by Ray Jason
After all, my stalwart little ship could carry me away to any of the exotic lands that have whispered to wanderers down the centuries. We could drop anchor amidst the palm-fringed isles of the South Pacific. We could explore the mist- shrouded coast of Japan. Or we could visit Easter Island - with its gigantic stone heads that endlessly stare at the Wide Waters.
And yet I remain entranced by this little dollop of islands in the Undiscovered Caribbean. Recently, I finally realized why I am so enchanted by this place. It is because this is a Land beyond Time.
This revelation arrived in a sweet and poignant manner. I was starting to raise my anchor when I noticed a commotion on the nearby shore. A small group of men were dragging a log from the jungle down to the tiny beach. The Indio children were laughing and leaping in spasms of delight. That’s because they knew that their dad would soon transform this tree trunk into a … cayuco.
These simple rowing and sailing canoes have been hand-carved in the same manner for thousands of years by hundreds of generations. They date back to an era … beyond time … in other words, before calendars and schedules. And since AVENTURA deliberately does not have a calendar or a schedule, I let the anchor settle back in. I remained there for another week. It was a week of transcendent happiness. The Real World vanished. It did so gently and gracefully, like a butterfly scattering the final wisps of the morning mist.
As an Acolyte of the Dawn, I would arise before daylight and carry my tea up on deck to greet the awakening East. Being a sunrise aficionado requires much more commitment than being a sunset admirer. This extra effort doesn’t bother me, it pleases me. Indeed, I believe that our world is sadly diminished because so many people have forsaken the risks and rewards that come with exertion. For instance - seeing the lush Hawaiian Islands arise from the sea after weeks of sailing is a profoundly different experience than arriving in Honolulu on a jet.
I also savor the dawn for its symbolic value. Sitting with my back against the mast, I get to experience a dark, imperceptible panorama that gradually acquires shape and substance. This is a perfect metaphor for what I see as the philosopher’s mission – to bring clarity to the world around us.
As I gaze at the slumbering vista surrounding this little bay, I am warmed by the first nudges of sunlight, but even more so, I am warmed by what I see about me. Here is glorious Nature - almost completely unblemished by human presence. There is just a sprinkling of modest houses amidst a tapestry of jungle, sand and sea.
The days passed sweetly and seamlessly marked by the rising pile of wood chips as the cayuco took shape. The children grew more enthusiastic with each day’s progress, and took turns sitting in the hollowed out shell. Old men would row up and sell me a fish or a lobster. Secretly, they were hoping that I would offer them rum instead of money. And I always did so. Some of them had faces as weathered as old sea turtles. But I also noticed that their eyes were as bright and alert as those of the great turtles.
On about the third day of this tropical reverie, I remembered the sincere concern of a dear friend who had once cautioned me with these words: “Please be careful, Ray. You spend so much time examining things and peering into the Abyss, that I fear you could go full Nietzsche on me.” She was worried that, like the brilliant German philosopher, I would get so overwhelmed by the lunacy of the world that I would end up like him. He spent his final years silently staring into space with eyes so wide that he looked like he had seen a devil – or the Truth.
And so my blissful surroundings inspired me to ponder just how I manage to live such a happy life despite my careful scrutiny of the tragedy and trauma of the Human Condition. I concluded that this joy stems from my intimate connection to the natural world as opposed to the artificial world of cities and cars and cacophony. My pleasures are beyond time in the sense that they are elemental and universal.
Share a piece of watermelon with any of these native children and you will be blessed with a smile and happy eyes. But show them a Pokemon on a smart phone and they will have no idea what it is. More importantly, that stupid cartoon character is not REAL. And it is definitely not ripe, juicy, delicious “watermelon real.”
And there is the aspect of genuine connectivity that enriches my days. When was the last time you spent an hour with a man who went half of his lifetime before ever seeing a white person? To so thoroughly enjoy the company of someone when there are language, age and cultural barriers, is to feel like you are truly grabbing a handful of rich living. But many in the real world would prefer the video version of such an encounter – preferably from a wobbly, hat-mounted camera. But they would miss the earthy scent of a man who has flourished for three quarters of a century in the jungle.
Another of the blessings of my slow, simple sea gypsy life that keeps me from spinning off into despair as I contemplate the tragedies of the Human Project, is the splendor of our air here in the Archipelago of Bliss. There are nine main islands and hundreds of small ones, but only one of them has automobiles. I can go for weeks at a time without seeing a single car. This bequeaths us air that is rich with the fragrance of the sea and the jungle instead of the odor of the SUV.
This palpably clean air inspires me to spend a great deal of time outdoors in the Yellow Light. I have long believed that because we humans are creatures of the savanna, that sunlight is vital to our physical and emotional well-being. And now the clinical studies are starting to corroborate this hunch. Too much time spent in the Blue Light, staring at screens, does not just separate us from each other; it diminishes our potential to be radiantly healthy creatures.
On the seventh day, the cayuco was launched. Other children from nearby houses came to join in the celebration. The father proudly took each of his kids for a short maiden voyage. The ecstasy on their faces was beatific in the truest and most universal sense. Indeed, I could imagine Paul Gauguin capturing this tableau perfectly with his oils and his artist’s soul.
Now it was time for me to leave. I raised the anchor, hoisted the jib and slid quietly out of the lagoon. Everyone on the shore enthusiastically waved goodbye to me. Their affection caressed me as sweetly as the slight breeze that started to fill the sail. It was time to head back to town. I was low on supplies – but high on pleasures beyond time.