Oceano - Log Day 5 - The ways of sea-ing
Every few hours ( the exact amount depends upon captain’s decision) we are taking turns behind the steering wheel to observe the sea. There can be two of us, three, sometimes a party of one. I remember the very first time I was alone on the watch. We were crossing the Irish Sea from Dublin to Isle of Man. It was foggy and grayish, the sea was brownish green and I felt like I was the loneliest person in the world. But it was also a liberating, almost ecstatic experience. Only me and my thoughts - nightmare for almost everyone in our world, clogged with distractions. For me it usually equally painful - when I am sitting alone in my Warsaw apartment at night all I can think of is my mistakes, death and - as Taylor Swift puts it in a song - „all of the people I ghosted stand up in the room”. The mystery of life seems horrific.
The sea changes this mode for me, flips the switch in my mind to a frequency where my brainwaves are in unison with waves surrounding me and they flow together in cosmic harmony. If I ever have a metaphysical experience it is always while sailing.
But usually there are more then one person spending hours at the wheel. With you, there is another crew member - and it is not slice of time apt for lightweight conversations, but a time heavy, isolated experience with another human beside you and the sea.
What do you do with that time - apart from - of course, watching other vessels, observing the weather, changing sails, adjusting them and other purely sailing stuff - is up to you. And there is much space for just being together.
I am a reporter myself and I know how important it is to create - regardless of where you are - a bubble of safety and intimacy - if you’d like to have an in depth conversation. At the helm, at the bridge, when you’re keeping watch, the occasion does it for you. The murmuring of the waves surrouround you in cocoon, other people are sleeping or doing their stuff, you’re feeling like you’re floating in space, frozen in a single frame, with no other duties but to be present with another person. Now that is the mindfulness exercise we don’t usually practice s lot. During the watch we have each other’s attention, we rely on each other and get used to the rhythms of the day together.
I had so many meaningful exchanges during watches I can’t even tell. I have met people I wouldn’t normally notice and we managed to discuss our different views and sometimes change each other’s mind, even when we would drastically differ in our temperament or political stance. We knew that we’re in this together, for better or worse. This is our boat - any conflict, quarrel, taking offense would unnecessary endanger the wellbeing of everyone. The sense of responsibility prevails, the dislike for staying in a difficult situation for days fortifies empathy and encourages the mind the find new ways of understanding. New neuronal and emotional bonds are being established. Being next to each other, for long hours teaches us each other’s singularity and opens us up. It is a form of therapy, a confessional, where all is forgiven, all can be said and sunk deep into the sea. During the night watch, the graveyard shift, especially. Our faces become a blur of dark shades, the sea is an abyss staring back at you, you feel overwhelmed by the grandeur of the environement and you’re happy to have someone next to you assisting in that somewhat metaphysical experience. Assisting by just seating beside you in reassuring silences or by talking with you in a way you wouldn’t ever achieve during any dinner party, in a cafe or even on vacation on land. Here, on a long sea voyage, everything is intensified, it echoes, it flows. You’re in the great wide open together, looking after the each other, feeling seen and heard and connected to everyone around.
I would love to transfer this feeling of interconnectivity from the ocean into land life, into our societies, the way we are together in our daily busy lives. We are missing this kind of connections, missing this togetherness, attention, nourishment that comes out of honest conversation, burdened by millions of meaningless exchanges on social media.
Plus - being different together on the same boat, maintaining peace and cooperation is a great metaphor of our global situation right now. Call me naive and childlish but I do believe thus kind of behavior, if we’d only try, could be possible on a larger scale. We are not condemned to endless quarrel, our minds are wired to sync with each other, it culture only gave us more space.
We can also profit of off this unique feeling you have while holding a watch alone at the deck - this sense of calm we don’t usually find slots for in our lives. Usually we are so busy and want to be so busy, not to have time to think actually are we doing and what for. We just run from one errand to another, trying to outrun death, passing of time and youth, trying to bury the fear.
Being alone at the steering wheel while others are asleep, having a silent conversation with an abyss makes you comfy with her, makes you friends, you get to know and respect each other - there is no place for fear in that equation - there is only trust.