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.
To stormy nights, cold mountains, the wine-dark sea, and smoky campfires. We are a different breed.
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.’
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.
****, 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.
“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. ”
“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. ”
My kind of guy. Down to earth, out there doing the good work, getting after it. Reminds me of Steve Solomon.
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!
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