Thursday, April 9, 2015

Even if you aren't a fan of rowing... worth a dive between these pages

This book has a lot of things going for it, IMHO.  I don't read a lot of non fiction books, but it seems that when I do, they are about sports.  I believe in the power of sport (whatever one happens to float your boat), and what can happen through and as a result of sport for both individuals and communities.

There are many different ways that you could speak about this book.  This group of young men that came together in Seattle to become the victorious crew in the Berlin Olympics of 1936 is inspiring.  That they managed their feat with the backdrop of the great depression, and then the rise of Hitler adds yet another layer.  That this was a west coast team with humble roots that emerged victorious, is yet another element to this Olympic tale of resilience, perseverance, and team work.

This is a great book.  It is one I may purchase so all my boys can read it at a later date.  Brown really captures something about the time, about the West Coast, about rowing, and even offers a different viewpoint in to Germany in the 1930s.  As someone who read a lot of Holocaust literature, this provides a different lens to viewing Germany and a new entry point in to the history from a different point of view. This is also about the poetry of being on the water, of growing together in to a team, and about what happens to individual when they persevere in the face of difficulty. Each chapter starts with a quote from George Pocock, and I actually read them. Many of them are quietly profound.  There heartbreaking moments in this novel, and moments that lift your heart.  What more can you hope for from a book?  Definitely an inspiring read, and well worth your time to read.

I do think that we stumble on the right books, at the right time.  Sometimes for entertainment, and sometimes for more obscure reasons (such as lessons we need to learn or new thoughts to have bloom in our imagination).  This book is inspiring.  It is a quick read, it easily weaves a few personal stories with the larger picture.  For me, I remember being an undergraduate and wishing that I had the courage to go up to the rowing table and join the club.  I loved to row (just a plain old rowboat) when I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Sechelt, and to canoe, and I just didn't have the gumption at the time to walk up to that table.  I wish I did, but looking back, hockey was starting to figure pretty big in my life at the time, and I don't think I would have had the time for both sports.  I did dragon boating for three years, which already feels like a lifetime ago, and I loved it.  What I would like to do next is outrigger.  My goals for 2015 would be to get myself out paddle boarding in White Rock at least once this year, and to figure out how I can get myself out on the water in my local community.  I don't see hockey happening for me anytime soon, and perhaps this is the time to get back out on a boat.  In this way, this book has been a reminder for me, the peace that I feel out on the water, and the satisfying feeling of being with a team that has accomplished something physical together.  For me, there is also the lessons about working together as a team, of finding your "swing" as a group, and about giving yourself up to trusting your team.  This can be about anything in life, even your closest friendships, family, and your spouse.  It is also about the investment of time in to yourself, and the people that are part of your team.  This for me is especially true when I think about work and the people around me.  We haven't always gotten along, and there are times when I could say that things weren't well.  There is also something equally to be said about when you stick it out and persevere, time passes, and you are able to work through the challenges and get to somewhere you would never have ended up if things had always been 'sunshine and rainbows'.

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