the beach at Key West Monday afternoon.

   

“This is a lifelong dream of mine and I’m very very glad to be with you,” Nyad said to her supporters in the boats around her just two miles from completing the swim.

 

Age and gender don’t matter. Nyad proved that today. By swimming some 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage, the 64-year-old has done something no other man, or woman, has managed to do.

 

It took her more than 50 hours, but she did it. This was her fifth try, and she had announced it would be her final attempt. I was rooting for her, following her progress on her web site and through news accounts. Earlier Monday, it looked as if she would actually succeed this time.

 

Jellyfish — tiny little creatures with tentacles the size of a strand of hair — had brought down last year’s attempt. They repeatedly stung her lips, the only part of her body exposed. This year she tried a protective mask, though it made it harder to breathe.

 

But sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do. If one method doesn’t work, then you try another. Perseverance, it’s called. My grandpa used another phrase: “Can’t never did anything.”

 

You can’t give up when you’re following a dream.

 

It’s a lesson I’m trying to teach my kids. When my teen-age daughter looked for her first job, she filled out 32 applications before the manager of a local restaurant took a chance on an inexperienced server and hired her to be a waitress. He said later he was impressed with her poise and professional attire.

 

Now she’s pursuing a career in theatre. It’s her dream. Is it practical? Who knows. She’s already had paying internships and some wonderful roles. At the age of 13, she played the part based on a young Carol Burnett in “Hollywood Arms,” the play by Burnett and her daughter Carrie Hamilton.

 

My daughter wrote a letter to Burnett, asking some questions about her childhood and the play. Burnett responded with a personal phone. Then she followed up with a bouquet of balloons sent to the cast and crew on opening night.

 

Dream?

 

Why not.

 

We’ve heard a lot about dreams this past week with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech. Sadly, the dream of racial equality has not yet been achieved.

 

But we still need to dream of a better world. For us Baby Boomers, times have been tougher than many of us expected. My husband’s gone through four layoffs because so many IT jobs have been outsourced overseas. But he’s stuck with it, learning new computer skills. As a writer, I’ve seen the fields of journalism and publishing undergo major upheavals with the changes in technology.

 

I first dreamed of writing when I was a 7-year-old girl and wrote down the stories I made up in a 1,001-page tablet that was a Christmas present. After working in publishing for a decade, I went out on my own as a freelancer — choosing to live in Kansas City, not New York. One East Coast friend didn’t think it would be possible.

 

But I supported myself for three years with freelance work as a journalist and editor until marriage and children changed the direction of my life — and my dreams as well.

 

“Never give up on your dreams,” President Barack Obama tweeted to Nyad.

 

Whatever your dream — whether you want to run a marathon at age 60 or manage to lose 20 pounds for better health — Diana Nyad gave us all inspiration today.

 

I remember her first attempt back in the '70s.   My mom was appalled at the things that "you kids" were doing.    She figured that we would eventually learn to relax and listen to Lawrence Welk.

 

Not.

 

:party:     Time to sing "Talkin' 'bout my generation"  again 

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Well, she certainly gets my nomination for naiad of the week.  A long swim in tricky water, sharks, jelly fish and all, and all.  I guess if a generation spans three decades, we are contemporaries.  Good for her.

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I'm about to call her crazy... and then I remember that I just put 1700 miles on my car over the weekend purely for the fun of it, and I shut up. :P

 

It's a fun part of life. Do something nutty and over the top and people will call you crazy. Do it even more over the top than anyone else ever has and you may get 15 minutes of fame and/or a spot in the Guinness book.

 

Swimming for 50 hours straight would be a superhuman feat for a 20 year old. That a 64 year old managed it is truly incredible.

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I suppose calling her a stupid idiot for swimming uneccessarily in shark infested waters wouldn't gain me any popularity so I won't call her one.

 

Let's just say I see no reason why we should glorify 'dreams' that achieve nothing. There is a time and a place for bravery and I hardly think a peacetime with a fairly steady economy is one of them...

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I suppose calling her a stupid idiot for swimming uneccessarily in shark infested waters wouldn't gain me any popularity so I won't call her one.

 

Let's just say I see no reason why we should glorify 'dreams' that achieve nothing. There is a time and a place for bravery and I hardly think a peacetime with a fairly steady economy is one of them...

Well, you are basically calling her a stupid idiot, and you openly confess that your only motivation to weaken that insult at least formally is not the slightest respect for her, her dreams and her priorities in life (as much as these may differ from your own), but only your own, selfish fear of making yourself unpopular. In my books, that's not making it any better.

 

As for dreams "achieving nothing", that may be true from your point of view, but the mere act of getting up and mastering a challenge can achieve a lot for yourself - certainly more than sitting at home and just thinking about it, but never doing anything. What's more, her example can be an inspiration to others who might have a low self-esteem and hesitate to do something because others keep telling them "you'll never make it", "it's impossible", and so forth. Her accomplishment may cause a reaction along the lines of "Heck, if she can do that, then why shouldn't I be able to do this?" History tells us that many developments and discoveries have been made by people who didn't listen to others telling them that something was impossible, nonsense, or useless - or called them stupid idiots. ;) That doesn't make any bold and reckless act a great achievement for mankind, of course, but the spirit is the same.

 

Your last sentence strikes me as a little odd, I must confess. So you're indirectly saying that times of war and economic crisis are the times - the only times! - for which all people should reserve their bravery? I think being brave is an absolute value that is independent of time and place, and I don't see why brave acts in times of peace and stability would in any way hamper bravery in harder times.

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To T Wrecks

 

Firstly I was trying to be as polite as possible in the manner in which I spoke. Secondly my point was essentially that doing something reckless without there being a demand for it, without there being a necessity for it, is stupid essentially. This didn't achieve anything for science or progress. This was no walk on the Moon or discovery of a new continent. It was purely a test of endurance which isn't going to be required in everyday, or indeed wartime, life. As to inspiration why would anyone want to copy such a foolish act?

 

Self estimation has nothing to do with this. Ones estimation for ones abilities is founded, yes, by ones experience, but this ability is hardly called for in day to day or extranormal existence. This is not something we have to do, or will ever have to do. The 'spirit' can be captured in films, and its existence serves no function but motivation, which can be had by reading about acts which were useful or necessary.

 

Why should I respect somebody who wastes their life trying to achieve something which serves no purpose, has no artistic merit, nor any visible merit whatsoever, and appears to be purely a test of physical endurance in unrealistic conditions? We aren't fish, Sir.

 

I myself test my endurance on my mountain bike. I ride as far as I can. But bicycling is a useful activity for commuting and travel. It isn't an obsession, either. If we wish to inspire and motivate people to 'follow their dreams' then so be it, but this dream seems particularly useless and wanting in merit.

 

 

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  • Original Poster
  • This didn't achieve anything for science or progress.

     

     

    I disagree.  This says a lot about the human body and aging.

     

    There are amazingly few studies regarding how the human body ages.   I remember when it was considered to be a normal process for blood pressure to go up as people got older.   There was actually a chart listing the normal blood pressure for people 40 - 49 versus 50 - 59 versus 60 - 69, etc.   It took one determined 70-something "fitness freak" to prove that wrong.   Doctors were stunned that he had the blood pressure "of a 25 year old".  They did not believe that was possible.  They had to revise their concept of what normal blood pressure was.

     

    Science is not particularly interested in how the human body ages, partially because each person does it differently and there are so many variables.   It is up to individuals to push the limits to discover what those limits actually are.

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    The problem with your argument Meg is that every human body is different. She might have been able to do this at her age. Does't mean everyone at her age can. There are thousands of factors involved I'm afraid. For instance when I was 10 I had asthma. 

     

    "Science is not particularly interested in how the human body ages, partially because each person does it differently and there are so many variables.   It is up to individuals to push the limits to discover what those limits actually are."

     

    Precisely. So I would argue this achieves little for science. Tests could be conducted without this sort of extravagance.

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    People do seemingly impossible things because they are there.  This is part of our predatory makeup.  We would not have colonized other areas out of Africa if our curiosity and predatory instincts did not take us there.

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  • Original Poster
  • The problem with your argument Meg is that every human body is different. She might have been able to do this at her age. Does't mean everyone at her age can. There are thousands of factors involved I'm afraid. For instance when I was 10 I had asthma. 

     

    "Science is not particularly interested in how the human body ages, partially because each person does it differently and there are so many variables.   It is up to individuals to push the limits to discover what those limits actually are."

     

    Precisely. So I would argue this achieves little for science. Tests could be conducted without this sort of extravagance.

     

     

    How would one test for this?

     

    A big issue here is one of mindset.  People develop the ideas like "Human beings can not _____"

     

    As I said earlier, time was people thought "Human beings can not have low blood pressure at 70 years old."   Well, yes, they can.  It depends on a variety of factors but it is possible.  Key word there being "possible".

     

    Another one:  "Human beings can not survive in space."  Yes, they can.  Again, it is dependent on a variety of factors.

     

    We don't really know what the boundaries are until we push them.    Some people chose, for themselves, to push the boundaries to see what is possible.  I applaud them even if what they do sometimes seems a bit ridiculous. 

     

    I was cheering on that guy who walked across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope.  There was no "need" for anyone to do that, just like there was no "need" for anyone to swim between Cuba and Florida.

     

    But, if someone isn't pushing to envelope to see what is possible, we are just sitting around with a lot of pre-conceived, untested theories about what we can or can not do.   If some people want to use themselves as guinea pigs to to gather some empirical data, more power to them.

     

    I always did want to know what was "outside of the box" that we are expected to live within.

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    Yes but pushing boundaries can be carried out in safe tests with simulated environments. You could just as easily swim laps to demonstrate that, or walk on a tight rope one metre above ground.

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    A Nonny Moose is right. For some things, the fact that failure could mean death is what makes all the difference.

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    Doing something in a controlled simulation is a lot different from doing it when there is actual danger. The physical demands are the same but the emotional demands are very different. And in the real world the two are inevitably intertwined.

     

    Besides, swimming 90 miles in circles in a pool is boring.

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    Quite. Well at any rate don't expect to see me swimming in shark infested oceans or tightroping across gorges just to be 'cool' and 'with the flow'. I think I'll stick to good old common sense thank you very much and continue trying to get paid employment...

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    Perfect moment to bring out good old Maslow's pyramid of human needs. The reason Mark doesn't like what this lady did is because both are on a different level of the pyramid. Mark wants a paid job, which is the second stage in the pyramid. Swimming to Cuba on the other hand, is clearly a form of self actualization, which is the top of the pyramid, and is something people can only afford to do once they have secured all the conditions in the previous stages. 

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