Consider the following.
Terrestrial umbilicals. Scuba divers, e.g., carry bottled atmosphere underwater, taking a bit of our terrestrial environment with us.
Marine umbilicals. Whether on land or under the sea, meanwhile, we always bring along some of the marine environment from which, about 375 million years ago, we vertebrate land-dwellers first emerged. That’s right. We veteran fish-out-of-water types have internalized the seawater that gave us life in the first place. Our blood now comprises part of what is essentially a saltwater life-support system that allows us to persist on land. Neat.
Scuba wisdom to live by. What got me thinking along these lines? Recreational diving is really safe. (Even though my health insurance people, who like to stack the odds in the house’s favor, claim it isn’t, and my policy doesn’t cover diving accidents.) Serious mishaps are nearly always the result of panic. So a well-trained diver should follow this cardinal rule: Never do anything in a state of panic. You should condition yourself, at the onset of panic, to STOP. Whatever you’re doing, whatever problem has arisen—e.g. you’re hung up in a wreck, lost in a cave, out of air at 30 meters—you should simply stop whatever you’re doing. Then BREATHE. Not as in hyperventilate. Instead, you should breathe slowly and deeply, calming yourself. (Skip this step if it’s an out-of-air emergency.) Then THINK: What should you do? A trained diver can nearly always find a safe way out of the situation.
Not so long ago, it occurred to me I could bring the stop-breathe-think response up out of the sea and apply it quite generally to my day-to-day immersion in existence. Maybe it would help defuse anger, make me more mindful of my ingrained responses to pissedoffedness. (“What?” Sara says. “I haven’t noticed anything different—are you sure about this procedure?”)
And I’ve begun applying this response to other situations, taking the opportunity to reflect on my habitual responses to all manner of situations. Giving myself a chance to explore their origins and appropropriatness before I go ahead and make an ass of myself anyway.
The daily aphorism. Speaking of which, here’s my original aphorism for the day: We aren’t fish out of water; we descendents of fish are instead now wrapped around some seawater to go. Internally, we remain marine creatures.
Click Yawn-A Thriller sample chapter for a fictionalized account of a time I was for real trapped on a wreck at night.