Monday, December 13, 2004

Up from underwater

· When I was young Naval officer, underwater survival exercises were part of our training. The one I remember, a sort of end-of-semester metaphor, was intended to simulate surviving a ship that had been torpedoed, so that water adjacent to the sinking ship was covered with burning oil. You jumped into deep water, swam an extended distance (the length of an Olympic pool or more) and then, when your lungs were bursting, you flapped your hands above your head, which was supposed to disperse the burning oil from a breathing space so that you could refill your lungs and take another lap until you had cleared the area of the burn.
· In our training exercises, there was no burning oil (we did do firefighting drills with actual burning oil and, even more fearsomely, burning gasoline), but the challenge of holding one’s breath for an extended period was a real one. What I remember is not so much the pain but the sweetness of the air, the blueness of the sky, and the intense greenness of the trees and shrubbery surrounding our training tank when I surfaced.
· The intensity of what we go through at university peak periods – end of semester paper writing, paper correcting, final exam writing, final exam correcting and, yes, budget drafting is a bit like survival training. It has elements in common with attempting to swim at top speed, for an extended distance, while holding one’s breath.
· … and eventually we know that our heads will break the surface. Our surroundings and relationships will take on a vivid intensity that was not apparent prior to our time of trial. We will appreciate them, all the more, by virtue of what we have been through. I believe that periodically stretching oneself to the absolute limit – mentally and physically – can be a cleansing experience. It can produce results similar to Zen disciplines that are intended to focus the mind and purify the soul.

In the interim, study break hours may help to get you through....
· Remember that dormgrandpop will be having study break hours with lots of coffee, tea, Klondike Bars, fruit and other energy restorers on the nights before final exams, from 10:45 until Midnight, December 14,15,16, 19,20,21.


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