by Ray Jason
In a far anchorage of the Archipelago of Bliss, the thick tropical night heat had glistened my little ship. As I came on deck, I was delighted to find her shimmering with moon glow. A single night bird was calling for a mate - or perhaps it was just saluting the almost unbearable beauty.
I was carrying a pitcher of water to pour over myself with the hope of cooling down enough to go back to sleep. After dousing myself, I stood on the bow and smiled - knowing that I was the only human in this silver-tinted lagoon. The night bird fell silent. Maybe it had never seen a naked man glistening and shimmering in the moonlight.
I sat down, and my dampness merged with the dewy deck. Sleep no longer appealed to me. This was one of those transcendent moments that only a fool or an empty person would fail to savor. Such a night must have inspired the many immortal classical music geniuses who had composed “nocturnes.” The idea of writing a philosophical nocturne suddenly intrigued me. Ideally, it would be poetic and evocative and broad in its perspective – illuminating the grand sweep of the human horizon.
How seldom do we modern humans step away from it all to reflect on our lives - and on LIFE! We are so mesmerized by the frenzy and trinkets of the consumer society. It would be emotionally - and perhaps even foundationally - dangerous for most people to pause and question the elixirs of Speed and Stuff.
Instead, it is the artistic outriders, those who exile themselves from the human caravan in order to observe it more clearly, who offer some cultural depth perception. The great painter, Paul Gauguin, who abandoned Paris and renounced domesticity for the more authentic and almost feral life of the South Seas islands, is a great exemplar of this.
In what he considered his finest painting, there are three panels. The figures on the first segment relate to the question of “Where do we come from?” On the second triptych the theme is “What are we?” And the third portion of the masterpiece inquires, “Where are we going?”
This is a far cry from “Who will be the next American Idol?”
I too am blessed (or cursed) with the desire to unravel the enchanting inscrutability of the human condition. As an ocean sailor, who often views the world from extreme, deep-sea isolation, I have a very different perspective on things.
For example, most people never ponder the highly regimented flow of a normal modern life. Our Paths are so much more pre-ordained than we are willing to acknowledge. We perceive ourselves as the Architects of our Destiny but we are often just the Products of a Human Assembly Line. Rare indeed are the individuals who break out of the mold in which they were cast at Fate’s Foundry.
Look at some of the labels that define and shape us. We thoughtlessly accept the role of “citizen” without acknowledging that our nationality is almost totally an accident of birth. Does the country of your birth represent your values and your aspirations? Certainly, mine does not.
And did anyone ask your permission to declare you a “consumer?” Examine how insidiously that reduces your human capacity and potential. Do you wish to be remembered as a “buyer of stuff?” Or would you rather be a unique and ever-fluid blend of thinker, parent, lover, athlete, striver, poet, dreamer and all of the other qualities that the designation “consumer” suffocates?
Equally disturbing to anyone who embraces an emancipated, free-flowing life, is the subtle but powerful way that “authority” is worshipped in our culture. Schools are practically conformity indoctrination factories. High test scores are valued far more than creative or independent thinking. The purpose of education seems to have veered away from the development of inquisitive minds. Instead the goal seems to be the production of obedient workers who are smart enough to run the machines but not bright enough to recognize or rebel against their subordination.
Religion is another example of the almost un-noticed way that powerful contemporary institutions force us to surrender our autonomy and uniqueness. When have you ever heard your pastor or your mullah stand before the congregation and say, “Today we will do a comparative religion overview. Afterwards, you can decide for yourselves which church best coincides with your beliefs and aspirations.” That is about as likely as one of them saying, “We now realize that humans do not need commandments from on high. In fact, you are quite capable of making wise moral decisions by yourselves, without guidance from an invisible man in the sky.”
Patriotism is another way that The Malignant Overlords diminish one’s individual sovereignty. It is the old divide and conquer ploy of pitting one group against another and thus making them far easier to manipulate. The mass of ordinary people get suckered into the “us against them” paradigm while the rulers above them increase their power and control. Very few people realize that the flags that they wave are actually symbols of their own subjugation.
As I sat with my back against AVENTURA’s mast, jotting down notes for this essay, I suddenly realized that there was a change in the lagoon. I put aside my old clipboard with the little reading light attached to it, and looked up at the sky. The moon had nudged itself halfway behind a cloud, thus turning the empty cove into a wonderland of liquid silver. I smiled with pleasure as I savored the sublime beauty of this tiny outpost of our magnificent planet.
But when I returned to my notes, I sighed with sadness as I pondered how so many people get unknowingly corralled into life roles that they would probably never willingly select. There are so many unique, inspirational, and joyous Paths available. So, why do so many people become American, fast-paced, hard-working, god-fearing, flag-waving shoppers?