Boredom, Lonliness and Love
Among other things that happen at sea with a special quality of aliveness, is that you come to know boredom for what it is, find loneliness unlonely and learn how to be in love. It can be argued, by those who have not been to sea, that these things all happen to us on land and by their very nature they are special and alive. The case can be made that it is possible to be bored, lonely and in love on land, that it is not necessary to accept the mostly uncomfortable, parameters of a sea voyage to experience these exalted states of being.
That may be true, but I have come to doubt it. What is important to me is that a small boat passage is a reprise of Eden. It is the special case, the model that physicists, sociologists and economists seek, in which our relationship to ourself, our relationship to all others, or our relationship to one significant other, can be plumbed pari passu .
All three of these states of being, boredom, loneliness and being in love require that we be distanced from too many people. This rarely happens on land. It is almost impossible to be bored on land. The inputs are too perseverative and opportunities for intrusion abound. Any old thing can break your quiet reach toward accomodating yourself to yourself, a pretty good definition of how to deal with boredom. A thousand events can interrupt the process of curling up within yourself and stroking your boredom the way a cat licks her pelt...over and over, mindlessly and unthinkingly . . . . mindless, unless you listen very carefully to her quiet purr of contentment.
The popular conception is that it is bad to be bored. It is a pity that on nervous, interruptive land we rarely get the chance to test that conception. But we can test it at sea where, perforce, inputs are scarce and interruptions as rare as the occasional flying fish that leaps out of the water. On a small boat on a long passage, boredom is like dessert, a sweet treat after the bone and gristle of a hard watch.
Boredom is a state that lies between yourself and yourself. It is only by the exclusion of all else that we can become bored, accept bordedom. And it is when we become accepting that the small door to self swings open and itrospection sets in.
On land we easily reject boredom and thus rarely get to introspection. It is simply too easy to deny the initial disquiet of being bored, the admission to self that there is something missing...something, anything, to think about...anything save the horrifying prospect of considering self.
But on a small sailboat, your leisure, unbusy hours, if you have any, are uncluttered by input. Your mates are either at the wheel or sleeping. You are too tired and perhaps just a bit too seasick to entertain yourself with a book or a game. You are left, by default, to contemplate your naval. Give it a chance. It is a mind boggle to bide a while in your naval and consider all that stuff indside your head.
The same is true of loneliness. On land one needs a stick to beat people off. You are, literally, up to your ass with grunting, groaning, belching, itching, pushy, lying, puking people. All clamoring for your attention, which, after they get it, and disrupt your oneness with self, they turn away. With all that constraint, it is difficult to define your relationship with them. When there are too many folk too close, you spend most of your energies defending your emotional turf. The paradox is that you need distance from another soul to come to love that soul. Oneness with self is also a pretty good definition for loneliness, acceptable, nurturing, satisfying loneliness. And oneness with self is what you get a lot of on a long passage. If you are lucky, you come to understand that loneliness is a palpable and satisfying human experience, for how can you measure the quality of not being alone without plumbing your own baseline of aloneness.
That other state of being that endlessly dances for our attention is loving. Few of us allow the time and the privacy to investigate a close kinship to just one other human being. Watch couples stroll hand in hand down a busy street. One or the other rarely allows a pretty face or a tight bun to pass without an innocent glance. This innocent glance is the barrier that prevents close kinship. It is a measuring of this against that. It is the beginning of the end of loving. Not until there are no others to measure against, can we measure and sense our own depth of feeling for one other.
What you need for loving is isolation. Some lucky few, made eyeless by love, can neither see nor compare no matter how many bosoms are thrust their way. But most of us seek the reassurance of measurement of ours against theirs. We are comparison shoppers. It is an uncommitted, nerely nearsighted state...and one which only rarely leads to the true blindness of love.
The only perfect love affair in the history of our race was between Adam and Eve. Each was complete for the other since each was all there was. How lovely to have a mate sans peer and pareil, even though it is because no other potential mate exists. The only condition that continues to approximate His Garden is a man and a woman alone and isolated on a small sailboat. If love is going to happen between two people there is no better setting. If love cannot happen here, alone, dependent, sharing, needful, and without competition, then it willo not happen anywhere.
Boredom, loneliness and loving all happen at sea in a special way. On land the first two are despised and the third confusing. At sea they become unique human experiences. The sea gives you the time and the emptiness to play out their delicious contrapuntal fugues. At sea, alone and separate, the music resolves in the ears of your soul and allows these elemental human activities to play out in full. On land there are close horizons which interdict. At sea the horizon is far and unreachable. At sea we have the time and the space to look into matters of some importance in our lives.
On a long passage our senses of space and time expand into a vast and empty world peopled only by me and, if I'm lucky, by you. Without the nervous nattering of those others less significant, we can bounce about in the freedom of our own unlimiting minds.
It is only at sea that we come to realize how unthinkably vast are the small spaces of our little vessel.