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.


  1. I like your take on modern life and the loss of real world danger and struggle.

    This article focuses mainly on the challenges you face, and your choices, but another aspect of life is what we can contribute to others. What you provide to us is entertainment and education, and I appreciate that. Especially I want to comment on the music you put into the videos. I like it a lot. I am a musician (bass player many styles) and I like the music very much. My understanding is that you write and play this yourself. Is this true?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jim, thanks for commenting. Yes, I write most of the music you hear in my vids, though occasionally I record a cover or use published music. All my original music I put on SoundCloud. I enjoy writing music, plus there’s no worries about copyright claims, which can really cut into your ad revenue.


  2. Just like with indigenous tribes, you steal the children away from that culture for just one generation, and you lose that priceless information from previous generations. You take some kid, drop them in the burbs, and they lose that priceless knowledge of what I call “how to do dangerous things and not die” hah. I didn’t know when I was little that I wanted to sail around on an engineless sailboat, or how to do that, but I learned how to be careful by learning how to fell trees, and run farm equipment, from people who had been doing those things for decades without maiming themselves, the only real test of your skills. I think a lot of my systematic approach to doing dangerous things carefully, came from my granddad, who was a WW2 pilot, flying little piper cubs his whole life, just that idea of pre flight checking, and constantly thinking, where will I land if my motor dies? The internet is a double edged sword, it can allow me to hole up inside, getting addicted to porn and reality TV shows, or I can use it to find obscure knowledge, that I should have gotten but didnt: how to sail a big cruising boat with no motor. Thanks again for taking the time to share your info. I’m a shipwright, and the kids who come to me for advice, they are hungry for the sea, but broke, I tell them if they ditch there motor, they can save 50% of their cruising costs, if they fill the prop aperture, and pull the motor, you gain 1kt at every point of sail, have the storage of a 10′ bigger boat, without the marina costs.
    and if they go with galvanized rigging, they can save another 20%, and have increased safety if they understand the differences. Wish me luck, I’m heading down to Florida next month to finish up the refit on our 34′ saugeen witch, a gaff cutter. Probably sail it to south Carolina near my sister this fall, then bring it the rest of the way up to Vermont in the spring.

    Liked by 2 people

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