June 16, 2013

Finding true paradise

ONE OF MY FAVORITE cruising blogs is written by a young couple from Seattle who are now in the South Pacific. They haven't  been there long but it's wonderful to hear how delighted they are with everything. They keep saying: “This is paradise.”

Now, it has somehow been drummed into us from a very early age that paradise consists of a desert island with palm trees, golden beaches, coconut palms, and warm, turquoise water. The dictionary describes paradise as the Garden of Eden, or alternately, “any place or condition of great happiness.”

I have visited a few places that fit the description of paradise during my wanderings on boats and I learned a useful lesson.  Paradise doesn’t last.  Paradise is paradise when you first get there, at least when you get to the first one. But paradise becomes less of a condition of great happiness the longer you stay there.  And by the time you have moved on to your second or third paradise it becomes the normal old humdrum life you wanted to escape from in the first place.

The lesson I learned is that paradise isn’t a place but a state of mind. You can find yourself in paradise in any place where you happen to be at the moment.

There are some aspects of those tropical paradises of the South Seas and the Virgin Islands that you rarely hear about. Loathsome cockroaches for a start. No ice-cream parlors. No fresh produce. No movie theaters. No pubs. No hospitals or even doctors. No diesel fuel when you need it most, or any of the other trappings of civilization that we have gotten used to. In short, after a few days or weeks, paradise isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

I’m not saying it’s a waste of time to explore the South Seas.  Just don’t expect it to be one continuous paradise, that’s all.  Desert islands are wonderful places to explore in the short term, but most humans thrive on change. They need to be stimulated and challenged.  We’re also
gregarious animals and need to meet new people and cope with different circumstances. One desert island soon becomes like any other desert island and paradise gradually begins to look like the drippy old Pacific Northwest from which you fled in the first place.

If paradise is a condition of great happiness, as the dictionary suggests, then cruising in a sailboat too often produces happiness at too great a cost, which leads in turn to great unhappiness, unless you’re a multi-millionaire.

The fact is that you can’t buy paradise, or even happiness, with expensive equipment. The joys of cruising are serendipitous. The more directly you pursue them, the more they elude you. But if you go about the honest business of guiding your boat from one harbor to another, doing an honest day’s work as any good sailor might, then happiness will creep upon you when you’re not looking, and ambush you.

That’s the true definition of paradise.


Today’s Thought
Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?
— Arthur Miller, After the Fall

Quote from The Guardian, London:
“American record-holder Rowdy Gaines was surprisingly eaten by Bruce Hughes in the men’s 200 meters freestyle.”

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


Kevin H said...

What a wonderfully insightful article. Thank you. Coming from Durban South Africa, I was bewildered when arriving in the Caribbean to find that the weather was little different than home and the facilities way poorer, - so were was paradise?! However, the constant change to different locations/people and the challenges of a circumnavigation collectively made the whole a trip through and with paradise. Of course, some people soon tire of fish and coconuts, but hey, you can't please all the people all the time.

Deb said...

We're departing for fulltime cruising the end of summer but we're not going to Paradise, we're taking it with us in the firm of a 38-year marriage/friendship/partnership that most people can only dream about. Excellent post. Thanks for reminding me of this.

S/V Kintala

Jack said...

paradise is certainly cerebral, which one can manifest this into the physical. That said, one person's paradise is another person's hell...... Try not to marry the other person.
Jack, S.V.Rhyddid