While driving from Virginia to North Carolina’s coast for a chartered dive to explore the famous U-352 submarine, my buddies and I decided to take turns reading (out loud for the benefit of the rest) Wallace J. Nichols’ recent book titled “Blue Mind.” We found it to be a very compelling exposition of why humans are irresistibly drawn to water.
“Blue Mind” is a thoughtful and profound look at how water affects us on every level of human existence: psychological, emotional, physical, and behavioral. Nichols considers numerous bodies of the wet stuff: seas, oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, quarries, swimming pools, aquariums, and even bathtubs in a study that appears to be grounded in solid research.
As a marine biologist, Nichols convincingly compels us to get closer to water on a regular basis, not only for our own personal health and benefit, but to also nurture the environment and offer a better overall future for humanity.
So what exactly is the blue mind? The author says that the concept refers to the human brain’s neurological - and the mind’s psychological and emotional - responses when we are close to water. He takes us on an in-depth exploration of some concrete scientific data, artistic works, real-life stories, and plenty of personal experiences, to canvas the idea of the blue mind.
According to Nichols, there are two other common mental states that characterize our humanity. He dubs these the “red mind” (revealed by high levels of stress and anxiety) and the “gray mind” (manifested as mental numbness, lethargy, lack of motivation, and dissatisfaction). Red and gray mind states tend to be by-products of our modern hectic lifestyles, negative personal habits, and daily choices. The blue mind, however, is also a natural state that we all instinctively possess, but of which many of us don’t take advantage.
Nichols suggests that regular proximity to water offers numerous and encouraging benefits like becoming happier, calmer, and achieving increased levels of emotional and physical well-being. Not only that, but Nichols insists that consistent exposure to water can help us become more successful at living life to the fullest. By nurturing the raw primordial urge that lies dormant in all of us, the author states that even our relationships and business involvements will also be positively impacted.
As an active and participating scuba diver for many years, I’ve had the pleasure of buddying-up with many fellow divers. In support of Nichols’ premise, I have indeed noticed that we, as divers, are an interesting lot. We do, in fact, often exhibit many of the positive emotional and mental characteristics described by him. Not only are divers exposed to water, they actually get IN it for long periods of time. That level of involvement can only be a very good thing!
As a side note, consider what the decade-long decline in inland diver participation may have produced within our society. I wonder if there might be a correlation between that decline and the exponential increase in stress-related incidences of illness and disease, familial dysfunction, job dissatisfaction, etc.
If that’s the case (and it’ll take someone with considerably more expertise than I to scientifically demonstrate that), then there’s even more reason to support a project like The Divearium. This one-of-a-kind dive facility will motivate divers to regularly participate in local/inland diving while simultaneously offering a unique “safari-like” educational opportunity through its underwater fauna and flora museum.
We may be on to something.
Hail to inland diving!