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.


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