by Ray Jason
Time shimmers past differently for a long-distance sailor. The daily markers that are so familiar in the real world do not exist out on the Wide Waters. There is no breakfast with the family or racing off to school or leaving for work. There is only the subtle curve of the horizon, the enveloping water, and the on-looking sky. Occasionally a wild sea creature flies past or emerges from the depths, but mostly it is an immensity of space and an undulating flow of time.
Thus, my decades as a sea gypsy have gently distorted my sense of how swiftly the years thunder by. So I was totally blindsided last week when I realized that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy was approaching. That horror bludgeoned me in my youth. It was the first time that I really had to deal with mortality. That was my initial taste of the bitter randomness of death – of someone being vibrantly alive and then gone forever.
Like so many other young people, I was inspired by JFK and hoped to one day follow his lead in sculpting a better world from the clay of our democracy’s political institutions. My grief then was overwhelming and personal – my hero had been viciously gunned down. But as the decades ebbed and flowed, my sense of loss widened and intensified. Yes, I had lost a role model, but the planet had lost a visionary and a healer.
What haunts me the most is that brilliant speech that he made before the United Nations when he offered the olive branch of Peace during one of the most incendiary stages of the Cold War. When I watch that footage and see him accepting the applause from the General Assembly after he offers to lead a campaign for total world disarmament, a heart-breaking realization assaults me. He already knew! There is a nobility and resignation in his body language that seems to imply a foreknowledge that the bullets had already left the guns and were headed his way. He probably understood that by speaking those peace-seeking words, he was signing his own death warrant. But he spoke them anyway - boldly and poetically - because he knew that sometimes Right must defy Might.