by Yoni Schlussel and Ruchi Koval

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there lived an exceptional ancient civilization. This remarkable community was very unique and was full of love, warmth, and fondness, and had deep affection for one another. While their days were very busy, as were others in their time, with the practical tasks of plowing the fields, preparing their food, and running their homes – they were distinctive in how they spent their free time.

Daily, after all their hard work, they would gather together – children, parents, and grandparents – to relax and enjoy each other’s company at the small lake near their homes. Each family would unwind and share the details of their day while swimming together at the lake. They took great joy in this time and each other, experiencing the sensory pleasure of the swimming with the emotional bonding of the experience. The lake thus became their center, the focal point and heart of their leisure activities, and a huge focus in their culture. Generation after generation of fond memories would be created at the lake, of bonding with endearment and love by and in the water.

In order to ensure that everyone would be able to safely participate in this special time together, from a young age, parents would pass down to their children the necessary rules that would ensure that no one would be harmed during their lakeside activities. Children were taught to stay far from the water unless there was an adult to supervise, and they were taught to walk slowly at the lake’s edge. A significant portion of time was also spent teaching them how to swim – beginning very young, and continually improving and strengthening their skills as they grew. The children understood the value of these lessons and rules and appreciated how these limits enabled them to be able to safely participate in their community’s beautiful culture. Day after day, year after year, the bonding continued as did the lessons.

Unfortunately, one day there began a terrible drought. This unwelcome change in climate necessitated that parents spend more and more time working, exerting themselves strenuously to be able to provide the basics for their families. The children growing up now, sadly did not have the opportunity to frolic in the water with their families, as they needed to assist with the chores. The parents tried to do their best with the challenging reality, and yearned each day for the time when the rains would return and they could renew their special experiences by the lake.

As the drought continued, the parents became concerned that their children were beginning to forget all the regulations that had been traditionally passed down informally – parents to children- year after year. Therefore they decided to set up schools where the children could learn the basic laws of swimming. The purpose of these educational institutions was to teach the children to stay safe near the small amount of water in the lake, but more importantly to ensure that when the rains returned, the children would be prepared and ready to participate.

Teachers were hired, and institutions were organized.  The children went, day in and day out, and learned basic swim safety, and the various strokes that they would be able to use one day, hopefully when they would be fortunate to really be able to swim.  They also developed exercises, specific to each stroke, that would keep them in shape for swimming.  Teachers would share with the students the feelings – the love, warmth and pleasure – that the swimming had meant to their community in the past, and the fervent hope that they would get the opportunity to experience it again.

As years passed, however, this dream seemed to drift further and further away. The children married and had their own children. This new generation of children were also sent to schools to learn their community’s special legacy, rules, and exercises. With the flow of years, it became harder to hold onto the feelings that the swimming had  given rise to within the community.

In fact, things began to shift. Instead of the emphasis being on the dream of returning to the lake and bonding together again in that special way of their heritage, a new culture developed. People began focusing on the analytical study of the prowess of swimming as a goal in itself, as opposed to the means of enabling the pleasure of the experience of swimming.  People forgot about their dreams, and how that swimming experience at the lake brought them so much bonding, pleasure and joy. Instead, they sat at their desks studying and developing their intellectual understanding of the various levels of skill of particular strokes.

Another strange development, regrettably, was that even when finally there was enough water to swim at the lake, the young had a hard time finding pleasure in being in the water. Their academic efforts confounded their efforts to swim, and alas they often missed out on the bonding and pleasure that the swimming was meant to bring to them.

One young fellow, seeing this sorry state of affairs, had what he thought was  a brilliant idea; he decided to create an above-ground swimming simulation facility. He hung bungee cords from the ceiling, created a secure harness and a mirage reflection of water. The children lined up to have what they called a “fun swimming adventure,” which they found even more exciting than their heritage of swimming.

And so it was that when the elders looked at what was happening, their eyes filled with tears. They were pained that the young children had no way of fathoming what the incredible pleasure the experience of swimming was meant to be for them, and the exceptional opportunity it  brought for beautiful bonding for each family.