stretching comfort zones (was a world without pain )

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 01:10:51 MDT

From: "altamira" <>, Date: Sat, 17 Jun 2000

> Here's something
>interesting I noticed when I was learning how to fly airplanes. When I was
>working on getting my landings smooth,


The more I read what you write, the more I feel like I'm in a presence
of a superwoman. Are you a real person, Bonnie? And not some sophisticated
Eliza program that maybe my ancient Macintosh inserted into my
daily Extropy digests?

I have a book recommendation that you might like. Not because I think
that you might learn something from it, but because you remind me of
the main character in the story. (It's a true story). It's a thin
but rich book that one can read on a long Sunday afternoon (I read
it about a year ago.)

_Paddling my Own Canoe_ by Audrey Sutherland, Univ of Hi Press, 1978.

The book is about a woman (Sutherland) who first started making solo
journeys to a particular inaccessible beach in Moloka'i in 1958. She
was a strong woman who made her first attempts swimming from one side of
the island (after being dropped there by plane), dragging her gear
in waterproof containers that she also built, and then later she
improvised by building small rafts/canoes. This part of Moloka'i
was uninhabited and, because of terrain and enormous cliffs around,
one could not reach the beach from inland. And the Moloka'i Channel
is one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the Pacific
Ocean, so that getting there by boat is/was non-trivial too.

Each year she learned new things on how to accomplish this task,
and became more knowledgeable and sophisticated in her sea-faring
methods. Eventually she built a cabin for herself on that beach,
bringing all of the materials patiently on each journey.

I think that this book might be a good book for teenagers to read
when they have times when they think that they cannot do anything.
It might be particularly helpful to young girls. I liked the
book because I think that she is an amazing woman, and it's
inspirational for me, and the book descriptions remind me of my childhood
(I grew up in Hawai'i in the 60s, and my family and I lived on boat for
a year). Plus I especially liked her descriptions of solitude. It brings
"home" to me why I like to go on long solo bike trips.

I'll quote from the last part of the book- my favorite part.

{begin quote}

"And why did I always come alone to Moloka'i? I know why, but
the telling is hard. Daily we are on trial, to do a job, to make
a marriage good, to find depth, serenity, and meaning in a complex,
deterioating world of politics, false values, and trivia. But rarely
are we deeply challenged physically or alone. We rely on friends,
on family, on a committee, on community agencies outside ourselves.
To have actual survival, living or dying, depends on our own ingenuity,
skill, or stamina- this is a core question we seldom face. We
rarely find out if we like having only our own mind as company for
days or weeks at a time. How many people have ever been total isolated,
ten miles from the nearest other human, for even two days?

Alone, you are more aware of surroundings, wary as an animal to danger,
limp and relaxed when the sun, the brown earth, or the deep grass say,
"Rest now." Alone you stand at night, alert, poised, hearing through
ears and open mouth and fingertips. Alone, you do not worry whether
someone else is tired or hungry or needing. You push yourself
hard or quit for the day, reveling in the luxury of solitude. And
being unconcerned with human needs, you become as a fish, a boulder, a
tree- a part of the world around you.

I stood once in midstream, balanced on a rock. A scarlet leaf fluttered,
spiraled down. I watched it, became a wind-blown leaf, swayed, fell into
the water with a giant human splash, then soddenly crawled out, laughing

The process of daily living is often intense and whimsical. The joy of it,
and the compassion, we can share, but in pain we are ultimately alone.
The only real antidote is inside. The only real security is not insurance
or money or a job, not a house and furniture paid for, or a retirement fund,
and never is it another person. It is the skill and humor and courage
within, the ability to build your own fires and find your own peace.

On a solo trip you may discover these, or try to build them, and life
becomes simple and deeply satisfying. The confidence and strength remain
and are brought back and applied to the rest of your life."

{end quote}


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into
you." - -Nietzsche

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