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A Short Sermon from Sister B


bethany

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While reading various recent posts I wondered if while kayaking we most often risk harming ourselves but while posting we more often risk harming others. Well, unless you're smoking or driving while reading this – in that case you might be risking less self-harm with a paddle occupying your hands. ;)

So…just a friendly reminder as we discuss an emergency situation that occurred in our community: Online we can't see each other's body language, hear tones of voice, or listen to on-the-fly edits and corrections. And we make decisions every second that can change the course of lives, including our own, on the water and off – and even while choosing how to word messages.

If you want answers, post in a way that invites people to answer -- that create a safe environment for open exchange. As we've seen recently, there is very little difference in content between "My God, what were you thinking!?" and "I'm so glad you are okay. When you're feeling less wobbly I would love to hear about your decision making process and what happened that day." Both of these in essence mean, "Oh God, what happened!?" It's the effect of this wording decision that is quite different.

It's important to remember this strange human truth: talking openly about the decisions that didn't go as planned is a skill that is harder for many, many people to learn than the skills normally required to save our own and other people's lives. This is no less true with the high-risk tolerance folk who have adventures and save adventurers than it is with timid beginners. Yet it is an essential skill of a learning community. Some people, when first facing this particular kind of openness, see it as more of a turning point in their lives than the event that elicited it. So it's important we help others feel welcome and safe and like it's normal to do this.

In our short time here, let's create an environment we want to be in, and lets live to the margins of risk we allow ourselves and die noble deaths where we have lived richly and loved well. We all are so lucky to participate in this activity that creates natural intimacy by virtue of our open communication and our pact to try to keep each other alive in the process, and to do so in a club that teaches high levels of safety skills.

We can't make decisions for each other, nor change things that have happened, but we can give each other the tools and the environment that may make people be reasonably safe, and we can keep it a vibrant, educational, trusting, fun place to be.

Now go outside and play.

--b

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I agree with most of what you've said. However, it is also the human condition to make judgements, particularly about others behavour we don't understand. What bothers me about so many of these posts is that, let one person speak a thought outside of the conventional wisdom and everyone piles on!

The guy for whom this recent event became a trigger to vent over past hurt and harm is just being human. I don't agree with him. He's being premature before knowing all the facts. On the other hand if that were me dangling from that chopper with what looked like a lot of white caps below, I'm sure all of my friends who do not kayak would say" What the hell was he thinking". (Including my own wife by the way.)

Personal freedom and autonomy is a beautiful thing. However, just because we agree to suffer the consequences of our free choice; it doesn't protect us against criticism, just or unjust. I can understand the feelings many have when they say" It's not my choice but I respect the choice of others". Perhaps an equally human response is to say" It's not my choice and I think he or she is nuts". A life is a precious thing to waste. If we're willing to justify risk taking that might result in death as opposed to the quotidian life spent on the couch, then we're probably living in our own personal coccoon. Most of us have friends, spouses, loved ones etc. That freedom of choice usually impacts a lot more people than the chooser.

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We all have the right to express ourselves in this country, however, this message board, provided as a free resource to the paddling community is not a right, it is a privilege. As Bethany has put so well, we have provided this forum, not as a place for people to vent, but as a place for people to share paddling knowledge. Messages laced with angry language and personal issues intimidate the paddlers that need the message board the most, new paddlers with lots of questions.

Again, let's try acting like civilized adults. It's unusual that the same point can't be made without using such harsh language.

-Dee

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>I agree with most of what you've said. However, it is also

>the human condition to make judgements, particularly about

>others behavour we don't understand. What bothers me about

>so many of these posts is that, let one person speak a

>thought outside of the conventional wisdom and everyone

>piles on!

That is the crux and what I reacted to. We (kayakers) ARE outside of "conventional wisdom." I run into people who already have a judgement about my kayaking from the git go, usually without any knowledge whatsoever to make such. The point I tried to make is also that these "judgements" can be very relative. Without even hearing the whole story, that person in the other thread was quick to judge. S/he should understand the same is being done by others as soon as they see a kayak on his/her roof rack.

>The guy for whom this recent event became a trigger to vent

>over past hurt and harm is just being human. I don't agree

>with him. He's being premature before knowing all the facts.

>On the other hand if that were me dangling from that chopper

>with what looked like a lot of white caps below, I'm sure

>all of my friends who do not kayak would say" What the hell

>was he thinking". (Including my own wife by the way.)

Exactly. My wife doesn't participate in many of my activities but thankfully she doesn't judge them but rather observes that I seem to function much better when I am active. She also notes how I handle myself in these activities carries over to how I handle myself in the other realms of my life. We can live in a contracted or an expanded world. It's our choice and we make that world for ourselves.

>Personal freedom and autonomy is a beautiful thing. However,

>just because we agree to suffer the consequences of our free

>choice; it doesn't protect us against criticism, just or

>unjust.

Yes. There will be critics. We can ignore (the easiest). Or, we can choose to take the criticism and evaluate whether there is sufficient basis for it. There is constructive criticism and criticism that simply intended to demean and belittle.

?I can understand the feelings many have when they

>say" It's not my choice but I respect the choice of others".

This is preferable. I don't get into criticizing childhood friends who have chose to live a sedentary life, have become obese and are generally unhealthy. It's their personal choice but, yes, their choice also has an impact on me in terms of rising health costs, etc., early deaths, etc. Yet, I believe they are entitled to that choice.

>Perhaps an equally human response is to say" It's not my

>choice and I think he or she is nuts".

Yup. Try mostly to keep that to myself unless it involves someone I have responsibility for, i.e. my family.

>A life is a precious thing to waste.

Absolutely. Some are alive but have spirits withered from fear and anger, etc. Some periodically explode from their "lives of quiet desperation." Better to live a life with courage and integrity and recognize these can be expressed differently by different individuals. Better to recognize that life is finite. We can die tomorrow out on the sea, or die of a heart attack on the couch with a remote in our hand. Either way, death comes to us all. Accept that as a fact and live fully, however that is expressed individually.

>If we're willing to justify risk taking that

>might result in death as opposed to the quotidian life spent

>on the couch, then we're probably living in our own personal

>coccoon. Most of us have friends, spouses, loved ones etc.

>That freedom of choice usually impacts a lot more people

>than the chooser.

This is true not just of our kayaking. In most arenas of our lives, we make choices that have just as much if not more impact on others. We should be a bit more introspective not only about our "recreational" pursuits but about how we proceed with our lives in general.

sing

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Great job Bethany.

We use a simply guideline for the email conferences where I teach:

"Write about ideas, not people."

As a result, unlike some other schools, we have not had to shut down our discussions due to disrespect for members of the community.

So, we do not accept posts that say "Al, that was a really dumb idea." since it says something negative about Al.

But accept posts that say, "Al, I strongly disagree with your idea. Here is why." since it about the idea/logic, not the person.

Al

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Excellent rule. I'd add one more...

Don't post metacomments -- posts about whether others' posts are acceptable under the "address the idea not the person" rule, the non-commercial rule, or any other. Tell the moderator privately in e-mail and let them take action if they deem it warranted. Posting things like that yourself is like vigilante justice, and can lead to some of the worst flame wars.

And bravo to all those who are speaking up on this.

--David

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