The rise and fall of the swimming pool in culture

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Culture is a tricky and generally funny thing. There are a lot of passing fads and quirks that are specific to cultures individually and either stick or pass with time. Fashions, food and manners all fall into this category, more or less. They come, they go, they pass so slowly that no one sees them going. But there are other, more critical and fundamental things that never seem to quite go out of style, no matter what they are. While not every culture has had swimming pool builders, most cultures have had a spa or spas, bathing, war, stories, music and other more abstract things. There is connective tissue between all cultures and across all time, it just depends on where you choose to look. Not every culture has needed pool renovations, obviously, but every culture has had stories about heroes rising up to defeat some real or perceived evil. Why is this so? Why are we all generally afraid of the same things and hope the same things? Why do we all see the same things? For example, most cultures in the world, regardless of time or location, have a belief in some sort of dragon. Was it just that they saw bones of large animals in the earth and built stories from these? Many cultures also believe in a great flood or even great floods that destroyed the world? Let’s take a look at this more in depth and learn a bit from it.

    How swimming pool builders built the world
    Strange title, right? But it’s not entirely inaccurate. As stated before, most cultures have had a strange relationship to water that can’t entirely be explained by sheer experience. Water is essential to live, of course, but that also can’t entirely be it. Because many landlocked or roaming cultures, such as the ancient Mongolians, also had beliefs about water even if they weren’t seafaring. Flowing or even still water just holds a power over us that many other elements don’t. We don’t react the same way to dirt or metal that we do to water, after all. It just seems to hold some deep resonant chord within us that we can’t shake. People have written stories and sung songs about the ocean from the beginning of time and even compared to the ocean to a woman many times. Nowadays we know that all life arose from the ocean, of course, but it’s just funny that, even before that was a known fact, people still seemed to sense it. They saw something of the sea within themselves and within other people. The swimming pool builders and everyone else. But it’s not just the sea that called to people.
    Water, health and wealth
    If you look across many cultures and many times, there is almost always a connection between who has access to water and who has the most status in society. For instance, great baths are a sign of wealth in numerous classical and middle age civilizations, from ancient Japan to the great baths of Rome. Only the richest, most sophisticated and cultured people had access to these baths. They weren’t for everyone. Roman nobles even had second homes near the sea where they could get away for privacy. Obviously, this access meant something but what? Why does it mean the same thing every time? Likely because it meant that they didn’t have to rely on the city or society for their resources. But the answer remains unclear.
    What water means in current society
    We are no different, of course, in our modern world of swimming pool builders, internet and ironic sincerity. From the beginnings of the twentieth century, pools have meant wealth and status. In the twenties, only the richest had private pools to swim in. The hot tub has been a symbol of status since the fifties and, if you reach a certain socioeconomic status in the United States, it’s almost a requirement to buy a pool. It just denotes that you’ve reached a certain place. We really haven’t changed too much from the old days. The same old traditions have just mutated into something old but seemingly new.

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