Some praise and adore Diana Nyad as an example and a superwoman; others ridicule her as self-centered and pointless. Here’s another take.
Hooray! We humans have done it again. We have done one of the very few things we do that separate us from all other species.
We have gone beyond ourselves, stretched, reached, and set a new standard. We have done that just because we do things like that – and for no other reason than that. It is so very important for us to do that – to go beyond, to do not what’s necessary but what’s possible, to surpass ourselves – that sometimes it little matters what we’re going beyond, as long as we do it.
This time “we” did it in the strong body, indomitable spirit, focused mind, and immense heart of 64-year old Diana Nyad. Thirty-five years after first trying to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a cage in shark-infested waters, and falling short four times in the process, we did it. We took 53 hours, made 200,000 strokes, all while wearing a special suit and mask to prevent the incessant, relentless stinging of those damn jelly fish. None of us was sure of the outcome, but we sure of the mission.
And then we did it. We stumbled onto shore looking like we had gone to hell and somehow managed a return trip. But we did it.
But wait: “We?”
Was it really “we” who did it? Can we take credit for the enormous, successful effort of one woman? Yes, in a sense we can. We are the species – the only species – that does these things – things that are not necessary but possible – and who implore us to do more of that. And in this case, let’s not even linger on the fact that this was not a man but a woman – significant as that is – and that this simply was one of us humans, a spectacular one at that, but let’s get past that. This was human triumph, doing what was not necessary but possible, and when one of us does it, we have done it. So yes, it was most definitely “we.”
“We” were tough, determined, visionary, and courageous, but our courage was so much more than getting into the water where we knew there were sharks. As Harper Lee said, “Courage is knowing you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through, no matter what.” And for sure, “we” were licked four times over the past 35 years, but our courage was getting back in the water again to prove, once again, that the human condition is variable but the human spirit is not.
Yes, it was “we.”
“We” are Hannibal crossing the Alps, saying “We will either find a way or we will make one.”
“We” are Sir Edmund Hillary who, with Tenzig Norgay ascended Mount Everest three days after two other equally skilled climbers succumbed to exhaustion only 100 meters from the peak, explained that “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
“We” are Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, who said, “People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.”
“We” are Dr. Jonas Salk who said. “I’ve had dreams and nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.”
“We” are Roger Bannister running the first sub-four minute mile, Jesse Owens setting four world records in 70 minutes, and countless marathoners, triathletes, and ironmen who stretch, reach, and set new standards.
“We” are the amputee who walks again, the inventor who dreams, the diva who brings us to our feet.
“We” are Diana Nyad. And because we are, we have gone farther than ever before. We have pusged our boundaries and extended our reach. “We” have done it again. This time it took Diana Nyad to accomplish it, but “we” have done it.
Eli Amdur, 2013. All rights reserved