If Dragon Boats had ears: Listening to a ship of fools
Published in Dragon Boat World Magazine, Fall 2004
Imagine all the chatter going on in the boat ---
Not the rambunctious out-loud verbal dialogue among paddlers. I mean the behind-the-scenes in-your-head thinking-about-everything-else kind of chatter. Mental soliloquies having nothing to do with twisting, reaching and grabbing water except to distract.
A vessel filled with storytellers: an agglomeration of twenty unconnected stories:
Ten-right is still air-heading to Western Tibet; needs to distil contradictions between paddling and meditating. With increasing frustration four-left attends to straddling multiple enterprises, calculating the most expedient ways to be in five places at once.
Eight-right is still engaged in last night’s blind date, barely awake in the boat, almost missing early morning pre-sunrise practice. While two-left, half a paddling couple, holds onto a day-old kitchen squabble with their other half, paddling in the next boat, ice cutting wash between them. Six-left incoherently mouthing – I think I can…I think I can. The rolling eyes of left and right strokes expressing their impatience for everyone else’s not having their acts together.
What a cacophony! Enough to make a coach tear out their hair and yell, – Turn down the mental decibels, will you! Don’t you know it’s what’s in your head that will win a race! Give me something to work with!
That’s a thought.
* * *
Imagine what it must be like in a race if the whole boat were propelled by thought ---
Boat 1: If their thoughts had weight, the boat would sink at the start. All that extra baggage.
Boat 2: If their thoughts had direction, the boat would split apart into twenty pieces, obstructing the racecourse right at the start.
Boat 3: If their thoughts had brute strength, the squabble might become the start, the multiple-enterpriser the sprint, the two strokes maintain the race-pace, “I-think-I-can” the series, and the blind date the energy for the finish.
Boat 4: If their thoughts were manipulative, the boat would get away with the least armful of effort possible, climb the other boats’ wash, get carried by downstream current, attempt getting blown by tailwinds and idly slip past the finish line.
Boat 5: If their thoughts were threaded together and refocused, thoughts would carefully scrutinize how the course flows. Turning inward, in a deep state of concentration, the boat would become like the body of water itself. Each paddle merging indistinguishably with the current, strokes riding eddies and swells, flowing around obstructing thoughts and debris, and although devoting great strength, appear to move effortlessly without resistance.
You’ve got a sense of where this tail is heading, but we must take care or the pedantic could get a hold and transform it into a serious teaching. It struggles not to be bound by dogma.
So imagine a tale with this simple lesson --- be careful of thought, lest this page sinks from an excess of too many.
[Note: characters and situations are purely fictitious and any similarities to paddlers generally sitting in particular seats are completely coincidental]