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Approaching the Sublime

September 16, 2010

Eyes gently shut, ears dipped beneath the surface to drown out the non-aqueous world. . .

. . .a series of long, deep breaths. . . relax.  One final breath to pack in as much air as possible, a pronounced bend at the waist, and I’m off. . .

I recently reviewed my semester goals and I realized that one goal is always on the list–freedive more often.  Some semesters I have more than achieved that goal, and in others I have come up short.  Regardless, I put that one on the list semester after semester.  Spending the afternoon on Monday freediving my favorite reef with my extended advisory (led by Ashley Akerberg) forced me to consider this question: Why is freediving so important to me?

The first word that came to mind when I stopped to meditate on the question was “sublime”.  I know what the word means, but I’m a bit of a word geek, so I decided to look it up to see if there weren’t other definitions that I was unaware of:

1b. of outstanding intellectual, spiritual, or moral worth

1c. tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence.

Exactly!  Still, that did not sate my thirst for information about the word. Digging into an etymological dictionary this time, I discovered that sublime first appeared in the English language in the 1500s and stemmed from the Latin prefix sub- (under or beneath) and limen (lintel or threshold).  Beneath the threshold.

Back to the dictionary for threshold:

2b (1) : endboundary;  (2) :the place or point of entering or beginning : outset <on thethreshold of a new age>

Exactlier!  For us air breathers, the sea represents a natural boundary.  But it also represents a “point of entering”.  Like all boundaries–both physical and psychological–the sea offers us an opportunity to stretch, to grow, and to learn.  Surely this is why I enjoy sharing my passion for freediving with the students, and why past students have found the periodic opportunities to commune with the creatures of the underwater world so rewarding.

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To leave the a familiar sights, sounds, smells of the landscape, to enter the frontier of a new world, and to forget, if only for a moment, that I am not bound to air above the surface, can only be described as sublime.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. cha permalink
    September 16, 2010 10:17 am

    Great update, beautiful underwater — love the sharks — oh no, lion fish — AND LOVE the photo of ALY!!!

  2. James York permalink
    September 16, 2010 3:48 pm

    I too am a freediving transcendentalist, well aware of the seduction… after a life time of worshiping at the alter I have this one observation to share: maintain your humility even as your breath hold reaches new limits. You must observe adequate surface intervals to allow the body to recover, exchanging built up CO2 for O2 at the cellular level. Ignore this tenet at your own peril. Fall in love with the rose, but forget not the thorns: I have lost good brothers to the siren call. And they were as good as human freedivers can get. Your writing on the subject is inspirational, a joy to re-discover!

    CJ and his Family come from some of the Best Freediving stock there is!

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. James York permalink
    September 16, 2010 3:55 pm

    P.S. You might enjoy the IMAX film Ocean Men that we made. It is a beautiful tribute to the Sport/Art of Freediving!

  4. Barbara Leeman permalink
    September 18, 2010 2:22 pm

    Just loved this blog Justin. Despite my love of scuba, can’t say I’ve ever tried free-diving. Could be just the thing that parents weekend holds in store for us. Would love to view the IMAX film James. Just watched the trailer on YouTube. I’m glad to see that as both world champion freedivers Pipin Ferreras and Umberto Pelizzari point out, the most rewarding accomplishment is not who holds the record, but the journey itself. What a wonderful journey our children are having. I’m so thrilled.

  5. erin mccreary permalink
    October 12, 2012 9:05 am

    Erin mcCreary James loved ocean man it really takes you to another place just wonderful. My father would have enjoyed it so much .He spent his life teaching oceanography . Here in maimi Fl…

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