Take my spirit in better shape then when you gave it…

Let­ter to a friend:

There’s noth­ing I have expe­ri­enced that’s any­thing like being on a stormy ocean on a small boat, out of reach of all mankind, reliant total­ly upon self and the fick­le­ness of the sea gods.

Not all the nations in the world with all their resources can do any­thing to affect the course of one boat out in the ocean when Nature, that uncar­ing and sub­lime­ly beau­ti­ful bitch, decides to wake and scream.

2 miles, 10 miles, 200 miles are all the same when you’re in it, when wave and wind work togeth­er to man­i­fest all that is cre­ative and awe­some in the truest sense of the word, show­cas­ing ancient forces unknown and unknow­able to those not will­ing to risk their most pre­cious asset.

There is no sound, no taste, no feel, no col­or to match the uncar­ing fury of Home­r’s ancient wine-dark sea.  Noth­ing.  Hav­ing that mem­o­ry as mine I cher­ish it, nur­ture it, look in on it cra­dled in the cloak of my mind like my own yel­low white can­dle of intense expe­ri­ence when I won­der, “Have I lived?”

To be tru­ly chal­leng­ing, a voy­age, like life, must rest on a firm foun­da­tion of finan­cial unrest.”

Any kind of unrest, the uncer­tain­ty, the unknow­ing of the out­come has proven to me to be the key to a mean­ing­ful voy­age.  Storm­ing up a pass in Patag­o­nia, sail­ing through heavy weath­er, even out on those long runs when the Mus­es decide to smile with their ter­ri­ble bril­liance, to ask with flash­ing eyes and sharp teeth of steel for more than you think you have to give, when you just don’t know if you have it, when there’s no guar­an­tee for great­ness, when you have to reach and fail and reach again to leave this plane of expe­ri­ence for the next.

That moment of flight, that moment when the breaks turn your way, when the ener­gy starts to run through you, when the fol­li­cles swell and the hair stands erect, skin crawl­ing, lungs stretch­ing and expand­ing, legs strong and unstop­pable, feel­ing the strength flow through you from the sky, that’s the moment of phys­i­cal reas­sur­ance that you’re still alive.

Reach­ing that, that moment, nev­er seems to come from a state of know­ing, a state of con­fi­dence that all will be well.  Remem­ber­ing that uncer­tain­ty is nec­es­sary for inner vic­to­ry we each pur­sue it in our own way; com­bat, phys­i­cal action, men­tal pere­gri­na­tions, all are built on the base of unknow­ing so impor­tant to the human con­di­tion of fleet­ing sat­is­fac­tion fol­lowed by unful­fill­ment.

We live incom­plete in order to enjoy all the more those ephemer­al moments of satori gained by our own efforts, know­ing that it can’t, it won’t, it should­n’t last.  It’s why we do what we do, and it’s awe­some in its sim­plic­i­ty and imper­ma­nence.

[The wise man] does not have to walk ner­vous­ly or cau­tious­ly, for he has such self con­fi­dence that he does not hes­i­tate to make a stand against for­tune and will nev­er give ground to her. 

He has no rea­son to fear her, since he regards as held on suf­fer­ance not only his goods and pos­ses­sions and sta­tus, but even his body, his eyes and hand, all that makes life more dear, and his very self; and he lives as though he were lent to him­self and bound to return the loan on demand with­out com­plaint. 

Nor is he there­by cheap in his own eyes because he knows he is not his own, but he will in act in all things as care­ful­ly and metic­u­lous­ly as a devout and holy man guards any­thing entrust­ed to him. 

And when­ev­er he is ordered to repay his debt he will not com­plain to for­tune, but he will say, “I thank you for what I have pos­sessed and held.  I have looked after your prop­er­ty to my great ben­e­fit, but at your com­mand I give and yield it with grat­i­tude and good will. 

If you want me still to have any­thing of yours I shall keep it safe; if you wish oth­er­wise I give back and restore to you my sil­ver, both coined and plate, my house, and my house­hold. 

Should Nature demand back what she pre­vi­ous­ly entrust­ed to us we shall say to her too: Take back my spir­it in bet­ter shape than when you gave it.  I do not quib­ble or hang back: I am will­ing for you to have straight away what you gave me before I was conscious–take it.”  What is the harm in return­ing to the point from whence you came?”

‑Seneca, On the Short­ness of Life.

Love espe­cial­ly the “Take my spir­it in bet­ter shape then when you gave it.”  Such a great way to live, and look at life.


Come on in, no one ever comes here”

This from a for­mer client of Lee’s:

A fel­low pilot and friend Robert Gan­non just fin­ished a 10-year explo­ration of the world in his Cess­na 182, cross­ing major oceans. What he says is true:
“The one thing I have observed [about fly­ing a pri­vate air­plane around the world twice over a 10 year peri­od] is that if you will keep step­ping for­ward and keep mov­ing toward what you wish to do, you’ll get up to that door that every­one said you could­n’t get through. You knock and it will be open and some­one will say ‘Come on in, no one ever comes here.’
‑Bob Gan­non


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Great read, love this quote:

A ratio­nal anar­chist believes that con­cepts such as “state” and “soci­ety” and “gov­ern­ment” have no exis­tence save as phys­i­cal­ly exem­pli­fied in the acts of self-respon­si­ble indi­vid­u­als. He believes that it is impos­si­ble to shift blame, share blame, dis­trib­ute blame. . . as blame, guilt, respon­si­bil­i­ty are mat­ters tak­ing place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being ratio­nal, he knows that not all indi­vid­u­als hold his eval­u­a­tions, so he tries to live per­fect­ly in an imper­fect world… aware that his effort will be less than per­fect yet undis­mayed by self-knowl­edge of self-fail­ure.

-The Prof


shadow divers quote

****, excel­lent rec­om­men­da­tion.  Just read these lines from Chat­ter­ton’s expe­ri­ence as a medic walk­ing point in Viet­nam.  They ring true with my own lim­it­ed expe­ri­ence.  Dig it.

-If an under­tak­ing was easy, some­one else already would have done it.
‑If you fol­low in anoth­er’s foot­steps, you miss the prob­lems real­ly worth solv­ing.
‑Excel­lence is born of prepa­ra­tion, ded­i­ca­tion, focus, and tenac­i­ty; com­pro­mise on any of these and you become aver­age.
‑Every so often, life presents a great moment of deci­sion, an inter­sec­tion at which a man must decide to stop or go; a per­son lives with these deci­sions for­ev­er.
‑Exam­ine every­thing; not all is as it seems or as peo­ple tell you.
‑It is eas­i­est to live with a deci­sion if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong.
‑The guy who gets killed is often the guy who got ner­vous.  The guy who does­n’t care any­more, who has said, “I’m already dead–the fact that I live or die is irrel­e­vant and the only thing that mat­ters is the account­ing I give of myself,” is the most for­mi­da­ble force in the world.
‑The worst pos­si­ble deci­sion is to give up.

The book is called Shad­ow Divers and is about the guys who dis­cov­ered a sunken U‑boat off the New Jer­sey coast in 1991.


more of the same

7. You’re pret­ty hard on the activists, aren’t you?

Well, I’m tired of peo­ple pro­ject­ing their fan­tasies onto me. If you want to be wise and benev­o­lent, that’s fine, pro­vid­ing that you do it for real and not as an exer­cise in self-delu­sion. Go make the world a bet­ter place in your imme­di­ate vicin­i­ty, with your own hands, so you can tell whether it’s real­ly help­ing or not. Any­thing else is just make-believe.

You don’t real­ly know any­thing unless you’ve done it with your own hands. I wish peo­ple would stop giv­ing mon­ey to big Scam-O-Rama orga­ni­za­tions and would get their hands dirty instead. You can’t save the world by writ­ing a check or by believ­ing what you’re told. You have to see and do things for your­self. And when it does­n’t work, you should clean up your own mess before mov­ing on. You can’t do that when you’re not involved in the day-to-day real­i­ty of the prob­lem. ”
R Pla­m­on­don

Rules are largely a distraction

The oth­er thing that bugs me about the wel­fare groups is that they think that keep­ing live­stock can be reduced to geom­e­try. They like to write rules that hens need a cer­tain amount of perch space, some num­ber of square feet of floor space, and so on. (It reminds me of the incred­i­bly lame pro­pa­gan­da com­ing over Radio Moscow and Radio Peking in the Sev­en­ties, which could­n’t tell the dif­fer­ence between steel pro­duc­tion and qual­i­ty of life.)

But in real­i­ty, rules are large­ly just a dis­trac­tion from the seri­ous busi­ness of pay­ing atten­tion to what’s going on, and chang­ing what you do accord­ing­ly. It’s the dif­fer­ence between man­ag­ing the process and man­ag­ing the out­come. You can often get the same out­come using wild­ly dif­fer­ing tech­niques, depend­ing on how you bal­ance dif­fer­ent trade-offs. Actu­al skill is involved. ”
‑R. Pla­m­on­don

My kind of guy.  Down to earth, out there doing the good work, get­ting after it.  Reminds me of Steve Solomon.

Dig it.  http://www.plamondon.com/faq_welfare.html


reading Sir Albert Howard

Sir Albert Howard is the father of the organ­ic gar­den­ing move­ment.  The Soil and Health is worth the read if you ever get into gar­den­ing.  Sim­ple and in-depth, this is a man who delved deeply into many sub­jects to under­stand the uni­fied con­cept of growth and life on earth.  Awe­some.

The main char­ac­ter­is­tic of Nature’s farm­ing can…be summed up in a few words.

Moth­er earth nev­er attempts to farm with­out live­stock; she always rais­es mixed crops; great pains are tak­en to pre­serve the soil and to pre­vent ero­sion; the mixed veg­etable and ani­mal wastes are con­vert­ed in humus; there is no waste; the process­es of growth and the process­es of decay bal­ance one anoth­er; ample pro­vi­sion is made to main­tain large reserves of fer­til­i­ty; the great­est care is tak­en to store the rain­fall; both plants and ani­mals are left to pro­tect them­selves against dis­ease.”

-Sir Albert Howard, An Agri­cul­tur­al Tes­ta­ment

The same can be said with few sub­sti­tu­tions about a good man.  That last phrase, “…both plants and ani­mals are left to pro­tect them­selves against dis­ease” real­ly res­onates with me.  It’s not as if he advo­cates throw­ing “plants and ani­mals” out on their own, but instead that he has total faith that if the basics are tak­en care of then there is no need for band-aid care.

This is one of those works that reaf­firms to me the many beliefs we share in com­mon, whether you are a sol­dier, a fire-fight­er, or sim­ply liv­ing a clean life.  The idea that with enough prac­tice you don’t need “tricks” is sub­lime wis­dom.  Dri­ve on!

an educated man

I could have sworn I sent this to you already, but I can’t find it in any of my “sent” emails, so..

Whom then, do I call edu­cat­ed, since I exclude the arts and sci­ences and spe­cial­ties?

First, those who man­age well the cir­cum­stances which they encounter day by day, and who pos­sess a judg­ment which is accu­rate in meet­ing occa­sions as they arise and rarely miss­es the expe­di­ent course of action;

Next, those who are decent and hon­or­able in their inter­course with all with whom they asso­ciate, tol­er­at­ing eas­i­ly and good-natured­ly what is unpleas­ant or offen­sive in oth­ers and being them­selves as agree­able and rea­son­able to their asso­ciates as it is pos­si­ble to be;

Fur­ther­more, those who hold their plea­sures always under con­trol and are not undu­ly over­come by their mis­for­tunes, bear­ing up under them brave­ly and in a man­ner wor­thy of our com­mon nature;

Final­ly, and most impor­tant of all, those who are not spoiled by suc­cess­es and do not desert their true selves and become arro­gant, but hold their ground stead­fast­ly as intel­li­gent men, not rejoic­ing in the good things which have come to them through chance rather than in those which through their own nature and intel­li­gence are theirs from birth.  Those who have a char­ac­ter which is in accord, not with one of these things, but with all of them–these, I con­tend, are wise and com­plete men, pos­sessed of all the virtues.”

-Isocrates, from the Pana­thenaicus

In addi­tion to those I count a strong curios­i­ty for good­ness in all its forms and the will and action to per­fect an ath­let­ic and capa­ble body. ‑NFH