I bob in the calm waters of Lake Hartwell as a bridge between two worlds. Below me is the world of the aquatic: wet, cool, mysterious, alluring, and alien. Above me is the world of the trees and skies: dry, beautiful, picturesque, pastoral, and familiar. As I swim on the boarder between two distinctively different worlds I begin to wonder why we swim.
To propose the question “Why we swim,” leaves the respondent in a difficult situation. After all, the reasons why I swim may be vastly different from the reasons why you swim. To help me begin grasping an acceptable answer to this question I turn to the texts that we have read over this course. Sprawson writes, in Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero, that only a type of person who swims is “rather remote and divorced from everyday life, devoted to a mode of exercise where most of the body remains submerged and self-absorbed” (Sprawson 5). Based off of this description of the swimmer Sprawson writes that swimmers are the “eccentric, individualist involved in a mental world of their own” (Sprawson 5). Juxtaposed to this belief you have David McGlynn, who in his piece titled “Skins,” he speaks to the reasons why swimmers swim is due to the swimming community, and how that community, located outside of the dry lands, prepares you better for life.
McGlynn further expounds on this notion, by talking about how swimmers lose all self-conscious thoughts about their bodies because they are vulnerable and not alone, but are with a group of people. Even Olympian Cullen Jones may have a different approach to why we swim, by thinking we swim to over come our fears. This notion derives from the fact that Jones only learned to swim due to a near-death drowning incident that happened in his childhood.
Even after taking all these diverse perspectives into consideration, it is still difficult to come up with an answer that would appease all the different types of swimmers out there. But one of the main reasons why we swim, is because it is in our biology. In Lynn Sherr’s book Swim, she cites Dr. Shubin who explains why we swim: “The water is something magical to us. Not because of anatomy— it’s really because of our psyche, the way we see the world. It’s the way our brains are wired” (Sherr 42). Following that quote Sherr goes on to explain all of the health benefits of swimming, so naturally our bodies yearn for the water because the water is what keeps our bodies healthy.
The reasons why we swim all stems back to our biology. Swimming is what we were literally conceived to do in our mother’s womb for nine months, thus making the water not only our natural homes, but our first homes. On the land we forget, but in the water we remember, we remember our past histories, past friendships, and think of future endeavors. Sprawson may say a swimmer is one “divorced from everyday life,” but I move to slightly amend his statement. A swimmer seeks out swimming because they long to break away from the everyday life, and long for that awe inspiring nirvana sensation that occurs when floating on the boarder of two distinct worlds. A place where both your body and mind are at peace… Unless you are sprinting.