Be Water

Be water.

As a raft guide, water is my life; as a human, water is essential to life. On a personal level though, water is much more.

Water is strong, water is powerful, water is humbling. Until recently I whole-heartedly believed in the adage to just “go with the flow” and take life as it comes, but this ideology is flawed.

It may be cliché to talk about water and reference Bruce Lee’s famous “be water” quote, but if you don’t know it, the philosophy is this:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

The value in the idea of being formless yet forming to everything is untouchable; in modern society it seems harder today than ever before.

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But is it? Really?

As a raft guide I’ve flipped boats, I’ve rocketed out of rafts because of mistimed paddle strokes and I’ve been stuck under rafts in class III and IV whitewater; the key, in my mind, though is not just to go with the flow, but to embody its dynamic force. Feel the power around you, develop understanding with the current and in that moment of humility allow the energy to manifest itself within and through you, guiding you to a better place.

I have written before about the unmatched power of water, but in considering my experiences and the words above, contextualized by the current state of global politics, I believe we must allow ourselves to be guided by the energy around us.

Regardless of cultural background or political standing, there is value to be found in the water analogy. According to philosophers Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese, the Tao Tê Ching teaches:

The highest good may be likened to water.
Water benefits all creatures yet does not strive or argue with them.
It rests content in those lowly places which others despise…

To me, this doesn’t conflict with any belief system. Believe in whatever God(s) you want, I won’t tell you you’re wrong, but in the idea of making ourselves like water and “resting content in those lowly places which others despise,” we may find a rejuvenated appreciation for those people around us. Family, friends, neighbors, let us derive our purpose from benefit of each other, finding our way to those at rock bottom and surrounding them with the relentless energy of forward progress.

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Like the unyielding power of water, we flow forward; at times raging and torrential, more-often-than-not placid and welcoming. Let’s be like that. Together, let’s be water.

Turning 25: Am I Ready?

I just turned 25. I raft guide at the US National Whitewater Center and I freelance write, but with another year down, I’m asking myself: where am I?

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Guiding pays, it’s fun and fulfilling, but it certainly isn’t enough to truly prepare for the future. On the other side, as anyone that freelances will tell you, when the money’s good it’s great, but when it’s slow, things dry up pretty quick.

Which is what brought me to where I am today. Twenty-Five and considering what the hell I’m doing to prepare for retirement.

That may sound like a tremendous jump, you know, something that is meant to be far off, in the distance, and virtually forgotten until it’s right around the corner, but seriously; what am I doing.

Considering seasonal employment, I love it, but there’s no financial security in the form of insurance, retirement plans or paid sick days. On the freelance side, even less. So as i stare down what my wife calls the “quarter-life crisis” I’ve decided that 25 is all about the prep.

Not a five year plan, not even ten; where will we be when it’s time to retire? Will we be ready? Sure we tried to save, but did we do everything we could?

That last one is a question that seems to plague me; like in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Andy is confronted with the smack of truth that she isn’t really trying all that hard to be the best at her job as Miranda’s assistant. I feel that I do everything I can, but there are still days off, slow days and in a 12-month span I’m still not making close to an entry-level income. So am I really trying, or like Andy am I traipsing around with the facade of a hard-working 20-something that’s actually reluctant to move totally beyond his comfort zone to realize the fullest potential literally right in front of him?

For now, we’ll say the jury is out, but what I can do is begin preparing, with whatever I have at my disposal.

I’ve looked up IRAs, Solo 401(k)s and suggestions on investing as a freelancer. I’ve come back to writing. I had been on hiatus from working on my book, but I’ve picked up the research again.

There are no guarantees in life, that I’m confident in, but there are steps that each of us can take to at least guide our lives in the right direction. Much like whitewater rafting occasionally you’re going to hit some rocks, maybe even flip your boat, but don’t be afraid to call a couple backstrokes and point your boat in a new direction. We all end up making it downstream, how we do it is up to us.

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