“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Henry David Thoreau, 1854
Seemingly more and more, life is full of obligations, tasks and duties we must do from day to day. We go through life as on a conveyor belt, being swept along from moment to moment with expectations from those around us, society, and our conscientiousness. To bring back a sense of free will and control to his life, where he alone makes decisions and is responsible for them he went to Walden pond.
“…a man never is happy, but spends his whole life in striving after something which he thinks will make him so…”
Will and desire lead to a constant, restless striving for what’s next. So it is with me as I strive to achieve one of the most difficult challenges in sailing.
“Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of Power divine,
Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Middle Age map makers drew sea monsters on unknown areas of the world, psychologically indicating fears of the unknown to seafarers. There is a boundary around 40 degrees South, where low pressure systems begin to dominate the seascape and combined with physical isolation create physical and mental challenges for those who venture there.
“The Alps fill the mind with an agreeable kind of horror”
In Search of The Sublime
There is beauty, and then there is the sublime. Merriam-Webster definition: tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence.
Aristotle pondered the notion of beauty; the purpose of art is to produce pleasure. Ugliness produces pain. Yet he wrote of the nature of literature and the Greek Tragedy embodying horror and yet still poetic. Two millennia later, Joseph Addison noted that the concept of the sublime was that the three pleasures of the imagination: greatness, uncommonness, and beauty were required along with horror. The notion of the sublime transcending or amplifying beauty by adding fear was furthered by Edmond Burke. While one sits back and admires beauty, the mind swells when it encounters the sublime. Burke said the sublime experience requires terror, power, vastness, difficulty, and magnificence.
“There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”
Moving beyond the endless cycle of will and desire requires an unusual mindfulness and spirituality I do not possess.
So it is I continue to restlessly strive in my search for meaning.
“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.”
The Southern Ocean calls out, taunting me. A crucible at which to throw myself, testing physical and mental limits. The remoteness, size, scale, distances, remorseless cold, endless gales, exhausting seas, and sleep deprivation will push my aging mind and body to new experiences. While physically demanding, the true test is likely mental. To face Despair and stare it down with grit. To look internally and draw on something deep.
Beyond the dark moments, there will also be periods of bliss, deep satisfaction, and life’s sparkle. With this trip perhaps experience the extremes of consciousness and soul. Maybe even the Sublime, or maybe just be cold, tired, lonely, and seasick.
What is life, if not to hear the Sirens. Tie me to the mast, I say.
Here is a podcast with some sailors who have been there, done this.
Here is a link to my old sailing blog.
My thoughts on some safety topics: