February 19, 2013

He's tracking you all the time

A DINGHY SAILOR I used to know once confided in me that while he loved sailing, he was afraid of the ocean. He would never get a bigger boat, he said.  He had no desire to go to sea, there to be caught out in a storm and drowned.

I sometimes wonder how many others there are like him, how many whose apprehension rules their lives to this extent.  I suppose we all know people who buckle up every time they drive a car, not because the law requires it, but because they believe it might save their lives.  And there are people who won’t take an elevator, who refuse to ride in an airplane.  But is there any point in all this precaution?  Is the continual worry worth it?

I was reading one of my favorite authors the other night, a fellow now known as Alfred George Gardiner but who in his time, during World War I, was known only by his pen name, Alpha of the Plough. He wrote a column for The Star, a London newspaper, at a time when sudden death from German bombs was all around him.

Here’s what he had to say about those who lived in constant fear:

“You cannot be alive unless you take life gallantly. You know that the Great Harvester is tracking you all the time, and that one day, perhaps quite suddenly, his scythe will catch you and lay you among the sheaves of the past.

“Every day and every hour he is remorselessly at your heels. A breath of bad air will do his work, or the prick of a pin, or a fall on the stairs, or a draught from the window. You can’t take a ride in a bus, or a row in a boat, or a swim in the sea, or a bat at the wicket without offering yourself as a target to the enemy. You may die from the fear of death.

“I am not preaching Nietzsche’s gospel of ‘Live dangerously.’ There is no need to try to live dangerously, and no sense in going about tweaking the nose of death to show what a deuce of a fellow you are.

“The truth is that we cannot help living dangerously. Life is a dangerous calling, full of pitfalls. You, getting the coal in the mine by the light of your lamp, are living with death very, very close at hand. You, on the railway shunting trucks, you in the factory or the engine shop moving in a maze of machinery, you in the belly of the ship stoking the fire — all alike are in an adventure that may terminate at any moment. Let us accept that fact like men, and dismiss it like men, going about our tasks as though we had all eternity to live in, not foolishly challenging profitless perils, but, on the other hand, declining to be intimidated by the shadow of the scythe that dogs our steps.”

I wish my dinghy-sailing friend could have read this. Who knows what oceans he may have crossed and how much he might have profited by it.

Today’s Thought
Shrinking away from death is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose.
— Carl Jung

Paddy Murphy was enjoying a pint of Guinness in Bert’s Bar when the bar-keep came along and said: “Here’s a puzzle for you. My mother had a child. It wasn’t my brother. It wasn’t my sister. Who was it?”
Paddy scratched his head and pawed the floor but eventually had to give up.
“It was ME, you fool,” cried Bert.
Paddy thought that was a very good joke and decided to tell his wife when he got home.
“My mother had a child,” he said, “It wasn’t my brother. It wasn’t my sister. Who was it?”
His wife was flummoxed. She gave up.
Paddy was triumphant. “It was Bert over at Bert’s Bar, you fool!”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)   

1 comment:

Boathook Bald said...

I agree with every word of this. A few decades ago I started work on the Pilot Boats in Poole, and learned very quickly (bearing in mind that we had to board a pilot onto any ship that asked for one, regardless of the sea conditions)that the fear has to be put into perspective. Trust your boat, trust your crew and, above all, trust yourself. Then get out there and enjoy it!