Swimming from here to where?

During the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa, I heard many speakers refer to “success”, and it made me start to question what they actually meant by that term.  Money? Power? Being on a national stage?  Here are two other ways to define that term.

After her grueling attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida, Diana Nyad wrote in the Huffington Post:

“It’s not in my nature to admit that no matter how much will you summon, no matter how much courage you express, no matter how much intelligent and complex planning you do, no matter the excruciating long hours of training, no matter the dedicated and expert individuals you choose to help you, sometimes you just don’t arrive at your destination. And somehow you still have to find the pride and the joy in your journey.”

and just recently, she wrote about her late brother who had lived on the streets of Boston for most of his adult life…  (you can read the entire article here)  On the way to his funeral, she said,

“I was…fully prepared to mourn the tragedy that was my brother’s life.  But so many of the homeless who showed up at the service, intelligent and marginalized individuals, to be sure, stood up and spoke of Shariff with eloquence and sincere admiration.  One blind man said my brother had brought him dinner from down the street at the soup kitchen every night for 12 years. No matter the winter weather. No matter if Shariff had the flu. He made a tray and carried it down the block to this fellow every single night for twelve years.

I flew home in a state of contentment. Sure, I wish Shariff had known more daily physical comfort. I wish he had taken some adventure vacations. I wish he had soaked in a few lovely hot baths.

But he evidently created a community who turned to him for leadership. He cared about a great many people and took good care of them.
In the end, I admired him.”

Diana’s just a few months older than me, and frankly, I would consider it a success if I swam more than 30 laps in the pool, without getting bored.  So her 100-plus mile achievement is pretty mind boggling. On the other hand, perhaps she’s never tried her hand at painting, and would marvel at what I can evoke out of pigment, brushstrokes and curiosity.

Maybe, there are alternative ways to think about success.  As artists, as human beings. ….still thinking about this.

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