Somewhere above that lifeline leads to a tiny little boat waiting in a vast ocean for us to return to light, to air and eventually to dry land again.

To divers this is a familiar experience. Follow the rope down, experience an ever so brief encounter with life on a wreck, a reef or just the bottom of the ocean. We do this believing that lifeline will be there at the end of our dive. Trusting it will bring us back up to the safety of our sanctuary on the surface.

This why I have so much respect for free divers. They have no lifeline. They go down with both the freedom of no constraint and the discipline to find their own way back. As a novice free diver I have never been very deep, perhaps 22 meters or a little over 70 feet, unlike some of my friends. Even at that depth I have the most profound sense of the aloneness of being down there, looking up into that blue-green nothing, and knowing that it will take personal effort to swim back up to the surface and that precious air we can’t do without for long. No lifeline.

Now as a diver I often feel lazy or guilty if I grab that lifeline to the surface. It’s like I’ve given up taking my own responsibility for adventuring into that realm. Most of the time I’ll simply follow it up, keeping a distance but never venturing too far. Just in case I really need that lifeline.

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