by Ray Jason
The sailor within me was concerned. But the poet within me was delighted. This was no ordinary squall that was approaching from the north. It was so gray and dark and menacing that it looked like molten lead as it churned across the bay towards me. So I slipped behind a small mangrove island where I dropped my sails and set the anchor.
As I was finishing that task, the deluge descended. A burst of wind tipped AVENTURA over to starboard. It also toppled me gently down onto the cabin top. I laughed as I wondered whether the deepening voyage into my Middle Years was beginning to compromise my balance.
When I began to lift myself up to go below and retreat from the rain, a primal voice from across the centuries prompted me stay where I was. So I closed my eyes while lying on my back and let the warm equatorial downpour saturate me. Within a couple of minutes the rain softened - and I felt an almost blissful contentment as I let it wash over me.
I was not experiencing any deep philosophical insights, but there was a vague sense that if I remained there something might be revealed to me. And a few minutes later this is precisely what occurred, but much differently from what I might have expected.
Suddenly, I noticed that there was another person 15 yards away. An Indio fisherman had silently rowed his cayuco nearby and was grinning over at me. My ”laughing in the rain” behavior was very different from what he had witnessed with most gringos. He paddled closer and quietly asked me if I was okay. I sheepishly replied that I was fine. Then we both smiled and he turned back to his quest for dinner.
But the philosopher within me began interrogating myself, and questioning whether or not I really was “okay.” In the eyes of the wider world - probably not! But in terms of my carefully studied understanding of Life, I was feeling pretty damned fine. That’s because I felt far more kindred with that little fisherman than with the world that I had sailed away from.
Back in that “real” world, I would have to search a dozen Starbucks for a dozen days before I found anybody who had recently lain on their back savoring the rain – although there might be an app that claims to replicate that experience. The “natural world” has been reduced to a mere programming niche for cable TV. Our human connection to the Sea and Land and Sky has been severed.
Tribal peoples understood that we are intimately linked to those realms and they paid homage to them in their rituals and in their daily existence. For example, the Plains Indians didn’t just see the buffalo as a protein source; they revered it as an important strand in the web of life. And they used the entire animal to aid in their survival – the meat, hide and bones.
But modern civilized peoples have lost their reverence for the natural and the wild. They have let themselves evolve into creatures that are artificial and tame. They are no longer Children of the Earth – they are Servants of the Machine. Their partners in the dance of life are smart phones, talking automobiles and computers.
They can’t grow their food, mend a garment, build a shelter or read the weather from the signals in the sky. But they will justify this impotence by claiming that modern technology frees them up to pursue more meaningful activities. Like what? Mounting a camera to your hat and filming the sad emptiness that is urban living? Now there is an evolutionary leap forward.
The creators of these myriad devices, which dominate the human-built world, will claim that they are designed to save you time and money and exertion. But their real purpose is to turn you into a product addict - and to reap obscene profits while doing so. How else does one explain lines of people camping out to buy a slightly better phone than the one they bought a year earlier? At least they can now video each other with their GoPros as they shiver in their sidewalk lunacy.
The cyber revolution was supposed to advance human connectivity to undreamed of levels. And it has if you consider nightmares part of the dream world. Replacing face to face human relationships with Facebook to Facebook interactions has had grotesque results. Isolation and alienation among young people has reached epidemic proportions. Teenage suicide rates are way up. Kids in Japan are refusing to come out of their rooms for months or years at a time. So their only contact with a supposed real world is through an electronic machine. Young adults have to seek a professional therapist if they are contemplating doing even a one day “cyber fast.” Does this sound like the machine is in control or the human?
But besides the tragedy of surrendering one’s autonomy to machines, there are even more dangerous consequences. The greatest beneficiaries of advanced technology are those who seek to control society. I un-jokingly describe these people as The Malignant Overlords.
Those “smart” electrical meters in your homes certainly do enhance convenience – but it is the convenience with which your rulers can monitor you. And all of that high-tech weaponry, designed for overseas use, works equally well in the hands of your local police storm troopers. And those gruesomely efficient military robots will certainly never prove to be a threat to actual flesh and bone humans.
The idolatry that 21st century people display towards almost anything that is sleek, metallic, and cutting edge is disturbing at best and genocidal at worst. So-called modern civilization refuses to respect the ancient and elemental laws of nature and balance and limitation. Such pride and delusion will probably not just lead to grief - but to unimaginable tragedy.
And that is why I feel such kinship to the little native fisherman in his hand-carved cayuco. He does not need an electronic fish finder to catch his dinner. He does not need a robotic assembly line to build him a boat. And he does not need a Kindle self-help book to teach him basic decency.
Instead, he could draw from the reservoir of a thousand generations of human empathy, and row over to me and quietly ask,
“Are you okay?”