On Solitude and Boat Building

My friend Dan of the Virtual Joli project sent me a note the other day with a simple question… why do we want to build boats? He already has two canoes and a sailboat. I already have… oh man, I don’t even want to go there.

One of my high school teachers, Bob Freund, showed us a video called WHY DOES MAN CREATE? At the time the movie, shown on an old projector as this was prior to the world of VHS, seemed rather fun, perhaps silly, yet I have thought of the movie often. As I sit here 35 plus years later I think the answer to that question becomes obvious if we phrase it in a new way.. what if we didn’t create? Our drive to create is what moves us forward, really to such a degree that one could argue it has shaped our lives as much as our sex drive.

So why do we build boats? For most of us, our day-to-day lives are mundane, devoid of creativity, devoid of opportunities for that other great force that seems joined at the hip of creativity, the desire to learn. What we find missing, we create for ourselves… a chance to learn, to create, really to explore and grow. Be it through the divine will of God, or natural selection, it’s clear we have within us a force that wants to push and forge onward in a new direction. Like the sucking reflex of a baby, it’s hard wired into us, keeping us alive… alive in so many ways.

Another thought has been fighting for recognition deep within me, built upon my earlier post talking of rejuvenation at the beach. Why? Why do we find ourselves renewed and recharged at the beach? Just now I was cutting up some cheese to put on my dogs dish, as I do each night, I spoil her, don’t you know. But this time there was no hurry, nothing I had just rushed from or to… for once. It was a different experience, as silly as that sounds, and it struck me that this was the transformative power of vacation… time. Time to think… time with family… time to notice. It’s a time to set aside the must do elements of our lives and to turn instead to those things we want to do.

I started reading a book on the Kindle last night called Solitude, Seeking Wisdom in Extremes. Inside all of us I am certain there is at least some tendency toward succumbing to the siren call of solitude, though perhaps in the romantic sense of the word, as few of us ever really are alone. Karen and Jessa just drove off with Callie, Jessa’s friend from school. They left with Cetta, but in spite of the bath I gave her the other day she smelled so badly that they came back with her, knowing that my sense of smell runs at about 50 percent efficiency. So I am alone, alone with Cetta, alone for the last hour typing on my Alphasmart in the shade of Peter’s deck far above the ocean.

There were times in my life that I found the solitude insufferable, a time when I felt so alone I drove for an hour searching for a pay phone so that I could call and connect with someone. But that was a time in my life when I was psychically alone, my heart longing to connect, to trust, to love, and it just wasn’t happening. Indeed, that was a time in my life when I had never dated longer than a few months, never known the deep connection that true love can bring. My discomfort of solitude, encountered on a week long vacation at a mountain top cabin, had its roots deep within, it’s tendrils in a cancerous intertwining of all that I was.

A quick detour in thinking here. While shopping in Cannon Beach yesterday, actually while reading the Kindle on the sidewalk while Karen and Jessa shopped, a fragment for an opening line for a book popped into my head, and with it an idea for a book. “On the day my father died I learned my Mother had killed her sister, and with that came an understanding of generations of pain, pain sure to continue into future generations as well. It was suddenly so clear, clear at least that this moment had meaning, the full extent of which would not become clear for at least 30 years.” But the rest of the book will have to wait, as the 30 years hasn’t passed yet.

But back to solitude, and this moment in the broken sunlight above the sea, solitude now two hours old. I have a video camera trained on the sea, an effort to capture this moment in time for some future sleepless night. It’s a clip I’ll upload to YouTube, an action that seems totally at odds with the moment, and with the quest. Another honest indication of my troubled sense of solitude, as long as I am being honest with myself, is that my computer’s web cam is trained on the ocean as well in the off chance that a friend would connect to my Yahoo Chat. I wouldn’t converse, and indeed wouldn’t know they were there, but I did feel some sense of wanting to share the moment, certainly a feeling that battles with solitude.

That sense of wanting to share the experience does seem to be solitudes first casualty for me, the first thought creeping into my mind once I am alone. It’s not that I seek company, rather the experience seems lessened by my inability to share it. If solitude happens in the forest, and nobody but me is there to hear it, has it really happened? I know the answer, but this drive, this sense of sharing, is the first evidence of monkey mind in the journey alone.

Cetta, the dog, the beautiful whippet in our lives, is asleep in her bed across the deck from me. I haven’t a clue as to the thoughts that cross her mind on this day. Her life is centered on solitude, and if she has even the slightest awareness of what that means, it’s a state of mind where I hope she finds at least some comfort. I hope she isn’t aware of the changes I see in her of late, indications that her time with us is short. Her enlarged heart can be seen beating against her rib cage, the heart medicines only able to hold off the inevitable, and bringing with them side effects that include a profound loss in hearing. There are no walks on the beach for this old girl any more, as a simple walk around the block has been out of reach for months now. For a dog, for this dog, walks were one of her reasons for being. This is the downside of time.

It’s clouding over now, almost too cool to be outside typing, even for this warm, I should say hot blooded writer. For me heat kills, and cool is just right, virtually the opposite condition my wife,for that matter most women experience. More later. Lunch now.

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  1. Bryan:
    As usual, another great writing. When can we expect the subscription to go into effect? I think I’ve already had my $10 worth of fun.


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