It’s been my pleasure to write the introduction to the conference program for five years in a row, and each year I enjoy posting it up on this blog for everyone who didn’t make it out. I hope to see you all in 2017!
Welcome! To the 5th year of the Float Conference!
If the Float Conference were a child, it would be just starting kindergarten, learning all about sharing carrots and how to identify more colors than just “blue.” If the Float Conference were a Eucalyptus Tree, it would be over 30 feet tall, and if it were a float center, it would have gone through enough epsom salt to help fertilize thousands of community gardens.
The conference that you’re attending is the largest gathering of the float community that has ever happened. I don’t use the word community lightly, and it is very much a community that comes together here in Portland for these few, magical days. And I don’t use the word magical lightly, either.
Rather than being engulfed in a group of people who happen to share the same line of work, we’re in the enviable position of being surrounded by people who share the same set of passions.
I’d like to advise you to take the time that you’re here to meet some of those lovely, unknown faces you’re surrounded with. But, since you wouldn’t be able to avoid new and delightful encounters if you tried, I will instead advise you to treat your time here much like you would treat your time in a float: expect nothing, and don’t be surprised when it’s over much sooner than you thought it would be.
Also, much as with a float, your experience doesn’t stop just because your time here is up. Pack up all the kindness and camaraderie from the event and put them into that infinite conference tote bag that some call the soul. They’ll be there waiting to lend you strength in those difficult times of 3am pump repairs, or upon the discovery of beautiful, perfectly formed salt crystals that have grown on the bottom of your tank (again).
We certainly haven’t chosen the easiest careers, and it’s in large part because our goal is not an easy one. Our culture has been trained on the merit of pushing forward, faster and faster. We want to throw on the brakes. Our society wants us to work more – to buy more – to not slow down for fear of falling behind. We want to remind people that there’s a great reward, not only in slowing down, but in doing Nothing. We want to help people to change their lives, and through that to contribute to a more sane world.
It may not be an easy path, but it’s a satisfying one, and it would be a lot rougher without the extraordinary companions we get to keep along the way. The float center owners, manufacturers, researchers, and general enthusiasts that we share this industry with are kind and hilarious, humble and expansive.
We could all be doing a thousand different somethings with our lives, and for some reason, we all chose to pursue nothingness instead. There’s a kinship in that decision, and it shows in what appears from the outside to be an almost perversely helpful and generous attitude that permeates our ranks. We are, almost exclusively (or perhaps inclusively), present enough to come to the inevitable realization that we are all in this together.
For those of you who have been in the industry for even a little while, you likely know exactly what I’m talking about. People open up their knowledge, their time, and their pantry of hard- won experience at the drop of a hat. If you’re just joining the float community, you’ll be happy to know that when you show up at your neighbor’s doorstep asking to borrow a couple thousand cups of salt, you’re very unlikely to leave empty handed.
It is my sincere hope that we will never lose this generous humanity that so defines us. I hope that, in the future, we will not only look back proudly on our behavior, but we will also inspire other industries with our example. As one of the centers on Float Tour put it: “Humankind. Be both.” It’s the kind of thing that you’d be happy to have written on a t-shirt. And it was. So I purchased one.
If the Float Conference were a t-shirt, it would be well-worn and well-loved, just forming its first, small holes around one of the seams. If the Float Conference were a program introduction, I’m certain that it would be forgivably rambling and honest, as five-year-olds tend to be. It would also be winding down its monologue about now, distracted by the promise of new adventures and discovery.
Welcome, again, to your conference. Let us celebrate together.
Graham Talley – Co Founder, Float On