Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teen sailor in distress

This is very bad news.  Abby Sunderland, attempting to sail around the world solo, without stopping, is in terrible trouble in the Indian Ocean.

As her brother, Zac, says - there's nothing out there at all.  It's the literal middle of nowhere.  He ought to know since he's actually made this sail himself.  Since she activated those beacons I hope it means that she's simply battened down and riding it out, unable to respond but not actually swept overboard.  It would be an awful way to go.

I know that a lot of people are dead-set against someone her age trying something so audacious.  I'm of two minds on it.  On the one hand, of course, it's natural to protect the young and desire their safety.  And yet...

Well - to put it bluntly, "safety first" can only get one so far - certainly it won't get one around the world in a sailboat, for example.  It won't get man to the moon.  It won't break the four-minute mile.  It won't even get one very far out the door in the morning.  "Safety First," writ large, is "Safety Only," and that thinking is a trap, coddling and cusseting and soothing kids into unpleasant, spoiled, nasty little narcissists.  Not that this happens to everyone, of course, nor that pushing a kid to achieve isn't free of peril - one thinks of the unfortunate Todd Marinovich, pushed by his frustrated father into becoming a quarterbacking machine, only to conk out in spectacular fashion.  For that matter, there's Tiger Woods, far more successful professionally but only marginally (if at all) better-off than Marinovich in character.  But in the middle there's the desire to risk in order to achieve and excel.

I think that Ms. Sunderland's attempt is on the high end of a desirable trait, in short supply in some quarters, and thus is not foolhardy so much as extraordinary.  The high end of that scale is peopled with folks who either succeed or fail spectacularly, but who kick forward humanity a little bit by the attempt.

A little down the page is a headline in the "Most Popular" sidebox - it may change so I screen-capped it, and highlighted the pertinent bit:

Savage bastards.

If Ms. Sunderland is indeed lost at sea, she was at least killed trying to do something she loved, trying to achieve an amazing and skilled feat.  There are worse ways to go; and worse enemies of humanity and excellence than failure.  I hope that she proves to be all right, so she can go on to achieve greater things than this.

UPDATE - because of course I'm an idiot.  I forgot to clarify something very important, the difference between being PUSHED into something to relive the failed dreams of a bitter elder, and a genuine desire from within to excel.  Nothing could be more different than a thirst for achievement borne of one's own free choice, and the imposition of someone else's will.  Sunderland is on the high end of the "healthy middle" on a spectrum of risk-taking, but on the far opposite of the scale of freedom from someone like Marinovich.  I should not have switched so abruptly between ideas in that paragraph.

DOUBLE UPDATE - she's all right.  Amen.  I look forward to her next attempt at great things.

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