Although posted this a couple of months ago, I’m often reminded that as individuals we are not “islands isolated in a sea of humanity.” In fact, the more life speeds and flashes by us, the concept of “two people paddling the canoe” seems more of a necessity than not.
We are interconnected with family, friends and the rest of the human race through billions of relationships. Some are big, many are not. Regardless, in a sea of heavy swells, “paddling your own canoe” can be a tough slug at best. Deadly at worst.
“Two people paddling the canoe” works better on a number of levels. We are meant to be in community. Don’t let others tell you different.
I do get the feeling what you’re about to read has a glittering opportunity to ring true in its meaning for many. And with some luck, it also has a brilliant chance to aggrieve and rile the “cliche-laden lifestyle” of just as many as well.
All in a thousand words or so. Pretty impressive!
Recently in my blog feed, I came across the quote “paddle your own canoe” which was being used in one of many “quote of the day writing challenges.”
The quote itself is quite old to my understanding and comes from a poem written back in the 1850’s.
Nevertheless, the concept and phrase of “paddle your own canoe” as we’ve come to know it today can have a variety of interpretations:
- to be the master of your own destiny
- self-reliance and independence
- not needing help from anyone
- steer one’s own ship
- act independently and decide your own fate
- love many and trust fewer
I’m sure there are likely a host of other meanings of the phrase as well.
Realistically “paddle your own canoe”, which is a well-worn and overused cliche, does have a certain ring of truth to it. In our present environment of self-help guru’s and shelves upon shelves of books at your local “Chapters” store, all extolling the virtues of taking control of your own destiny, “paddle your own canoe” certainly carries a lot of weight and so it should it, but perhaps only to some limited extent.
And if nothing else, the concept of “paddle your own canoe” has thickly and richly lined the pocketbooks of many of the world’s primo “self-help and motivational guiding lighters.”
But, I digress and likely shouldn’t head down that particular trail into the “barren lands of psycho-speak.”
We do, however, need to make our own decisions in life; chart our course(whatever that course may look like) and live with those decisions.
“Paddle your own canoe” does smack of the “I can do it all on my own” mentality. The “grab life by the balls; charge ahead at all costs; I’m a one-person army; I’ll head off into the storms of life by myself; I don’t need anyone else” mindset.
If looking at “paddle your own canoe” from its literal meaning of solo canoeing, there is great merit in getting into a canoe by yourself and paddling off into a calm and still watered misty morning in the wilds of northern Ontario.
Although the benefits of “paddle your own canoe” on a wilderness canoe trip may differ between individuals, some of the more common themes might be:
- go when you want to go; you don’t need to make it work with someone else’s schedule
- you can make the trip as difficult or as easy as you want it to be
- don’t have to match the trip to the fitness level of the weakest member
- solitude; both in the wilderness and solitude of being by yourself
- can make changes mid-trip and be flexible as to the destination
- building self-confidence in yourself
- to prove something to yourself
All of those are exceedingly positive and great reasons that someone may have to undertake a solo canoe trip.
However, as in life, there are as many negatives associated with solo canoe tripping as well:
- if an injury occurs – no one to help you; you are on your own
- it can be a lonely time
- boredom can set in
- much harder and more energy required to paddle solo
- in windy weather, paddling solo is much more difficult and potentially dangerous
- you have to do all camp chores
- you carry the entire load over a portage
But, we’re talking about life and not necessarily a lesson on backcountry canoe tripping.
There is much benefit in being your own person and charting your own course, but in life, we are not an island isolated in a sea of humanity. Our lives are meant to be lived in a community with others, wholely working together. Whether it be in a work or business environment or in the context of a family unit.
If you’re going through a difficult stretch, is it not a comfort to know you have those who love, supporting and encouraging you each challenging step along the way? I think so.
You see, “paddling your own canoe” doesn’t necessarily suggest that. It has a certain isolated tone to it.
Flipping the coin over though, having “two people paddling the canoe” has its own compelling worthiness. Both in the literal canoeing sense and as a way of life.
From a literal perspective, most of the themes I suggested for the solo traveller would also be present with a tandem effort. The biggest difference in “two people paddling the canoe” is that it eliminates many, if not most, of the potential negatives associated with a solo canoe trip.
In life, with “two people paddling the canoe” you can still set a course; still, chart a path to a destination you both want to arrive at. However, you get to do it with someone. Two people working in tandem will always make a burden less difficult. Sharing struggles and the triumphs of life and living with others and especially someone you love, to me is what life is all about.
In the past, I have gone on only one or two outdoor adventures without Lynn. The only reason I did so, was that Lynn’s back had been acting up during the spring a few years ago.
Did I enjoy going solo? I guess so, but not really.
In all honesty, we eventually went over the same routes at later dates. Why? Simple, so I could share with Lynn all the spectacular views, waterfalls and such I had seen months earlier.
The meaning contained within the phrase “paddle your own canoe” has merits for sure.
It is also good to remember that “paddle your own canoe” is simply a well-worn and often overused cliche. The Oxford dictionary defines cliche as, “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”
My advice is simply this.
Give careful consideration and thought to the phrase “two people paddling the canoe.” It works better in the wilderness. And believe me, it works a whole lot better in life.