The Philosopher’s Sandbar

I sometimes find myself awake in the wee hours of the morning thinking:  “What the hell am I doing?” 

I did a lot of education, and then seven years in the financial world. This was surely sufficient for a lucrative career track to a comfortable retirement.  But I only dreamed of going to sea, and well … here I am.

I know why I am here–or, really, why I am not there.  I refused an ordinary life. 

With all the hubbub, I had to give Jordan Peterson’s bestselling book “12 Rules for Life” a read, and lo and behold, it was most worthwhile.  He has a chapter in there about the kids with skateboards who used to do all sorts of daredevil stunts in an around the University of Toronto campus, including leaping up onto the steel railings leading down concrete steps, riding those rails, and then leaping off and skating away.  What they were doing was both stupid and dangerous (and they were mostly boys)–but also brave.  The element of actual danger in their play brought them close to Chaos.  Now Chaos is a high dollar word when used by the old professor, steeped in biblical metaphor.  But we all should know that it is only at the knife’s edge of danger (real or perceived) that our most valuable and enduring life skills are learned.

The men who invented our civilization–and they were mostly men–lived on the edge of Chaos.  Those who pioneered our political principles, economic principles, the sciences, the mind-boggling technologies; those who fought bloody wars against all those who would stop such human progress–those individuals pushed the boundaries of human possibility everywhere, and typically paid a hefty personal price for it. 

Yet our Western civilization by design is the constant pushing away of Chaos.  Next time you are at an airport serving a major city, just observe the people hustling and bustling about, with all the electronic wizardry at their fingertips, unthinkingly shuffling into a flying machine which can cross the United States, from coast to coast, in about  six hours.  Not so long ago such a journey would be a major expedition, taking months, with loss of life probable.  Few will ever know of the dangers which were ever present to our ancestors. Ferocious animals, blizzards, floods or drought–such things seldom pose anything more than an inconvenience to the people of the West.

Yet while the harsh natural environment of our ancestors is no longer a daily reality for most of us, our psychology was formed by those conditions and is not easily re-wired.  As successive generations of men grow up further and further from the Chaos, and further removed from the tutelage of men who were themselves tempered and sharpened by the Chaos, these men will yet instinctively seek a masculine identity but have no idea how and where to find it. The modern economy offers many jobs but few in which men are uniquely qualified.  With the exception of CEO’s and perhaps engineers, fields which are naturally male-dominated rarely carry much prestige, such as construction, oil drilling, or fishing.

So when I read about young men “failing to launch”, young men preferring to lose themselves in pure fantasy, in video games and porn, rather than growing up, this is where my mind goes. This is escapism, which is only better than joining gangs or Al-Qaeda, which offer a reality to men that is merely destructive.  Men are never happy playing dress-ups.  Men need to build, create, explore, take risks, blaze new paths. And they need women who admire them for it.

Now where exactly this new frontier lies for the next generation of men, I have no idea.  For me it was always the sea.  Though it is an old, nay, ancient frontier, I knew that once away from land I was living in a world not much different than that of Slocum, or Sinbad. Especially if I actually sailed–that is, in an engineless boat.

At sea the chaos is ever present. One misstep can send you overboard, where you will leave no trace save some calories for marine life. It does not matter one bit how cool you are, or how rich you are. What’s that line from Shakespeare? “What cares these roarers for the name of king?” The sea is indiscriminate and uncertain; the sailor’s life is elemental, and sometimes brutal. This is a career path based in reality, as I see it, not human fancy. Successful sailors and seaworthy sailing boats are adaptations to natural forces as old as the Earth, not the latest fashions from Paris.

Yet still it bothered me tremendously that I had no plan for making money again.  If you’re not earning any dough, you’re either a retiree or a bum. Then I got this little YouTube gig going, and though it does not pay all the bills, it is something.  And I just have to say that it is amazing what a little earned income does for the soul. 

Of course YouTube is showbiz, and one does need some sort of marketing strategy–one needs to follow fashion, in other words. But that’s fine.  So long as I have my ship and the wide ocean to roam I feel that I am doing business with the world on my terms, and that’s all I ask for.  Also I do not wish to end up a beachcombing hermit. So let me close with a shout out to all those who have subscribed to my channel and support my work. Having you along as virtual shipmates has been quite a pleasure, and many of your comments and questions make me feel useful.

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