Sailing Alone – A Journey of Personal Disovery

February 23, 2009


cockpitI love to sail. One of the greatest misconceptions about sailing is you don’t really get away from it all – as much as get deeper into yourself  that may sound odd; but that’s only because most of us don’t really know ourselves; most of the time we just get by with the idea we know ourselves and since land is a pretty forgiving place like a kiddies playground – that idea never really gets tested and our sense of vulnerability is never pushed to the razor’s edge – like I said, you don’t really know yourself till you’ve gone sailing all alone by yourself.

The sea is not a place to fuck around – for one it can kill you in about 2 million ways.

If you think real hard about it; how can you even claim to know yourself these days?

From the moment you wake up to the moment you switch off; we’re always in contact with people; whether you like to admit it or not; people do prop up our lives; for one they tell us sweet lies to make our unbearable life more bearable – I know this only too well, for some reason every woman seems to like asking me; “is my bum too big for this dress?” – the problem is the right answer never comes around -get my drift – so usually, I come up with something saucy like, “you look great!” – great my hairy ass lah!

Even the people who regularly cause us grief prop up our lives; they give us plenty of excuses to dump on them – blaming them to take the edge off our own mistakes; and those who we like to hang out with do their level best to keep our decrepit reality intact – it helps when you buy the drinks – only let us be clear; we don’t really know ourselves – all we really have is the faint illusion – we have it all together; life that is.

My point is in this frenetic age of fast forward and full frontal; you never ever get a chance to connect with the deeper ‘I’ most the time, usually its invested somewhere in the broader and greater ‘we.’

I suspect the problem with our age isn’t so much that Singapore is getting crowded; as much as how many of us are really lost within ourselves – its getting so crowded in our own skulls with the lives of other people besides ours that somewhere in this madness – we seem to have lost ourselves – the “I” has given way to the broader “we” – we may even need to rediscover ourselves very much in a way a man in jungle moves forward by slashing away with a machete just to find some lost city.

I am not exactly the Dalai Lama, so this realization didn’t come after sitting on the sofa and meditating all day long. It dawned on me one fine day; when I just decided to jump into my 30 footer tub boat and take off for 2 weeks to the Comoros islands – actually, I was aiming to reach the Seychelles, but a strong southerly wind kept pummeling me; so somewhere between a ripped sail and a mast that seemed like it was going to snap like I twig; I decided not to tempt fate.

The curious thing about sailing alone is–  it’s a bit like shacking up with a woman that you just met; in the beginning you’re always sure fire certain everything is going to work out – I know myself, I am the master of my own destiny along with a fistful of crap – but after a few days of tossing around in the angry sea and trying to figure out whether your kidney hasn’t migrated to your knee caps, it rapidly dawns on you how feeble you actually are and if you were standing outside your own body looking at your miserable lot – you probably wouldn’t even trust yourself to carry the eggs back from the supermarket.

That really is how humbling an experience sailing alone can be – if, you run out of fuel and have to resort to renacting the final moments of the Titanic – it’s because you fucked up! – if you find yourself sailing around in big and small circles – you fucked up on your charts! It exasperating when you have no one to blame but yourself; but its also downright humbling and if its worked through properly upstairs, it can even be a very rewarding experience – getting to know yourself again.

As what you will eventually come around too (after about a week when you start to look like caveman and smell abit fruity) is the whole idea that you’re not so independent and dependant after all – usually it’s the little stuff that reminds you, there’s still some work to be done in some areas of your life; such as the smallness of one’s courage when you have go up one to one with a killer storm (I tell you that is no fucking joke when you come up against waves the size of Northpoint mall or something close to that) – along with minor conveniences such as forgetting to bring along the can opener; to how impatient you really are when a simple knot gets the better of you – but eventually everyone who has ever sailed alone will begin to make his peace with the deep foreboding sense of solitude and his shaky set of delusions of grandeur values – trust me; you can’t fight the sea day and night; its just too debilitating – ultimately the sea wins – she always does.

For starters; solitude presents us all with the opportunity to explore ourselves. It gives us a chance to regain our sense of scale and perspective that has been turned up side down by the world. It renews us by allowing us to see where our weaknesses really lie and how so much of what we once considered as our strength is closer to the imagination than fact– in short, sailing alone has to be very close to piano tuning for the soul; it’s a way of centering us back to that mythical line; so that we can all go out there and reclaim everything that the world has leached away from us – our humanity, compassion and sense of well being – to finally make us whole again – happy sailing.

Darkness 2009

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