Diana Nyad: Different from the Rest

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There are days when I think that the human drive to push boundaries and defy limitations is at best foolish and at worst destructive. Go forth, explore the world, conquer the west, master flight, split the atom, invent the internet. And what does it all lead to? Colonization, genocide, pollution, weapons that could destroy the world ten times over, and don’t even get me started on the internet. And it never seems to end. There are actually people trying to cure old age itself and allow people to live well over a hundred with a relatively high quality of life. It’s like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut story.

But then there are days like today. Specifically the day when 64 year old Diana Nyad swam the 110 miles between Cuba and Florida, the first person to do so without the help of a shark tank. Nyad has tried and failed to accomplish this feat three times in the past few years, but today she finally completed the entire trek.

And I’m not going to lie, it makes me incredibly happy. Because unlike so many other times when people try to do something just because they can, this event does nothing but inspire. It’s not about taming something that doesn’t need to be tamed or changing something that doesn’t need to be changed. It’s a personal victory, a testament to the strength and endurance and will of a single individual, and yet a victory that the rest of us get to share in, too.

It’s days like this that make me think that humanity might just be okay in the end. Because even though our species is facing down untold problems largely caused by our inability to leave well enough alone, that relentless curiosity, that refusal to accept what is as all there is, that is a strength as well as a weakness, an asset as well as a flaw. Days like today, people like Diana Nyad, they remind me – remind all of us – that our potential is greater than we know, that we are capable of great things. They we can face the seemingly impossible things in this world and make them possible, by trying, by committing, by never giving up.

Today is a great day.

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